Director: John Frankenheimer
Writers: Richard Condon, George Axelrod, John Frankenheimer

Stars: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury
Release Date: October 24, 1962

Reviewing older movies is hard. I’ll be the first to say it. I am expert at this movie thing, so throwing myself into a time machine and trying to connect with the social issues of a movie at the time of its release is a personally difficult task. It often comes down to a simple question: is the movie good, yes or no?

In the case of The Manchurian Candidate, yes it was very good.

Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) finds himself at the center of a political nightmare involving militaristic brainwashing, a political tempest and family deception. The Medal of Honor award recipient is unknowingly under the influence of a dastardly Queen, his domineering mother, Mrs. Eleanor Shaw Iselin (Angela Lansbury). Shaw’s susceptibility to hypnosis came after he was captured in the line of duty during the Korean War. The only path to sanity for Shaw comes via Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra), who served in the Army under Shaw.  Marco has been experiencing his own night terrors, and once he realizes that this problem is not only confined to him, a web of greedy lies begins to crumble.

Admittedly, this is a tough plot to follow. It reminds me of when I wrote my first ever movie review back in middle school on X2: X-Men United (2003) despite having not seen the first X-Men…yea that was a hard one.

The start of The Manchurian Candidate’s strong close comes when Shaw’s trigger is flicked at the most heartbreaking time. Just when he and his long-lost lover Jocelyn Jordan (Leslie Parrish) are reunited, the rekindled romance meets a dead end that is genuinely shocking.

The greatest part of The Manchurian Candidate is its final 30 minutes, and the final 15 minutes to be precise. The tense moments of Marco and co. chasing down Shaw are cut together perfectly with the chaotic atmosphere of the political gathering where the climax takes place. There is a certain close-up of Marco that features some truly fantastic facial acting by Sinatra.

Angela Lansbury was nominated at the at the 1963 Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Base solely off this movie, I’d have to agree. She is downright repulsive as Mrs. Elanor Shaw Iselin, the mother of Raymond Shaw. She puts her son down at every opportunity, and the way she treats her Senator John Yerkes Iselin (James Gregory) is super belittling. She puts everyone down as often as she can, and her knockout rate rivals the greatest boxer of the time.

The Manchurian Candidate is just a very good movie. There aren’t any major weaknesses, but there are plenty of strengths in the writing and editing. The story is complex but not overwhelmingly so. It blends character drama with political mischief into a wonderful black & white milkshake that you want to consume every bit of.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

“The Manchurian Candidate” IMDB
“The Manchurian Candidate” Rotten Tomatoes

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