Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1962. M.C. Productions. Screenplay by George Axelrod, based on the novel by Richard Condon. Cinematography by Lionel Lindon. Produced by George Axelrod, John Frankenheimer. Music by David Amram. Production Design by Richard Sylbert. Costume Design by Moss Mabry. Film Editing by Ferris Webster. Academy Awards 1962. Golden Globe Awards 1962.
Having returned from service in the Korean War, Frank Sinatra is plagued by bad dreams in which he sees his former war buddy Laurence Harvey being brainwashed into becoming a killing machine for the Soviets. Convinced that his dreams are more than just fantasies, Sinatra goes to Washington where Shaw is being groomed to achieve political success by his staunchly conservative mother (Angela Lansbury, in a deadly good performance), wife to a presidential hopeful whom she leads around by the nose. The results of what Sinatra and Shaw discover about their time in the war are both a hilarious parody on the kind of paranoia that swept America during the Red Scare and the makings of a genuinely pulse-pounding thriller with gritty violence and plenty to say about the corruption of American politics. Director John Frankenheimer, making what is likely his best film, balances the serious thrills with subtle hilarity to absolute perfection, and brings terrific performances out of the entire cast. Janet Leigh appears as Sinatra’s love interest, and while her role is rarely more useful than to be a listener to his problems, the film benefits greatly from having her charisma.