The Manchurian Candidate (1962)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBB

USA, 1962.  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by George Axelrod, John Frankenheimer.  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

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.

The Criterion Collection:  #803

Academy Award Nominations:  Best Supporting Actress (Angela Lansbury); Best Film Editing

Golden Globe Award:  Best Supporting Actress (Angela Lansbury)
Nomination: Best Director (John Frankenheimer)

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