Old Movie for New Times

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The film was re-made in 2004, this is the original poster for the movie.

The Manchurian Candidate is still poignant to this day

Russian and Chinese election interference, political scandal and intrigue, threats to impeach party opposition: these aren’t breaking news stories but the topic of The Manchurian Candidate – a great film that is relevant today.

Even with its original 1962 release, the film engages viewers for its entire duration. The story begins in the Korean War as a patrol of U.S. soldiers is kidnapped and brainwashed by Communist forces. The story continues as Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) tries to make sense of nightmares and strange occurrences that plague him after his return from Korea. 

Meanwhile, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) after receiving the Medal of Honor in their campaign, rises to power in the newspaper industry as his stepfather, Senator John Iselin begins a House of Card’s style quest for power. The plot’s winding turns and complicated twists do not disappoint.

The only part of the film that has not aged well is a fight scene between Frank Sinatra and Henry Silva. The staging and choreography are perhaps better than in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, but not by much. While the fight is not believable, it does benefit from the satirical nature of the film and is still interesting from a film studies angle as a glimpse of battles in the 1960’s cinema.

Perhaps most interesting about the film are the questions it raises and does not answer. In the beginning, the entire patrol including Bennett Marco is brainwashed by the communists. The film makes clear that each soldier was brainwashed to respond the same thing about Shaw, that “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.” However, were they brainwashed in other ways also? 

Was Marco part of a deeper plan throughout the entire film, and if so, was the strange Eugenie Rose “Rosie” Chaney (Janet Leigh) really his handler? The film does not provide simple answers.

A thriller about political fighting and election interference from Russia and China, The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is the perfect Halloween and pre-Election film. 

4/5 stars.

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