Movie Review: Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Oddly enough, I have never seen a Frank Sinatra movie. I know all about him, and with some of the podcasts I listen to he’s all over it, but I’ve just never seen it. I have the Denzel Washington remake, but this was on one of my movie channels and thought I’d give it a shot. Spoiler Alert, I’m so glad I did.

We kick off the Manchurian Candidate in Korea, where Frank Sinatra and another man pull up outside a Korean Whorehouse, and Sgt Shaw comes in and kicks everyone out, and the men complain and really setup Shaw as a prick. So Sinatra goes on patrol, and their Korean guide advises them to take a path single file and this leads to them getting captured. Dirty Commie Turncoat. Then Men are taken off in a helicopter and we get closeups of everyone we care about. Roll Credits. Holy Cripe! Janet Leigh is in this picture! Third Billed! Don’t know if this is pre or post-Psycho. I do love how the Jewelry provider has a credit in the opening.

We flip forward to the troops coming home, and Sgt Shaw has been given the Congressional Medal of Honer. Shaw’s still a prick by the way. His momma shows up, and holy crap! Its Angela Lansbury! Someone’s gotta die! Its quickly established that her husband the Senator is Shaw’s stepfather. Whoa, Daddy Issues in the 1950s! Oh and the Senator is up for re-election this fall. Shaw bitches about the show of him of his arrival, and Lansbury says she is just taking care of her boys her two little boys (the Senator and her son) Whoa, I actually missed that line the first three (yes THREE) times I saw it. Later on the Senators plane, Shaw whines to take the Medal off, and the Senator goes to his “office”- a bar. Shaw wants to go work in New York, and its well established he hates his mother. Flip over to Frank Sinatra who is now in Army Intelligence.

Frank is having nightmares, of a Women’s group function that goes over to a group of Communists talking about brainwashing. Its kind of amazing how they seamlessly go back and forth. Shaw sits at a the table just making motions, and eventually one of the officials in the audience wants him to kill one of the other Americans, and he does. This brings Frank Sinatra awake, screaming. He reports it to his superiors and they have questions about Franks memories.

The men know Shaw is a prick, but when asked how they feel about him, they all respond: “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.”

I’m going to stop there. I really don’t want to spoil this movie for anyone, even though its over a decade older than your humble writer.

How is the Manchurian Candidate?

In a word?
Awesome.
I’ve never done this, but the whole movie is on Youtube, and the opener is free.

There is a ton to talk about with this movie, and I really do want you to let me know your thoughts.

The Manchurian Candidate has very little that is wasted, from the seemingly throwaway lines, to certian motions the characters do, to even the pictures of the walls. Its two hours of something you just have to sit down and pay attention to. I do think it holds up exceptionally well, and yes, Frank is a Big Star, but he’s not the major driving force of the movie. This movie is about Raymond Shaw and what the Chinese have planned for him.

I waited for some time to see this movie, and I was well compensated for that delay. The acting is top-notch, if you only know Angela Lansbury from the old lady from Murder She Wrote- it’s stunning to see her here. I mean she is a beautiful woman (who lets be honest, aged well) and just dominates the screen whenever she is on here. I don’t know who her agent is, but he should be retroactively slapped around for never getting Bette Davis and Lansbury on the screen in the 60s. There is one movie they were in together, Death on the Nile that I am going to have to find, but neither actress is top billed and Lansbury is way down the card.

I’m not going to do spoilers here for a movie that is a decade older than I am. This is just a well-shot, well written and just a movie that you have to carve out some time to sit down and watch- at least twice. I mean heck, when our McCarthy stand-in is harassing him to find out how many communists are undercover in Washington- he tells them 57 because that’s the number on the Ketchup bottle! But I love touches like that. The womens’ group is a lot of fun during the Korea scenes. The cards are a nice touch as well that you will be looking for the second time around.

Just find this movie. Watch it. Leave me your thoughts.
I will get to the Denzel version sooner or later. I’m just enjoying this one way too much to ding it with a remake. Gonna wait a few months and try and let this one fade a bit. Easy 10 movie.

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