The Manchurian Candidate

Year of Release: 1962     Directed by John Frankenheimer.  Starring Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, Janet Leigh, James Gregory, and Angela Lansbury

Just when you think politicians could not become more corrupt, The Manchurian Candidate provides a new low, which hopefully most people would not have imagined on their own.

Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) has been decorated by the President himself with a medal of bravery on returning from the Korean War.  His fellow officers love him, and he is all set to take a well-paying newspaper job in New York.  His only problem is his mother Eleanor (Angela Lansbury) wants to use him to further the political career of her husband, Raymond’s step-father.

However, two of Raymond’s fellow officers begin to have strange nightmares, in which Raymond, under hypnosis, kills his fellow soldiers.  The similarity between their dreams disturbs them and even arouses suspicion among some of their superiors.  Major Bennet Marco (Frank Sinatra) is concerned enough that he begins investigating the matter, in order to resolve whatever is bothering him.  Marco’s efforts to help his country and his friend do have merit, but not in the way that he expected or wanted.

As the film unfolds, Marco and the viewer gradually learn more about Raymond’s troubled past, why he joined the army, and the sinister affairs underfoot to help the career of certain politicians.  Each turn is kept hidden for quite awhile, and one will not see them coming until shortly before the revelation.  With each shocking development, the film descends further into the evil that accompanies an unbridled lust for power.  The actor who plays the arch-villain here turned down another infamous movie villain on the grounds that the role was too evil.  This makes one wonder, because a villain cannot be that much more evil than the antagonist in The Manchurian Candidate.

The conclusion of the film properly trumps all the previous surprises and previous evil that has transpired.  It is shocking and sorrowful.  It portrays the realistic despair of someone who has been at the mercy of ruthless politicians his entire life.  And it climaxes a story of corruption and greed, in which ruthless people disregard and stereotype anyone that disagrees with them.

Content Advisory: Several shootings and implied murders, a dramatic suicide, and some mildly suggestive content.                         MPAA rating: PG-13

Suggested Audience: Teens and up with discernment.

Personal Recommendation: B+

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