December 29, 2015


New release: The Criterion Collection recently announced their March titles, which include the original Manchurian Candidate (1962/John Frankenheimer). Their edition will be a 4K digital transfer with an uncompressed mono soundtrack on Blu-ray. Special features include director commentary, Angela Lansbury interview, Erroll Morris tribute, 1988 discussion between the director, screenwriter, and Frank Sinatra, and a new interview with historian Susan Carruthers about the Cold War brainwashing scare (this is right up my alley!), and the original trailer. Street date is March 25th. I didn't see this film until about six or seven years ago and I was really blown away by its visual style and emotional impact. The Manchurian Candidate is one of the most powerful cold war films ever produced. Although many movies and spy-style shows of the period reflected a then-current fear and fascination with brainwashing, none could hold a candle to this classic. The character development and meaty performances by Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey brought a palatable weight that continues to hold up for modern viewers. Although real brainwashing is said to be quite different, this tragic movie plays on the familiar device of the evil manipulation of an individual to become a weapon against their own circle under the power of hypnotic suggestion. I recommend the film highly, though Spy Vibers should be prepared for its dark message. It would sit rather well with the John le Carre films if anyone is interested in having a chilly cold war marathon. I'm still haunted by some of the scenes! It will be interesting to re-explore it and especially dive into the academic content in the bonus features. About the film: "The name John Frankenheimer became forever synonymous with heart-in-the-throat filmmaking when this quintessential sixties political thriller was released. Set in the early fifties, this razor-sharp adaptation of the novel by Richard Condon concerns the decorated U.S. Army sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), who as a prisoner during the Korean War is brainwashed into being a sleeper assassin in a Communist conspiracy, and a fellow POW (Frank Sinatra) who slowly uncovers the sinister plot. In an unforgettable, Oscar-nominated performance, Angela Lansbury plays Raymond's villainous mother, the controlling wife of a witch-hunting anti-Communist senator with his eyes on the White House. The rare film to be suffused with Cold War paranoia while also taking aim at the frenzy of the McCarthy era, The Manchurian Candidate remains potent, shocking American moviemaking." Amazon page here.

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