Among the best movies released in 1962 is a film noir directed by John Frankenheimer. “The Manchurian Candidate” boasts a beautifully constructed script by Frankenheimer and George Axelrod, a terrific cast headed by Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury and a dark premonitory vision that reveals all the horrors of the late sixties in embryo. Those who would like to remember 1962 as an innocent year can look elsewhere for nostalgia.
“The Manchurian Candidate” is grim, gripping entertainment. Filmed within five years of Senator Joe McCarthy's death, the movie makes use of the paranoid Cold War era, and also reveals the slickness of the characters who marketed our national fears.
Angela Lansbury was only 37 when she played 34-year-old Laurence Harvey's villainous mother, but she gets away with it and steals every scene she's in. Lithuanian-born Harvey never was convincing in American roles, although he certainly played enough of them, yet he is otherwise sympathetic and restrained in the pivotal role. Frank Sinatra could be a fine actor when he wanted to be, and he plays with cool, crisp authority here. Not many people remember an attractive, talented starlet named Leslie Parrish, but she is shown to good advantage opposite Harvey. One bit of miscasting is Puerto Rican Henry Silva as a Korean, an especially odd choice in a picture which also features Khigh Dhiegh. There's also a weak love interest bit for Janet Leigh opposite Sinatra.
“The Manchurian Candidate” was made in the midst of the Kennedy years and yet it's atypical of films of that era in that it's genuinely noir and genuinely prophetic. It runs rings around most of today's thrillers.
© 2007 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 12/12/07
The Manchurian Candidate
USA - 1962