This review reportedly contains spoilers.
“How about passing the time by playing a little solitaire... right, lets start opening some doors.” - Major Marco (Frank Sinatra)
Exhuming McCarthy... way ahead of its time political thriller/cold war slice of paranoia from the massively gifted John Frankenheimer. On returning back in the US after fighting in Korea Staff Captain Raymond Shaw gets awarded the medal of honor for seemingly saving his platoon. Only his Major in charge Marco and few other of his troops get recurring unsettling dreams that Shaw isn't totally deserving of his distinction at being treated a war hero, and that something underhand possibly went on. Turns out their platoon had got captured by enemies, and sent to a mind control unit in Manchuria, China. And Raymond had gotten himself brainwashed by Chinese & Russian communists into becoming a sleeping assassin, who can be remotely controlled by 2 simple triggers.
Far from being perfect, and undeniably a little kooky at times The Manchurian Candidate is none the less an entertaining rewarding suspense story. That must have blown people away back in the early 60's, and opened many viewers eyes to the prospect that world governments could possibly control minds of citizens. Even though old blue eyes Sinatra gets top billing, hes really second fiddle to Laurence Harvey as the unlikely lone(r) gunman Shaw. Janet Leigh's character is a total waste of screen time, that merely serves as a kinda red herring (guess shes good eye candy at least). Angela Lansbury's really cast against type as the queen of diamonds/incestuous mother from hell Eleanor Shaw Iselin. She does a darn good job too, but I'll be honest I kinda longed for someone like Joan Crawford in the role who would have done devious a little more effortlessly. Leslie Parrish is a real knock out as Raymonds love interest Jocelyn. Really sad seeing him vacantly killing her, because she'd clearly been the only person hes ever felt love towards.
Like I said theres a few flaws and pet peeves like the deliberately goofy way Rays stepfather and governor candidate John Iselin McCarthy rants are handled, even a puppet politician like George W. Bush would score higher in IQ tests. The odd Inspector Clouseau vs Cato like fight scene between Sinatra & Henry Silva, fun but seemed far too cheesy. And not to mention the dubious racially naive way the hypnosis hallucination/nightmare scene changes depending on the colour of whose remembering it.
[Personal Reasons For OBEYING]
Unquestionably the granddaddy of mind control movies...
[x] The troop under hypnosis scene is kind silly very reminiscent of a stage one done by a comedy hypnotist.
[x] 2 post-hypnotic triggers - being told to play solitaire, viewing the queen of diamonds.
[x] The cards clearly a reference to his rich red commie domineering mother.
[x] The most basic form of mind control is repetition - Raymond being told repeatedly what part of a speech to shoot “My life before my liberty... my life before my liberty.”
[x] Freud gets hinted at few times, once even mentioned when Jocelyn cuts open a snake bite on Rays leg. And the Oedipus Complex between Ray and his mother “I didn't always hate my mother, as a child I only kinda disliked her”. Audaciously the book contains incestuous sex between Eleanor and Ray while hes under her control, which was deemed too shocking for the film. She merely kisses him repeatedly.
[x] Heinz 57 gets a product placement, John Iselin uses a bottle of ketchup to quickly come up with a random number of communists he falsely claims holds places in office.
[x] Iselin's oddly an anagram of Sileni, those half human half horse legged humans from Greek mythology.
[x] The not so good shepherd - Eleanor wears a little bo peep costume at the costumed ball, shes of course shepherding the fates of both her husband and son.
[x] Jocelyn wears a saucy playgirl like queen of diamonds playing card costume, its never known though if Eleanor had an hand in her wearing it, but you kinda of suspect she did.
Originally taken from Letterboxd