There is something timeless and menacing about a scenario where nothing is as it seems and you don't know whom to trust. The Manchurian Candidate, a seminal film from 1962, brings these concepts to bear and quite a few plot twists (rare for the time) delivering an excellent and taut thriller that holds up quite well on Blu-ray.
The Manchurian Candidate is the story of a group of soldiers captured during the Korean War, who are saved from captivity by their seemingly heroic Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey). When they return to the United States, Shaw is nominated for a Congressional Medal of Honor by his Captain, Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra). Once he is awarded the medal Shaw is catapulted into the spotlight by his conniving mother played divinely and with fervor by Angela Lansbury.
Marco and a few of his fellow soldiers have trouble assimilating back into society and sense that something is not right. It quickly seems to them that the source of their discomfort centers around Shaw, but what exactly happened escapes them, at least at the start. I don’t want to ruin the twists for those who have not seen the movie, but it is a devious and thought-provoking scenario that challenges what we perceive humanity can be conditioned to do.
The movie is full of excellent performances as mentioned, by Angela Lansbury, Laurence Harvey and a far too brief supporting role by Janet Leigh as Marco’s love interest, but the true standout is Frank Sinatra. I have to confess, I have never been a Sinatra fan, and in fact I have always thought he was over-rated as an actor, but this film has made me a believer. His neurotic behavior, troubled stares and general stance and bearing fit so perfectly the role of a man out of his depth and wondering what is real and fake, I was drawn into the story.
The Manchurian Candidate is a powerful film and if you have not seen it yet it is something every fan of cinema should watch if only for its thought-provoking and disturbing concepts. It takes a look at an era of fear and animosity in the United State and injects a conspiracy into the mix seemingly justifying that fear – or does it justify it? You will have to watch the movie to be sure, but remember as you watch this excellent film that Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.