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The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

The Manchurian CandidateOne of the fascinating things about looking at older political thrillers is to see how the political world of the film has changed. Common knowledge and assumptions no longer hold. Assumptions about race, class, and gender have shifted and our view of what works and what doesn’t changes as well. That being said, John Frankenheimers The Manchurian Candidate holds up very well. I’d seen the remake before the original, and I was surprised at how shocking the original was at times. Firmly set during the Cold War, the film shows a Korean War hero who has been brainwashed by Communists. Angela Lansbury is great as the domineering power behind her husband the senator and her son, the war hero. The cynicism of the film was surprising to me, and I wondered if the film stood out dramatically from other films of the time or whether it fit in to an undercurrent. I checked out what other films were released in 1962 and found Lolita, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Lawrence of Arabia… so I guess that a cynical political thriller kind of fit in to a somewhat controversial view of the world. One of the neat things that I noticed in The Manchurian Candidate” was that video was used effectively in several places. A press conference features a room full of cameras with Frank Sinatra conducting the press conference. The camera pans across a room filled with cameras to Angela Lansbury standing beside a television showing the press conference as the scene unfolds. The film moves along quickly and while I generally knew what was going to happen since I’d seen the remake, I was surprised when it actually happened.

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