Quick-Thoughts: John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

There’s an absolute masterpiece hidden in this admittedly kinda-very flawed movie. Anyways, I stan for more TV within a TV shot compositions, please. 

John Frankenheimer, the man who would later go on to direct the brilliant 1966 paranoia thriller Seconds, made his first considered classic in 1962 however titled The Manchurian Candidate. What we have here is an absolutely admirable attempt to reconcile the horror of *dun dun DUN* “brainwashing”, and to paint an allegory of the political acquisitiveness that comes with power. The movie inventively uses a villainous scheme to insight the lengths that those who want to become leaders of a nation would be willing to take; the intended contradictions that the antagonists make are ones that depict a blown-out-of-proportions reason why the media is nothing less than a game, and something farther from a lean to promote truth of belief and character. 

Speaking of character, Bennet Marco and Raymond Shaw are some great ones. Shaw, played by Laurence Harvey, is so emotionally unveiled in this movie that, despite his hardened and frankly unlikable personality, you’re convinced far than enough to care for him. Marco, however, played by none other than Frank Sinatra himself, is a man clearly mindful of his actions, so when the story begins taking tragic jumps and leaps, the psychological consequences he burdens himself with throughout the film come back even mightier to hammer home the gruesome effect these antagonists have deviously dropped on America’s doorsteps from their villainous political conspiracy. The Right, middle, and Left can all relate! 

Plus, I really dug not necessarily how it happens, but the poignancy behind Shaw’s initial character and his image among others being tied back to his developed character in the ending. We wanted a hero, so here we are; we got one. Happy now? 

Something though that constantly bothered me throughout the film and for which I had wrongly considered that it would likely be fixed by the end due to its “mystery” and “incomplete” tone was the sheer amount of cheap writing maneuvers this movie pulls within the confines of its plot. Advisably, I wouldn’t recommend thinking about this movie’s sequencing of events too laboriously, but despite a movie having such gloriously crafted dialogue and elaborate characters, the reliance on half-assed Macguffins here genuinely shocked me; it nearly deflated the believability of the narrative and the people that make it up to me. And, to add even more flame to the fire, despite the wonderfully plush cinematography that’s also complimented in the film, the visual tricks used towards the finale of the movie to rack up intensity had me appalled; it really felt like the head filmmakers were trying to treat the audiences as idiots by sacrificing the legitimacy of the conclusion. I can honestly see myself LOVING this movie if these problems were dealt with (you may or may not be able to recut this movie in a way that makes more sense) but as of now, those flaws are what’s holding me back from putting it on the level as say Seconds.

I don’t know whether or not to appreciate Janet Leigh’s character too, cause how they integrate her in this film can either be seen as completely genius in its subversion of expectations or an absolute low-blow gimmick to provoke Sinatra’s character. I’ll let it slide though; I enjoyed this movie enough to have the power vested within me to forgive. 

Mrs. Iselin is definitely in my top 5 for worst moms ever though. Like, sheesh.

Verdict: B

“The Manchurian Candidate” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

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