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35 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Remake Of the 1960s B&W Classic!
Shades of Fahrenheit 911! This superbly crafted and well acted re-make of the 1960s political thriller, "The Manchurian Candidate" bears little resemblance to the original, a taut but relatively conventional psychological drama based on the premise of the selective brainwashing of a platoon of American soldiers during the Korean War by the North Koreans. In the original,...
Published on July 28, 2004 by Barron Laycock

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tough to Rate This One
I was getting tugged on multiple sides when I decided to rate and review this film. First, and most obviously, was that I loved the original with Frank Sinatra. I think it was probably his defining role as an actor and was my personal favorite Sinatra movie. Second, I was worried that I might try and draw too many comparisons between this new film and its predecessor and...
Published on January 21, 2005 by B. Merritt


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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tough to Rate This One, January 21, 2005
By 
B. Merritt "filmreviewstew.com" (WWW.FILMREVIEWSTEW.COM, Pacific Grove, California United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
I was getting tugged on multiple sides when I decided to rate and review this film. First, and most obviously, was that I loved the original with Frank Sinatra. I think it was probably his defining role as an actor and was my personal favorite Sinatra movie. Second, I was worried that I might try and draw too many comparisons between this new film and its predecessor and thus end up hating this one. Third, I like Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, and PRAYED that they didn't put these two excellent actors into roles that they either weren't made for or couldn't live up to.

So basically I stressed out over nothing. The movie was good. Not great, not the best of the year, but good enough to hold my attention and keep me up later than I normally would be.

The film: Denzel Washington takes on the role of Major Ben Marco (Sinatra's old Captain role), a desert storm officer who's come back from the war with terrible headaches, undecipherable dreams, and a member of his team who won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Liev Schriber plays Raymond Shaw, the powerfully connected Sergeant who wins The Medal. He comes back to the States and is swept into politics. And he's being primed for the vice presidency.

Meryl Streep plays Senator Eleanor Shaw, Raymond's hard-nosed mother who NEEDS to have her son in a position of power. The family name MUST be upheld and put into the history books. Mrs. Streep plays probably her most creepy role to date; I loved it. Her character infuriated me one moment, and then made my stomach turn the next. A perfect performance.

Instead of Manchuria being involved, this time we have something known as Manchurian Global, a company that wants to rule the most powerful nation on Earth by controlling one of its most powerful leaders. But who's behind this global corporation? Does the military know? IS it the military?

Denzel pulls off a decent performance as the conflicted soldier who wants to do the right thing, but is hampered by what's "inside his head". His decline into near insanity is more like a landslide (i.e., felt rushed), and those around him can't hold a candle to his more adept acting abilities (with the exception of Mrs. Streep who practically stole the show).

Will I watch it again? Probably not.
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35 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Remake Of the 1960s B&W Classic!, July 28, 2004
By 
Barron Laycock "Labradorman" (Temple, New Hampshire United States) - See all my reviews
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Shades of Fahrenheit 911! This superbly crafted and well acted re-make of the 1960s political thriller, "The Manchurian Candidate" bears little resemblance to the original, a taut but relatively conventional psychological drama based on the premise of the selective brainwashing of a platoon of American soldiers during the Korean War by the North Koreans. In the original, the storyline revolves around the nightmare ruminations of a military officer (played by Frank Sinatra) who comes to realize all hinges on a fellow prisoner, the scion of a wealthy, influential, and politically ambitious family becoming a sleeper assassin who will be activated to act out his part in a diabolical plot to stage a deft and ostensibly peaceful coup-d'etat of the American government.

Here Denzel Washington underplays the part of the officer to the point of perfection, yet the story-line is much more of a postmodern twist, involving corporate geopolitical ambitions for a Halliburton-like firm who tries to use the brainwashing during the Gulf War of 1991 to ensnare and brainwash the sleeper agent (played well here by Liev Schreiber, once again the scion of a wealthy, influential, and politically star-crossed family). Meryl Streep plays against type as a brash and arrogant neoconservative senator who uses her bully pulpit to spew imperialistic venom. There are many contemporary touches and twists to the script and the plot that make this a quite artful, albeit obviously fictional, philosophical diatribe on the state of current American politics seen through the eyes of Hollywood intellectuals (or is that a contradiction in terms?).

All that said, there is indeed much beyond these blatant attempts to examine the current state of the American polity to recommend the film for your entertainment. It is a forceful and mind-expanding whirlwind ride through the threats we face both within and without our borders, and it offers a number of interesting and diverting scenes of people swept up by and then caught helplessly within the crosshairs of circumstances way out of his or her control, and in that sense is a timeless statement of how much the particulars describing each of our lives depend in the unique set of historical circumstances we find ourselves enmeshed within. This is quite a rollercoaster ride, and one I highly recommend for your viewing entertainment. Enjoy!
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64 of 86 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Use this and the original in a film class, March 5, 2006
By 
Wayne A. (Belfast, Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
I'd held off for a bit on seeing this; the original Manchurian Candidate is an all-time favorite movie, and, well, you know...

At the end of this film I scooted over to my bookshelf and grabbed the DVD case of the original. My guess was the remake was no more than 90 minutes and the original must have been at least two and 1/2 hours in duration. Good Lord! They were both exactly 129 minutes long!

There's a profound lesson here. The first film, in that wonderful 129 managed to tell a great story, travel a lot, freak me out repeatedly, stun me with novelty (the playing cards, the whole Republican/McCarthy/Lincoln shtick, the "flower show' interrogation, the "jump in a lake", getting drunk with Shaw, and on and on) work in a great love story, work in a tragic love story, work in a pathological love story, and develop a host of intriguing characters, and thrill me with what seemed to be an unending sequence of marvelous performances. The equally lengthy remake stirred little sympathies and seldom got off the ground. As storytelling, the film spun its wheels. You'd think if you remake a movie, ignore character development, ignore any relationship development, ignore any complex and intelligent commentary on modern goings-on (it was just terrorism and corporate involvement in war handled in the most superficial way)--ignore a whale of a lot--you could bring the thing in at about 48 minutes, maybe 60 with commercials. If I watch it again (not likely) I'll have a stop-watch handy and I'll take notes. It was like some magic trick.

So what happened in that 129 minutes anyway? I'm honestly not sure--Denzel Washington sweats a lot and communicated none of the subtlety and complexity that Sinatra managed, Meryl Streep brought on the heretical thought that maybe she's overrated and maybe Angela Lansbury was underrated, I missed Janet Leigh who delivered the same lines splendidly, I missed the black humor and irony and ambiguity, and who the heck was that bad Lawrence Harvey impressionist? Motivations were lost, the WHOLE POINT that everyone hated this guy but parroted their adoration for him wasn't presented clearly, and the motivation for the entire brainwashing venture was muddled up by the script after first stating that it was all about control. What a mess. Every time the film tried to echo the original, it'd already gone so far off track that it just confused matters even worse.

My serious suggestion is that some professor (and not necessarily a film professor) have a class watch both versions, note what went right in 129 minutes in the original, and what went horribly wrong in the 129 minutes of the remake and then have the students try to explain why. My guess is the answers will be fascinating.

It's a one-star movie but I give it two because it was up against impossible-to-beat competition.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The original is much better, March 18, 2005
By 
David E. Levine (Peekskill , NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
If there could be 2 and a half stars, that's the rating I would give this remake. Being of generous spirit, I will resolve the issue by rating it up a half rather than down. The original was the truly gripping version. In the original, the bad guys were communists from Manchuria seeking to take over the government. In this somewaht lame remake, the bad guys constitute a corporation named Manchurian Industries. Without saying more, just think about it ... which premise is the real thriller? In both versions, a brainwshed war veteran is under the control of his domineering mother. Both Angela Lansbury in the original and Meryl Streep in the remake are convincing in that role. Indeed, the highpoint of the film my be an erotic, borderline incestous moment between mother and brainwashed son in the remake. Otherwise, however, the original wins hands down.

The setting and relationship between the characters is much better in the original. There, a braiwashed son of a senator and his wife is programmed to do what is necessary to help his father, the vice presidential candidate rise to the top. It is the mother, rather than the father who has the brains. The father, who is the candisate is merely the dopey sooge. in this remake, however, the brainwashed son of Meryl Streep's character (she plays the senator) is the candidate for vice preesident. Excuse me but yeah right!!! That's really believable, that a zombied out brainwashed, unlikabe cad could actually be a candidate for vice president. Additionally, there are scenes where this vice presidential candidate goes off on his own to carry out orders he is programmed to obey. Again, excuse the sarcasm but puleeze!! That's really believable that a vice presidential candidate who would have a secret service detail can somehow just go off on his own.

The ending of each movie has a slightly different twist brought on by the fact that in one, the father is the candidate whereas in the other, the brainwashed individual is. I can't reveal the ending because it would ruin the suspense. Trust me, however, the ending works much better in the original.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Thriller, But Not a Knock Out, November 22, 2004
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
Doing a remake of a first class movie is asking for it. Not only should the remake be at least as good as the original, but the remake has to fight all the recollections of those who saw the original...and, I suspect, of a lot of the recollections of those who didn't.

I thought that this remake did a first-class job for two-thirds of the way, but then lost it a bit. Even so, it's a solid movie in my view with a nice twist on the original.

For me, the acting and emotional impact of the original centered on Angela Lansbury, followed by Sinatra and then Lawrence Harvey. In the remake, I'd put Washington first, followed by Schreiber and then Meryl Streep.

The original seemed to me to be all about paranoia, and made all the more effective because Harvey, as an actor, had such a stand-offish personality. "It's not that Raymond Shaw is hard to like. He's impossible to like!" A lot of people felt the same way about Harvey. I think that's the main reason he was so effective in the role. That, combined with the poisonous ego and ruthlessness of Lansbury's role as the mother, made a real psycho study. Lansbury's kiss on her son's lips created, for me, a "Whoa, wait a minute" moment. Streep's approach to the kiss, but with it not shown, didn't have the same impact at all.

The remake, for me, teetered more into relationships, with Washington more dominant in the movie, with Schreiber next and being more sympathetic and likeable, and with Streep being less poisonous and much funnier. If Lansbury with her performance stole the show in the original, Streep with her performance kind of set the remake off center. I thought the original ending, with Raymond's death and Sinatra speaking what Raymond's real medal of honor citation could have been, had a lot of emotional power. The remake's version (after the twist) was much more conventional.

I hope this turns out to be a turning point for Liev Schreiber's film acting career. He's done a number of films but has never broken through. But the guy is a powerhouse stage actor who can handle anything from Shakespeare to Pinter, and regularly does. Everything I've read about him underlines how he can dominate a stage. Brainwashing is a little old hat nowadays, but Schreiber make's Raymond's situation believeable. He's an actor to keep an eye on.

And while I think Meryl Streep's performance keeps the movie a bit off balance (its such a showboating turn), she genuinely is repellant, funny and scary all at the same time.

Richard Condon wrote the book these movies were based on. If you enjoy paranoia, read another of his books, Winter Kills. It's a good read, and made a good movie.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent suspense thriller from beginning to end, October 29, 2004
By 
T O'Brien (Chicago, Il United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
The Manchurian Candidate is an excellent remake of the 1962 classic starring Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, and Laurence Harvey. I didn't think the original movie could be remade, but director Jonathan Demme has succeeded. During the Gulf War in Kuwait, Sergeant Raymond Shaw saves his squad during an ambush and receives a Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery. Twelve years later, he becomes the Vice Presidential candidate in the presidential elections. His commander during the Gulf War, Maj. Bennet Marco, has been having flashbacks about what he thinks really happened during the ambush and in the days afterwards. Marco begins to investigate his nigtmares, and finds a huge conspiracy invovling politicians, terrorists, and mulit-conglamorate corporations. What makes this movie good is that it does not try to be an exact duplicate of the original. The basic storyline is the same as the 1962 classic with little twists and turns throughout, especially the ending, that keeps the viewer interested. The 2004 version is an excellent movie that can stand on its own and is almost as good as the original. Highly recommended.

Denzel Washington is excellent, when isn't he?, as Major Bennet Marco, the Gulf War veteran trying to find out what really happened on that night in Kuwait. Washington is very believable as a veteran struggling with post-war traumatic stress. Meryl Streep plays Senator Eleanor Shaw, Raymond's mother, who has more than a few aces up her sleeve. Watching her transformation as the plot reveals itself is creepy, although not as good as Angela Lansbury's performance. Liev Schrieber stars as Congressman Raymond Shaw, the Vice Presidential Candidate who wants to believe what Marco tells him, but ultimately cannot. Jon Voight also stars as rival senator Thomas Jordan, who Marco confides in. The movie also stars Kimberly Elise, Ted Levine, Miguel Ferrer, Simon McBurney, and Bruno Ganz. For an exciting, suspenseful thriller with an impressive cast and excellent story, check out The Manchurian Candidate!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The kindest, gentlest man I've ever known ..., August 18, 2004
By 
Sara (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
It's inevitable that Jonathan Demme's new remake of the political thriller 'The Manchurian Candidate' will be compared to the 1962 original. But it's important to let the film stand on its own merits, of which it has quite a few. Even though the original came out WAY before my time, it's funny (in a scary way) how little things have changed. Fear and paranoria are still ever present and Demme's film plays greatly against our current political atmosphere. It centers on Ben Marco (Denzel Washington), a Gulf War soldier who was knocked unconscious during an ambush. His platoon is saved by the heroics of Raymond Shaw (Liev Schrieber), who single-handedly fights the enemy. Shaw is awarded the medal of honor for his deeds and the platoon returns home, save for two members who die in the battle. Years pass and we are reintroduced to Marco who is plagued by bizarre, horrifying dreams. I won't spoil what is included in them but suffice to say, they are frightening enough to keep him awake at night. Shaw has now become a surprise Vice Presidential candidate, mostly due to the drive of his hyper-ambitious mother Senator Shaw (Meyrl Streep). Marco believes he has uncovered a conspiracy involving their platoon and begins attempting to confront Shaw about it. Soon both of them must face up to the truth of what really happened during that ambush.

Demme has crafted a chilling and challenging look at our political society today. With Communism no longer as big a threat, he has updated the villian to a worldwide corporation called Manchurian Global, a change that works well. He uses a lot of extreme close-ups to heighten tension and give the audience a feeling of claustrophobic closeness. There's no escape here, nowhere else to look except at the faces of the talented cast Demme has assembled. And what a cast! Washington delves into his character's ticks and trademarks, much the way Russell Crowe did with Nash in 'A Beautiful Mind'. Streep does good work as usual as the mother you'd never want to have - she's evil, incestuous, and won't quit. And her physical resemblence to Hilary Clinton is undeniable. The actor who does the finest work though is definately Liev Schrieber. I really hope this turn finally makes a star out of him. He's been doing great work for years and this role is Oscar material. Shaw could have been mechanical and inhuman in the wrong hands, but Schrieber gives him a melancholy depth viewers can understand.

The film itself is one of the better I've seen so far this year. Though it unravels a little bit after the climax, for the most part it stays tightly constructed. It's intelligent, startling work. If you're at all interested, see it. Even if you're a fan of the original, this one still has surprises in store.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Manchurian Canddiate (2004), January 1, 2006
By 
Director: Jonathan Demme

Cast: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Jeffrey Wright, Kimberly Elise, Anthony Mackie, Adam LeFevre, Ann Dowd, Simon McBurney.

Running Time: 129 minutes

Rated R for violence and some language.

"The Manchurian Candidate" is "Silence of the Lambs" director Jonathan Demme's remake attempt at the 1962 classic. In the new film, the villainous force isn't Communism, but capitalism, or more specifically, a vaguely defined corporate entity that hopes to rule the world. As such, in giving us a generic corporate villain, the film has all the gravity of a James Bond adventure. The change is revealing in that it shows the political correctness of Hollywood thinking (in not wishing to slur any ethnic group, or for that matter any specific political party), plus it shows the lack of creative thinking in Hollywood (by playing it safe and trite with the usual stereotypical band of rich, white, male Western capitalists as the baddies). Denzel Washington plays Colonel Ben Marco, who we first meet delivering a speech to a Boy Scout troop about his experiences in the first Gulf War, and how Congressman Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber, who deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor) saved his platoon from an enemy attack. Marco, we soon discover, has been having mysterious dreams that say otherwise. Dreams of torture, medical experimentation, brainwashing, and murder. He is motivated to investigate the dream when he finds out from a former platoon mate (Jeffrey Wright) that he's not alone in wondering what really happened that night. Meanwhile, Raymond Shaw has just been positioned as his party's reluctant nominee for Vice-President of the United States thanks to the machinations of his nightmarish mother (Meryl Streep), who is a US senator. Marco visits Shaw and tries to get Shaw's help in figuring out what happened, but Shaw is reluctant to get involved. he suspects Marco is insane. Little does he know, his mind is being controlled by the very same people Marco's been dreaming about.

Arguably, the actors in this remake are better than the actors in the original, or at least Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep and Liev Schreiber give more nuanced and complex performances. Yet, better isn't necessarily better. Frank Sinatra's Capt. Marco was a troubled man, who still was in control, he grounded the film; Washington's Marco is progressively more unstable and somehow less satisfying as a-man-no-one-will-believe cliché. Schreiber, who even looks a little like a baby-faced Laurence Harvey, plays Raymond with a gentle vulnerability, which would make him appealing as the would-be candidate, but it was Harvey's unrelenting nastiness that made it so ironic in the original that he ultimately became both heroic and sympathetic. This film begs you to like Raymond Shaw; the previous one dared you to. Even Kimberly Elise, whose Rosie is now an intricate part of the story, lacks that cool charm and dry humor of Janet Leigh's mysterious and ultimately irrelevant character in the first film. The characters have been rewritten, but not reenergized. Streep, with the thankless job of trying to fill the iconic shoes of Angela Lansbury, gives her character a controlled ruthlessness that is perfectly believable; but lacking that mix of cold-blooded ruthlessness and cheerfully vicious opportunism that made Lansbury's performance a classic. Streep gives a fine performance; Lansbury gave a unique performance. Plus, by making Streep an actual Senatorm logical, given the times, her power is made obvious and the character is the weaker for it. Lansbury, on the other hand, was playing Lady Macbeth, a power behind the throne whose dominance was all the more frightening because it was unexpected, inexplicable, yet unquestioned.

To their credit, the filmmakers have tried to follow the blueprint of the original film, while still adding twists and clever surprises to make the story different, if not fresh. Unfortunately, many, if not all, of the changes don't work or don't improve anything. Despite a reasonable effective start the film begins a downward arc, right up to a twist-upon-a-twist ending that makes the unlikely plot seem simply stupid. It says something when you end a film with a political assassination and still can't generate suspense. And it doesn't help that the convention and rally sequences all look totally fake. Some films are simply products of their times; they don't translate to different eras. Frankenheimer's "The Manchurian Candidate" is one; it plays as fresh and exciting today as it did them, but it is nonetheless an artifact of the Cold War era. It tells us something about America, circa 1950-1965. All Demme's "Candidate" tells us about 21st century America is that Hollywood has gotten lazy. Not a bad film by any strech of the imagination, but not up to the original version.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes older is better, January 1, 2005
By 
Larry Scantlebury (Ypsilanti, MI United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
My Dad and I used to have this conversation. If you take some of the great plots of the last 40-50 years and use today's technology, liberal attutudes toward sex, violence and heck, reality, don't you come up with a better product? Look at Double Indemnity and then see Body Heat. Kathleen Turner just scorches Barbara Stanwyck. The answer is absolutely.

Yet we all know of some flops where great technology and acting couldn't carry the show. And this is certainly one of them.

First of all, Meryl streep is fantastic. You might have only expected that but still beautiful, powerful, manipulative, evil, sexy . . . she plays it to the hilt. And Denzel also does marvels with what he has to work with. Laurence Harvey was more sympathetic-creepy as Sergeant Raymond Shaw but Liev Shrieber does a credible job.

That's it. The plot is so convoluted that by the end, you have no idea of what's going on. Holy Cow it was an incredible (as in virtually unbelievable) story (Richard Condon) to begin with but Sinatra (I never thought I'd say this) and Harvey and Janet Leigh gave us a road to follow and we did. Here, by hour number 2, Meryl Streep's having conversations with people that I suppose I'm supposed to understand play a significant role but I can't figure out what it is. Or who they are. I thought they were Republican members of the Senate! And the Oedipal thing. Come on. A little over the top. Really pandering.

Don't waste your money. If you see Manchurian, rent the first one. 2 stars. Larry Scantlebury
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Try, But Watch the Original First, May 2, 2007
This review is from: The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
Though it lacks the quiet dignity of the original, Jonathan Demme's talky update of "The Manchurian Candidate" manages to hit enough points to qualify as a watchable thriller. The story, of course, has been updated beyond its Cold War roots, meaning the communists aren't the villains anymore. (I won't tell you who they are, but aside from Nazis, who is a villain of convenience nowadays?) That also means that the plot is needlessly top heavy with details and machinations, turning a story that originally was chilling in its simplicity into something cumbersome, as well as more brooding than frightening.

Likable Denzel Washington steps into Frank Sinatra's venerable shoes as Ben Marco, the Army major unfortunate enough to have his squad turned into diabolical experiments in mind control. This time, he isn't suffering only from nightmares but from what seems the worst case of Gulf War Syndrome on record. Lacking the pathos of Lawrence Harvey, Liev Schreiber makes for a reptilian Raymond Shaw, the soldier at the center of what may be a fantastic assassination plot, only this time, he's a senator with designs on the White House. (This script jettisons the Johnny Iselin character, thus robbing the movie of some of the original's bitingly satirical moments; it also maddeningly reduces Shaw's near redemptive romance with a political opponent's daughter to an expository footnote and trades the functions of some characters.) But perhaps the biggest flaw is Meryl Streep's generally histrionic approach to the role of Raymond's mother. As acclaimed an actress as she is, Streep's portrayal seems a burlesque of Angela Lansbury's stunning foray into villainy.

Demme's direction is less taut than in "Silence of the Lambs" and showier but often less effective than John Frankenheimer's - oddly enough, some deleted scenes show a better grasp of the concept than what made it into the theatrical version. The original, an almost perfect film, remains the definitive version.
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The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition)
The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition) by Jonathan Demme (DVD - 2004)
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