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All Star Psychological Political Thriller!,
This review is from: The Manchurian Candidate (DVD)
So powerful a cinematic portrait of a potential political assassination is this superb film improbably featuring Frank Sinatra in his finest movie role that it was banned from further release following JFK's murder in Dallas after its original early 1960s big-screen release for several decades. Directed by the near-legendary John Frankenheimer, this riveting screenplay based on the novel written by Richard Condon (Winter Kills) focuses on the way in which propaganda and the manufacture of political views can influence one's perception and behavior in the most provocative of ways. Sinatra's portrait of an officer, Bennet Marco, a man obsessed by his experience as a prisoner of war during the Korean conflict, is truly a maginificent interpretation of a man teetering on the edge of madness, driven by both his nightmares and his conscience to attempt to unravel the mystery by working through the very effective brainwashing accomplished by the North Koreans over a platoon of men Sinatra's character commanded.
Sinatra is more than ably supported by an all-star cast, including Lawrence Harvey as the title character, former Sergeant Raymond Shaw, scion from a wealthy American family who is now a North Korean sleeper, someone brainwashed into becoming a virtual ticking time bomb, set to go off when the sequence of precipitating code words are uttered to him. His suffocating cow of a mother is played extremely well by Angela Lansbury, whose husband (played by James Gregory) is an easily manipulated but McCarthy-like Senator looking to find a way to engineer his progression to the Oval Office.
Through chance conversation with other former fellow POWs, Marco becomes suspicious of his memories, which seem contrived and somehow false, but he has great difficulty (and hallucinatory nightmares) as he agonizes ever closer to uncovering the horrific truth. The plot runs interestingly and unpredictably toward its surprise conclusion, and it is so well choreographed and photographed with Frankenheimer's usual brilliant flair for the visually stunning and surprising, that one is whirled along toward the conclusion with scarcely a moment to reflect on all the twists and turns Marco discovers along the way. This is a terrific thriller, one that has suspense, realistic characters, and the kind of riddle within an enigma plot that should both entertain and edify you all at the same time. Enjoy!