Friday, April 27, 2012

The Manchurian Candidate


The Manchurian Candidate (Special Edition)

#67 on the 1998 AFI List of the 100 Best American Movies
The Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 American Cold War political thriller film starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury, and featuring Henry Silva, James Gregory, Leslie Parrish and John McGiver. The picture was directed by John Frankenheimer from an adaptation by George Axelrod of Richard Condon's 1959 novel.

The central concept of the film is that the son of a prominent, right-wing political family has been brainwashed as an unwitting assassin for an international Communist conspiracy. The Manchurian Candidate was nationally released on Wednesday, October 24, 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

* Frank Sinatra as Maj. Bennett Marco
* Laurence Harvey as Raymond Shaw
* Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Iselin
* Janet Leigh as Eugenie Rose Chaney
* James Gregory as Sen. John Yerkes Iselin
* Henry Silva as Chunjin
* Leslie Parrish as Jocelyn Jordan
* John McGiver as Sen. Thomas Jordan
* Khigh Dhiegh as Dr. Yen Lo
* James Edwards as Cpl. Allen Melvin
* Douglas Henderson as Col. Milt
* Albert Paulsen as Zilkov
* Barry Kelley as Secretary of Defense
* Lloyd Corrigan as Holborn Gaines
* Robert Riordan as Benjamin K. Arthur

For the role of Mrs. Iselin, Sinatra had considered Lucille Ball, but Frankenheimer, who had worked with Lansbury in All Fall Down, suggested her for the part and insisted that Sinatra watch the film before making any decisions. (Although Lansbury played Raymond Shaw's mother, she was in fact only three years older than actor Laurence Harvey.)

An early scene where Raymond, recently decorated with the Medal of Honor, argues with his parents was filmed in Sinatra's own private plane.

Janet Leigh plays Marco's love interest. A bizarre conversation on a train between her character and Marco has been interpreted by some—notably film critic Roger Ebert—as implying that Leigh's character, Eugenie Rose Chaney, is working for the Communists to activate Marco's brainwashing, much as the Queen of Diamonds activates Shaw's. It is a jarringly strange conversation between people who have only just met, and almost appears to be an exchange of passwords. Frankenheimer himself maintained that he had no idea whether or not "Rosie" was supposed to be an agent of any sort; he merely lifted the train conversation straight from the Condon novel, in which there is no such implication. The rest of the film does not elaborate on Rosie's part and latter scenes suggest that she is simply a romantic foil for Marco.

During the fight scene between Frank Sinatra and Henry Silva, Sinatra broke his hand during a movement where he smashed through a table. This resulted in problems with his hand/fingers for several years and is said to be one of the reasons why he pulled out of a starring role in Dirty Harry, having to undertake surgery to alleviate pains.

The interrogation sequence where Raymond and Marco confront each other in the hotel room opposite the convention are the rough cuts. When first filmed Sinatra was out of focus and when they tried to re-shoot the scene he was simply not as effective as he had been in the first take (a common factor in Sinatra's film performances). Frustrated, Frankenheimer decided in the end to simply use the original out-of-focus takes. Critics praised him for showing Marco from Raymond's distorted point-of-view.

In the novel, Mrs. Iselin uses her son's brainwashing to have sex with him before the climax. Concerned that censors would not allow even a reference to such a taboo subject in a mainstream motion picture of the time, the filmmakers instead opted for Mrs. Iselin to simply kiss Raymond on the lips to imply her incestuous attraction to him.

For the scene in the convention hall prior to the assassination, Frankenheimer was at a loss as to how Marco would pinpoint Raymond Shaw's sniper's nest. Eventually he decided on a method similar to Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940). Frankenheimer noted that what would be plagiarism in the 1960s would now be looked upon as an homage.

Frankenheimer also acknowledged the climax's connection with Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 and 1956) by naming the Presidential candidate "Benjamin Arthur". Arthur Benjamin was the composer of the cantata "Storm Clouds" used in both versions of Hitchcock's film.

No comments: