The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is an American black and white suspense thriller
directed by John Frankenheimer. It was originally scripted from Richard Condon’s book The
Manchurian Candidate (1959). The film was released at a time when the US was suspecting the
Russians and the Chinese of using brainwashing techniques and programmed soldier training to
take over the world. Set in the early 50s adding a neo Cold War background to the plot, the
manchurian candidate shows the influence of media in shaping people’s opinion on a public
matter and the controversies and conspiracies that lurk around the public relation, politics and
people behind that.
At the end of the korean war a group of American soldiers are captured, brainwashed and
programmed into sleeper assassins by the Soviets. The entire captured platoon is then sent home
and among the brainwashed troops Sergeant Raymond Shaw ( Laurence Harvey ) is made a hero
upon arrival. The american government is unaware about the Soviet’s making a plot to
assassinate the U.S president using their Sleeper assassins. Sergeant Raymond Shaw happens to
be the stepson of the US Senator John Yerkes Iselin ( James Gregory ) and Eleanor Iselin ( Angela
Lansbury ). Shaws mother Mrs.Iselin makes his homecoming into a political rally by bringing
tension between a mother son relationship by supporting her husband’s political footsteps.
Sergeant Raymond Shaw’s normal life does not turn out to be normal, it is not as everyone
expected it to be. It takes a turn when US Army officer, Bennett Marco ( Frank Sinatra ) has
nightmares related to Shaw and investigates him which later on unfolds a well crafted political
masterplan to make John Yerkes Iselin the next president of the United States.
Throughout the movie various themes have been expressed like racial tensions between
white americans and foreigners, chinese and the russians to be specific. All the asian characters
in the movie were played by non asian actors. The one main asian character automatically knew
kung fu. More at the beginning of the movie the corporal the only black person had only black
people in his dreams where frank sinatra has only white people in his dreams. When the korean
guy asks sergeant shaw for a job he says there is no position available with the paper but ended
up giving him a job as his private assistant, and calls him a houseboy which shows more
dominance by the white upon the asian people.
The entire movie was thrilling but more towards the end I felt more sympathetic because
Shaw took revenge by killing his mother, but he also felt it was the right thing to do. The
message was mostly propaganda and the move led more towards anti communism.The corrupt
side and back door deals made in american politics was the main theme for the movie.
Overall I would rate the movie 2.5 out of 5 and I think the movie itself was a proof that
how an idea can reside inside the deep human head. We cannot say if something is right or
wrong without completely knowing what the entire matter is. Thus,our perception on issues
depend on the level of persuasion the other person had while he was explaining the topic. I
would recommend it to anyone who would like a taste of some old american conspiracy.