The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is an American black and white suspense thrillerdirected by John Frankenheimer.
It was originally scripted from Richard Condon’s book TheManchurian Candidate (1959). The film was released at a time when the US was suspecting theRussians and the Chinese of using brainwashing techniques and programmed soldier training totake over the world. Set in the early 50s adding a neo Cold War background to the plot, themanchurian candidate shows the influence of media in shaping people’s opinion on a publicmatter and the controversies and conspiracies that lurk around the public relation, politics andpeople behind that.
At the end of the korean war a group of American soldiers are captured, brainwashed andprogrammed into sleeper assassins by the Soviets. The entire captured platoon is then sent homeand among the brainwashed troops Sergeant Raymond Shaw ( Laurence Harvey ) is made a heroupon arrival. The american government is unaware about the Soviet’s making a plot toassassinate the U.S president using their Sleeper assassins. Sergeant Raymond Shaw happens tobe the stepson of the US Senator John Yerkes Iselin ( James Gregory ) and Eleanor Iselin ( AngelaLansbury ). Shaws mother Mrs.
Iselin makes his homecoming into a political rally by bringingtension 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 everyoneexpected 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 politicalmasterplan to make John Yerkes Iselin the next president of the United States.
Throughout the movie various themes have been expressed like racial tensions betweenwhite americans and foreigners, chinese and the russians to be specific. All the asian charactersin the movie were played by non asian actors. The one main asian character automatically knewkung fu. More at the beginning of the movie the corporal the only black person had only blackpeople in his dreams where frank sinatra has only white people in his dreams. When the koreanguy asks sergeant shaw for a job he says there is no position available with the paper but endedup giving him a job as his private assistant, and calls him a houseboy which shows moredominance by the white upon the asian people. The entire movie was thrilling but more towards the end I felt more sympathetic becauseShaw took revenge by killing his mother, but he also felt it was the right thing to do. Themessage was mostly propaganda and the move led more towards anti communism.
The corruptside 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 thathow an idea can reside inside the deep human head. We cannot say if something is right orwrong without completely knowing what the entire matter is. Thus,our perception on issuesdepend on the level of persuasion the other person had while he was explaining the topic. Iwould recommend it to anyone who would like a taste of some old american conspiracy.