The Manchurian Candidate

This post is in the theme “Constructing an identity through media”. Read the first.

October 5, New York: When Friendster rolled around and we all had to tally up our favorite books and music and movies, I crafted my list of films with the utmost care. One would have to with a degree in filmmaking. That list included an odd addition: The Manchurian Candidate, a 1960s psychological thriller about mind control and political assassination.

I have often called this my favorite film. Above even Casablanca. Why is that? I suspect I was attracted by its obscurity, but re-watching it today was a test to see if there was some secret genius in my choice, long-forgotten.

The answer is no. It’s a fascinating movie, but it’s no masterpiece. The editing is superb— particularly in the various dream sequences, mixing up the Ladies’ Hydrangea Society and the Manchurian Pavlov Institute in innumerable formats. It’s a great concept, though perhaps giving fancifully a little much credit to the power of brain-washing. And the camerawork at times is inspired— urgent and inventive— but then there are times where you want to shout at the DP to find the right focus. Frank Sinatra’s face NOT HIS EPAULETTE!

Sinatra’s in this movie and so is Janet Leigh, but their first scene is so stilted and neither of them ever really sings after that. (Leigh gets a clever line in with a deadpan “I was one of the original Chinese railroad workers who built this track.”) The real star here is Angela Lansbury, who plays the secret power wife behind the McCarthy-inspired Senator to the hilt. She’s so good at being evil.

I like the movie just fine, but it’s a good example of why we’re reevaluating the canon. Certainly fantastic, but I don’t know about “favorite”.

I had to buy a DVD of the Manchurian Candidate from Amazon, which I offer now as an option to you.

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