The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Political Thriller, Paranoid Thriller, Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Oct 24, 1962 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 126 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Rebecca Flint Marx

A brilliant Cold War satire, The Manchurian Candidate is a chilling commentary on political power, international conspiracy, and the gullibility of the American people. A paean to paranoia, it was ahead of its time yet reflected the tensions of its era, and modern-day viewers can use it as a guide to the political and moral climate of the early years of Cold War America. One doesn't have to look hard to find a thinly veiled Senator Joseph McCarthy in zealous anti-Communist Senator Iselin or fears of female dominance in Angela Lansbury's megalomaniacal Mrs. Iselin. In addition to its status as one of the great political satires, The Manchurian Candidate remains a classic for its sharp, often hilarious script, for John Frankenheimer's fine-tuned direction, and for its uniformly excellent performances. Though Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, and Janet Leigh are all thoroughly effective, and James Gregory is pricelessly stupid as Senator Iselin, the film belongs to Lansbury. Her Mrs. Iselin remains one of the screen's most terrifying maternal presences, a queen bee intent on clearing the hive of anyone who stands in her way. Like her clueless husband, the audience can only react dumbly to her, marveling at her single-minded rampage towards world domination. Unavailable for years due to a dispute between Sinatra and United Artists, The Manchurian Candidate is a film that should not be missed. Equal parts satire, political thriller, sly commentary, and history lesson, it has become a terrifying postcard from a time that should not be forgotten.