The Manchurian Candidate
Cultural critic Greil Marcus is the author of a monograph on The Manchurian Candidate published in the British Film Institute’s Film Classics series. Photo: ida lødemel tvedt.
Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury,
Frankenheimer’s outspoken satire, based on Richard Condon’s novel, played with America’s oversized horror of Communist infiltration while dealing on another level with the brainwashing potential of media-induced fear. Laurence Harvey and Frank Sinatra return from the Korean War after the Communists have taken them and their entire platoon to the head cleaners, and made Harvey a walking time-bomb set to assassinate the presidential nominee. Harvey’s sensitive portrayal of this much-used soldier is a sobering antidote to the Kubrick-like absurdity of the plot. The fact that the president-to-be(-murdered) is Harvey’s stepfather is only the beginning of the film’s reverberating Oedipal complex.