Stars: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury, Henry Silva
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 129 minutes
You will never find a more chillingly suspenseful, perversely funny, or viciously satirical political thriller than The Manchurian Candidate, based on the novel by Richard Condon (author of Winter Kills). The film, withheld from distribution by star Frank Sinatra for almost a quarter century after President Kennedy's assassination, has lost none of its potency over time. Former infantryman Bennet Marco (Sinatra) is haunted by nightmares about his platoon having been captured and brainwashed in Korea. The indecipherable dreams seem to center on Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), a decorated war hero but a cold fish of a man whose own mother (Angela Lansbury, in one of the all-time great dragon-lady roles) describes him as looking like his head is "always about to come to a point." Mrs. Bates has nothing on Lansbury's character, the manipulative queen behind her second husband, Senator John Iselin (James Gregory), a notoriously McCarthyesque demagogue. --Jim Emerson
They can make me do anything, Ben, can't they? Anything.
We'll see, kid. We'll see what they can do and we'll see what we can do. So the red queen is our baby. Well, take a look at this, kid...
52 of them! Take a good look at 'em, Raymond, look at 'em, and while you're looking, listen. This is me, Marco, talking. 52 red queens and me are telling you... you know what we're telling you? It's over! The links, the beautifully conditioned links are smashed. They're smashed as of now because we say so, because we say they are to be smashed. We're busting up the joint, we're tearing out all the wires. We're busting it up so good all the queen's horses and all the queen's men will never put old Raymond back together again. You don't work any more! That's an order. Anybody invites you to a game of solitaire, you tell 'em sorry, buster, the ball game is over.
It has been decided that you will be dressed as a priest, to help you get away in the pandemonium afterwards. Chunjin will give you a two-piece Soviet Army sniper's rifle that fits nicely into a special bag. There's a spotlight booth that won't be in use. It's up under the roof on the Eighth Avenue side of the Garden. You will have absolutely clear, protected shooting. You are to shoot the presidential nominee through the head. And Johnny will rise gallantly to his feet and lift Ben Arthur's body in his arms, stand in front of the microphones and begin to speak. The speech is short. But it's the most rousing speech I've ever read. It's been worked on, here and in Russia, on and off, for over eight years. I shall force someone to take the body away from him and Johnny will really hit those microphones and those cameras with blood all over him, fighting off anyone who tries to help him, defending America even if it means his own death, rallying a nation of television viewers to hysteria, to sweep us up into the White House with powers that will make martial law seem like anarchy! Now, this is very important. I want the nominee to be dead two minutes after he begins his acceptance speech - depending on his reading time under pressure. You are to hit him right at the point that he finishes the phrase, "Nor would I ask of any fellow American in defense of his freedom that which I would not gladly give myself - my life before my liberty." Is that absolutely clear?
I know you will never entirely comprehend this, Raymond, but you must believe I did not know it would be you. I served them. I fought for them. I'm on the point of winning for them the greatest foothold they would ever have in this country. And they paid me back by taking your soul away from you. I told them to build me an assassin. I wanted a killer from a world filled with killers and they chose you because they thought it would bind me closer to them.
But now, we have come almost to the end. One last step. And then when I take power, they will be pulled down and ground into dirt for what they did to you. And what they did in so contemptuously underestimating me.
Poor Raymond. Poor friendless, friendless Raymond. He was wearing his medal when he died.
You should read some of the citations sometime. Just read them. Taken, eight prisoners, killing four enemy in the process while one leg and one arm was shattered and he could only crawl because the other leg had been blown off - Edwards. Wounded five times, dragged himself across the direct fire of three enemy machine guns to pull two of his wounded men to safety amid sixty-nine dead and two hundred and three casualties - Holderman.
Made to commit acts too unspeakable to be cited here by an enemy who had captured his mind and his soul. He freed himself at last and in the end, heroically and unhesitatingly gave his life to save his country. Raymond Shaw... Hell... Hell.