The Manchurian Candidate (1962) (Blu-ray)
A platoon of soldiers are double crossed and captured during the Korean War. Brainwashed by the enemy and sent back to civilization heroes, the soldiers begin to question their past as well as their re-occurring nightmares when one of their own is set up to become a political assassin.
This was my first time watching THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE be it the original or the re-make. I didn’t see the remake simply because the story didn’t entice me (not to mention the fact that at this stage of the game “that story” has been used more than a few times). Had it not been for the remake I probably would never even have heard of this film, the original. Add to this the fact that I’m not particularly into war themed films and of course the fact that the sixties era wasn’t really my time and you can probably get the sense that I wasn’t really into this flick. All that aside, I did dig this story quite a bit and it never ceased to hold my attention.
Now I can’t rave about the cast here because other than Frank Sinatra (yes, even I know who Frank Sinatra is) I couldn’t really tell you anything about them. Many critics and fans of the film were blown away by their performances, particularly Sinatra’s which has been dubbed by many as his best cinematic performance. This could very well be, and as far as I’m concerned he was brilliant but I haven’t watched much Sinatra so I don’t have a convincing point to convey as far as comparisons go. There’s an all too real crisp tension to this film due to the subject matter and how close to the line it went back in the day. Considering when it was made I’m surprised they were able to push the envelope as far as they did.
The dream/flashback sequences are by far the best of the film. They come across as both eerie and bone chilling as the calm soldiers are put out on display for their captures and then simply asked to kill one another for entertainment and proof of compliancy. Many films deal with the idea of government testing on both sides of the fence but this was the most brutal, vivid and just plain “in your face” example I’ve ever seen. We’re very used to this concept, even if we don’t readily realize it. The BOURNE films are a Hollywood glamorised version of this, which were cool and all but at no point delivered the sort of fear and awe that this film did. Not even close.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE is grossly outdated by normal standards but at the same time is a film that demands your full attention. We have this film to no doubt thank for the many similar styled stories that came after, two of my personal favourites being the James Marsden led DISTURBING BEHAVIOUR and an episode of THE OUTER LIMITS (The Straight and Narrow) which focussed on the same thing and was the first time I ever saw Ryan Phillippe. The concept here is cool and as you can clearly see isn’t one we easily tire of, so aside from being a touch old, this was still a pretty hard hitting film that I recommend you sit down with if this style of film is what you’re into.
Video: 1.75:1 Widescreen in 1080p HD with AVC codec. It’s a black and white oldie, but it looked good for what it was though.
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD in English, French and Spanish with the same subtitle options. The score isn’t much to write home to mom about but I won’t take any shots at it.
Commentary (2:06:32): Considering the storyline, director John Frankenheimer delivers a very interesting commentary mixed with political intrigue and conspiracy theories. Very cool if this period in history is your thing.
Exclusive Interviews (7:59): Here we have a brief talk show interview with Frank Sinatra, George Axelrod and John Frankenheimer from way back in the day where they reminisce about the film.
“Queen of Diamonds” Featurette (14:51): This is another interview where we get Angela Lansbury’s point of view on the film and how she was cast for the role.
“A Little Solitaire” Featurette (13:17): Here we get the stances of other directors on the film, how it was directed and thoughts on director John Frankenheimer.
How to get Shot (1:07): This (along with a twenty seven second bit on a phone call) are a ridiculous waste of time cut from both above interviews and then added here to make the extras look better. I really hate when they do that.
Previews: There’s a theatrical trailer for the feature film.