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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Mystery > Manchurian Candidate (1962, remastered/MGM DVD)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962/remastered)

 

Picture: B†††† Sound: B-†††† Extras: B†††† Film: A-

 

 

John Frankenheimer had some of the best live TV ever made under his belt when the networks turned on him, then luckily for us, he turned to motion pictures and we saw one of the greatest careers in American filmmaking take off.Freed from the confines of a TV studio, it turned out he knew how to make a camera move and he quickly became one of the best action directors around.Based on Richard Condonís novel, The Manchurian Candidate (1962) turned out to be an all-time classic and as Alfred Hitchcock was about to go into decline, Frankenheimer pulled off the most explicitly political thriller ever seen.Hitchcock had done anti Axis propaganda films, but nothing like this had ever been seen before.

 

Laurence Harvey stars as war hero Raymond Shaw, a sergeant who managed to single-handedly fought off the enemy to save his Korean troop.Upon arrival, his mother (Angela Lansbury in one of the greatest performances of her career) has (to Raymondís dismay and as usual) set up a surprise gathering of the press to push his name further, though he knows it is for her ends.It is also in support of Senator John Iselin (the great James Gregory), who she has been married to for a while.They both are eyeing a possible run for the White House.

 

They are selling themselves as staunch anti-Communists, even trying to demonize fellow Senator Thomas Jordan (the always impressive John McGiver), whose daughter (Leslie Parrish) had an affair with Raymond before his mother did what she could to end it.She succeeded.The bigger problem that starts surfacing is that several members of Raymondís troop are having the same nightmare.That includes the very together Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra), who decides to see if anyone else is having his nightmare.When he turns out to be too right, it starts to become apparent that Raymond is not a war hero, and something far more sinister is happening.

 

Frankenheimer said this was the first time he had creative control over a film and this one put him on a new high level of filmmakers for which he had few piers, all at a time when there were more true talents behind the camera than we have today.Make only a few years after the original Film Noir cycle concluded, Frankenheimer and cinematographer Lionel Lindon, A.S.C., demonstrated that black and white actually could have a new power now that the stocks were faster.The lenses and camera angles used are still amazing and were often imitated, but never equaled.This is one of those cases where everyone brought together was a quality (and often name) talent, they had an amazing screenplay, great story, groundbreaking ideas and were will to attack what was wrong in the United States (Communist Witch Hunts, McCarthyism) while still seeing global threats (Communism, monocentric or not).Janet Leigh, Henry Silva, Khigh Dhiegh, Albert Paulsen, James Edwards, Douglas Henderson, Barry Kelley and Lloyd Corrigan co-star.

 

The anamorphically enhanced 1.75 X 1 framing fits widescreen TVs just fine, though that is actually a flat British aspect ratio.Having recently re-screened the film in a 35mm print, this is on the soft side and lacks finer detail.Despite the additional problem of the Video Black not being as rich and deep as it should be, or as it is on Paramountís still-amazing DVD of Frankenheimerís brilliant 1966 thriller Seconds, this is still a fine enough improvement on the picture alone to surpass the older and non-anamorphic DVDs issued of the film before.It is very clean as well.The sound has been remixed in a decent way for Dolby Digital 5.1, which offers some improvement over the previous 2.0 Dolby Mono mixes from the previous DVDs and LaserDisc, but the age of the film and simplicity of the sound design limit how far the 5.1 goes.

 

I am happy new sound was not added, or silly souping-up and sweetening of the sound was not attempted.Even if the PCM 2.0 Mono off of the LaserDisc might have offered a bit of richness and weight none of the DVDs have, the 5.1 remains best.For DTS fans, it is a rare case where the DTS could have only been a marginal improvement.This will make for an interesting comparison when MGM remixes the earliest three James Bond films (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger) from 1962 through 1964 as they had for (or plan to have done for) all the Bonds starting with Thunderball (1965), which they remixed for 5.1 sound a few years ago.Purists will still have the monophonic sound here if the 5.1 mix is deemed unacceptable.

 

There are two sections of extras, though they are no divided as such.The first section was issued years ago when the film came out on video for the first time ever, after its long-awaited theatrical re-release.This includes the original theatrical trailer, an interview segment with Sinatra, Frankenheimer and producer George Axelrod, and an audio commentary by Frankenheimer (as great as his commentary on Seconds) that was fortunately taped years ago.Having passed on since then, along with Sinatra, two new featurettes and a stills section are included.William Friedkin discusses his legacy on A Little Solitaire and Angela Lansbury (before coming out publicly against what turned out to be an atrocious remake of the film) discusses her work on the film in Queen Of Diamonds.I emphasize the new segments because an amazingly large amount of irresponsible people in the press have said, assumed, or acted like nothing new was here.That is all wrong and also points to a certain kind of arrogant snobbery by a large number of cinematic illiterates who have no respect for a classic like this, but will do anything to be hip.Posers like that ruin film for others and as a tribute to the great work of Frankenheimer though the years, proudly announce myself as an enemy combatant against such idiocy wherever possible.

 

Trust me and ignore them, the new remastered and original Manchurian Candidate is one of the best back-catalog releases we will see all year and the price is shockingly low for such a key title.Sinatra pulled this film by 1972, when he bought it out, because he could not stand the haunting connection between the film and what happened to the Kennedy Brothers after its release.The film had previously been pulled by the producers and United Artists after John F. Kennedy was shot.Now it is back again and its place in cinematic and political history is undeniable.If you have not seen it, donít miss out.

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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