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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Drama > The Manchurian Candidate (2004/HD-DVD)

The Manchurian Candidate (2004/HD-DVD)


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: C-     Film: D



When Jonathan Demme decided to do yet another remake, this time of John Frankenheimer’s classic The Manchurian Candidate, Angela Lansbury echoed the feelings of many when she said that they at least should not use the original title.  The resulting film was a commercial and critical bomb, wasting a cast that included Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Ted Levine, Jeffrey Wright, Jon Voight, Kimberly Elise and Bruno Ganz in a film that was a shocking mess that lacked everything the original had.


Outside of not being the original, the Daniel Pyle/Dean Georgaris screenplay thought simply pulling a shell game with the original plot and overtechnologizing the means of how the deadly conspiracy happened was sufficient.  Since the always forgotten Korean War was further buried by the remake, the title now refers haphazardly to a corporation that (for no good or logical reason whatsoever) is up to no good.  Watching this film was painful enough the first time, but rewatching it made me realize how much worse it was, with any “new technology” dating very quickly.  Dumb, dumb, dumb was this project and along with The Truth About Charlie (Demme’s horrid remake of Stanley Donen’s Charade) remains the nadir of a once-great career.  At least his Neil Young – Heart Of Gold concert film shows he has not totally lost it.  Until the Blu-ray is issued, stick with Frankenheimer’s original film, the special edition standard DVD of which you can read more about at:






Then there is the performance of this HD-DVD.  HD trailers of the film have surfaced on both the initial demo discs for Blu-ray and HD-DVD, and in both cases, it was the worse HD trailer in the bunch.  The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is not as bad as those trailers, but cinematographer Tak Fujimoto, A.S.C., gets carried away with the close-up shots further dragging on an already problematic film.  Color is somewhat muted throughout and fancy blowings-out of the image are further annoying when the film has nowhere to go.  The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes are quieter and more underused than you would think, with the quiet approach making things drag even further.  This is not a demo disc in the format and if you need Denzel in HD, you are much better off with Training Day, reviewed in HD-DVD elsewhere on this site.


Extras include Demme and Pyle on an audio commentary that makes you realize how much worse things really were here, 6 deleted scenes with more commentary if you need it as an option, outtakes with the same option, the trailer in HD, Schreiber screen test and three featurettes.  They too are painful to watch.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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