The Manchurian Candidate looks at a group of decorated Korean War veterans who all have recurring nightmares about their involvement in that conflict, all imagining that they’ve experienced some bizarre events that leave them permanently scarred.
It transpires that the Communists got their hands on our boys and used them as guinea pigs to show the power of hypnotism.
As such, all of the men operate under false memories about their actions in the war, and one of them has been programmed to be an assassin.
Frank Sinatra excels with some surprising high-tension acting as the main protagonist, Major Bennett Marco, who is struggling to come to grips with his demons and find out the truth about his indoctrination. The other main character is Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey).
Though the movie’s opening scenes show the platoon’s general dislike for Shaw, their cumulative memory of him is that of a hero and a virtual saint. Marco works to expose the facts.
Shaw’s position is made additionally intriguing because of his heritage. His mother (Angela Lansbury) has remarried Senator Johnny Iselin (James Gregory), a sleazy moron who aspires to be another Joe McCarthy.
Mrs Iselin is the brains of the operation, and she keeps the Red-baiting dope on a short leash. She also tries hard to maintain a tight grip over Raymond, though the reasons for her need for firm control don’t emerge until late in the movie as the assassin gets his important assignment.
This riveting political espionage thriller (adapted from a novel by Richard Condon) was brilliantly handled by director John Frankenheimer, although the sensitive content ensured the movie was banned for many years.
The names of the soldiers in the platoon (Melvin, Lembeck, Silvers and Hiken) come from the actors who played Sgt Bilko’s platoon on The Phil Silvers Show (Allan Melvin, Harvey Lembeck and Phil Silvers) plus Nat Hiken, the creator of the classic TV show.
Eugénie Rose ‘Rosie’ Cheyney
Eleanor Shaw Iselin
Senator John Yerkes Iselin
Senator Thomas Jordon
Corporal Al Melvin
Benjamin K. Arthur