Be a candidate for “The Manchurian Candidate”

June 20, 2013

Filling the Bill for this month’s Film Club offering, set down for the Roxy this Sunday at 4pm, is the highly acclaimed 1962 Cold War thriller “The Manchurian Candidate”.

So successful was it, that the inevitable re-make took place in 2004 starring Denzel Washington.

The unanimous verdict from film critics everywhere was that the original version is by far the more superior film.

On a 2012 Film Festival at Sea, leading film critic David Stratton screened 26 films to 106 movie buffs from throughout Australia, and then asked them to rank them in order of preference. “The Manchurian Candidate “ was voted third, after two films already screened by the club – “ 12 Angry Men” and “The Kid”.

This film was made at the height of the Cold War – in fact during the Cuban Missile crisis – in 1962, and was adapted from the 1959 novel by Richard Condon. The Director was John Frankenheimer.

It explores the theme of the brainwashing of American prisoners of- war during the Korean War to condition them for acts of conspiracy upon their return to the United States.

Sound familiar? For anyone who has watched the television minseries “Homeland”, or the recent Israeli version called “Prisoners of War”, the similarity will be very apparent.

Although the cast includes Frank Sinatra (who financed much of the film), Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and perpetual villain Henry Silva, the film is stolen by a memorable performance by Angela Lansbury.

Recently seen on the stage in “Driving Miss Daisy”, this remarkable actress won the Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award, for her portrayal of Eleanor Iselin. So stunning was her role that, in 2007, “Newsweek” magazine ranked her character as “one of the ten greatest villains in cinema history”. Sinatra had originally considered Lucille Ball for the part, but Frankenheimer , who had directed Lansbury in “ All Fall Down” the previous year, urged him to cast her in this pivotal role.

The film was well received on release in 1962, and box office receipts of almost 8 Million Dollars – a lot then – more than recouped its budget of 2.2 million.

It is interesting that, during filming, Sinatra broke his hand during a fight sequence. This injury affected him for some years, and actually prevented him from taking a starring role in “Dirty Harry”.

Now for the interesting part. On November 23, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Sinatra, who was personally close to the Kennedys, recognized the synergy between this tragedy and his movie and pulled it from circulation. “The Manchurian Candidate” was to remain forgotten until shown at the 1987 New York Film Festival. It created so much interest that it was re-released in 1988.

The film stands well beside other political assassination films such as “The Day of the Jackal” and Hitchcock’s masterpiece “The Man Who Knew Too Much”. It runs for 126 minutes and is rated M for mature audiences.

Just a reminder that new, or temporary members, are always welcome. Just come along to the Roxy by 4pm on Sunday and we can organize it. The films are introduced and members stay afterwards for a wine, snack and discussion about the film.