During the Korean war, a platoon led by Laurence Harvey and Frank Sinatra is captured andsent off to Manchuria. Here the men are brainwashed into believing that Harvey saved them allin an incredible feat of heroism (which he did not) and that he’s a loveable guy (which he isn’t).The unfortunate Harvey is programmed to become a remote-control assassin. Back in the States,Sinatra is plagued by nightmare memories of the experience, and gradually comes to believe thatsomething …dd really did happen. The question is whether he and Harvey can solve the mysteryand discover the target before Harvey is triggered.
The Manchurian Candidate accomplishes a spectacular balancing act. It issimultaneously one of the most intense suspense thrillers ever to emerge from Hollywood, and anabsolutely corrosive satire. Said satire is all the more brilliant for savaging both the extreme rightand the extreme left of the political spectrum. Also of note is Angela Lansbury’s ferociousperformance as Harvey’s gorgon mother. Only 37, and but three years older than the man playingher son, she is utterly convincing, and a villain for the ages. Unquestionably, this is director JohnFrankenheimer’s masterpiece.
The original mono track is provided, but what is new to this edition is a 5.1 mix. One shouldnot expect a fully immersive experience with a remixed 1962 score, but the result is nonethelessimpressive. There are no awkward surround voices, for one thing. The music has a rich tone. Thesurround effects are understandably limited, but when present, they are handled well and placedappropriately (such as machine gun fire in the opening scene). A very solid job.
The picture is also a step up from the previous release. The print is still the same quality, andthus has some grain, sometimes quite noticeably so. The black-and-white tones are excellent,and the image is sharp (note that you can actually see a struck drum vibrate in the scene whereHarvey arrives at the airport). The big improvement is the fact that the widescreen picture is nowanamorphic.
The features are the same as the previous release, plus a few extras. Returning areFrankenheimer’s commentary; the interview with Sinatra, writer George Axelrod andFrankenheimer, the liner notes, and the theatrical trailer. Frankenheimer’s commentary has lotsof behind-the-scenes info, but there are plenty of long pauses too. New to the disc are “Queenof Diamonds” (a retrospective interview with Lansbury), “A Little Solitaire” (musings on thefilm by William Friedkin, who knows a thing or two about filmmaking himself) and a photogallery. Both featurettes are about 15 minutes long. The menu’s main screen and transitions areanimated and scored.
The film is peerless, and it now has a considerably more worthy DVD release.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- Interview with John Frankenheimer, George Axelrod and Frank Sinatra
- “Queen of Diamonds” Interview with Angela Lansbury
- “A Little Solitare” – William Friedkin on The Manchuiran Candidate
- Photo Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
- Liner Notes