Part of the reason for the success of the 2004 'The Manchurian Candidate' is due in part to how futuristic the original version felt. The plots of the two films are not identical however both films are completely engulfing. When watching the 1962 classic the first thing I noticed was the stellar cast. The super-star cast includes: Frank Sinatra, Janet Leigh, Laurence Harvey, the very young Angela Lansbury and James Edwards just to name a few.
The film commences in the trenches of war-torn Korea in1952. A U.S. detachment is captured by the Chinese military. The primary players in the squad are Ben Marco (Frank Sinatra) and Robert Shaw (Laurence Harvey). The whole squad is re-programmed or rather brainwashed by the Chinese with Shaw being their main target. When the Chinese commander orders Shaw to kill a couple of members from his own squadron, he does so without flinching. The squad is sent back to the United States yet not all is right. The Chinese now have the ability to control the brainwashed Shaw and for him to do their dirty work.
Shaw's stepfather is senator John Iselin (James Gregory) and his mother, Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury) are both right wing Republicans. Shaw's mother tries to persuade her husband to run for the presidential nomination.
In the interim Ben Marco has re-occurring nightmares about his days in detention and the brainwashing process. Marco informs his superiors about the nightmares; initially the top brass don't buy into Marco's allegations but eventually his superiors see how there could be some truth to Marco's dreadful dreams.
Marco's girlfriend is Rosie (Janet Leigh) and Shaw's better half is Jocie (Leslie Parrish). The relationship between the two couples is very uncertain. After watching the two couples together you wonder whether the two women are Chinese spies manipulating their boyfriends' minds. This is very clever on the part of director Frankenheimer and it works wonderfully well giving the viewer something else to make sense of.
The Manchurian Candidate has several layers to it. At times the film is suspenseful and witty, then there are several humorous and action packed moments as well. Everyone should check out this superb American classic.
Special DVD Features:
-An insightful interview with Frank Sinatra, director John Frankenheimer and George Axford
-Audio Commentary; John Frankenheimer takes you through the film and explains aspects of the film you would have never imagined.
-"A Little Solitaire;" this a featurette with William Friedkin
-"Original Theatricall Trailer"