The Manchurian Candidate (Frankenheimer, 1962)

Saying that The Manchurian Candidate has renewed relevance is like the pot calling the kettle black. The marbles brainwashing plot aside, you’ve got a moronic politico being pulled on his strings by a more powerful, savvier adviser, plus a put-upon son being forced, against his will, to take out unwanted obstacles. Unfortunately, unlike in the film, the corrupt villains have made it all the way to the top, so this is yet another Hollywood ending that must remain a Hollywood ending.

Comparisons to today’s world aside, though, The Manchurian Candidate is filmmaking at its very finest. It’s adventurous and stylish in look, bolstered even more by great performances from the likes of Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury (the latter becoming one of cinema’s iconic villainesses—and for good reason, of course, for she’s extraordinary in the role of Mrs. Iselin). The plot is nutty, but a good kind of nutty: the stakes are always high and its compelling nature is never lost on you. If it does have a weakness, it’s probably how uncomplicated Marco’s probe into Shaw turns out to be. Wouldn’t the Communist conspirators have tried to at least hamper his efforts, especially after he gets into a karate fight with one of their minions? It also seemed stretching credulity that Mrs. Iselin wasn’t at least aware that Marco was trying to meddle into her affairs. Normally there’d be some kind of obstacle for the protagonist to overcome, but here there are virtually none. However, it doesn’t make the film any less better, because it’s still one damn fine achievement.