The Manchurian Candidate Criterion Blu-ray Review
The 1962 classic gets the Criterion treatment.
“The Manchurian Candidate” (which is based on the novel by Richard Condon) is a satirical political thriller about a squad of U.S. soldiers that is taken prisoner during the Korean War. All of the soldiers are brainwashed, but one of them (Sergeant Raymond Shaw) is brainwashed into becoming a sleeper assassin. Shortly thereafter, the soldiers are released and Raymonds finds himself being awarded with a Medal of Honor as it is believed he saved his fellow soldiers’ lives.
The story then shifts focus slightly to one of the other soldiers who was captured (Major Bennett). Bennett has been having terrible nightmares about the brainwashing incident, but he begins to suspect there is some truth to his nightmare so he begins to do some amateur investigating.
While all of this is going on, there are a few key storylines going on involving Raymond’s manipulative mother (Mrs. Iselin) and stepfather (a Senator on the rise), Bennett and Rosie, and Raymond and his love interest (Jocelyn)
Upon rewatching “The Manchurian Candidate,” I found it amazing that some of the themes and ideas about political power and brainwashing remain relevant 52 years after its release. Not only is it a testament to Condon’s smart source material, but it’s also a testament to director John Frankenheimer whose film adaptation has clearly stood the test of time (as evidenced by the accolades over the year).
It should be noted, however, that the film is not without its flaws. The beginning is a bit clunky (especially the narration), the pacing is problematic, there are several leaps of logic, and the Rosie character is frustratingly underwritten. Still, these issues don’t hamper the film.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the film comes from the performances. Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey shine as Bennett and Raymond, but it’s Angela Lansbury who steals the show as the shrewd Mrs. Iselin. I won’t go into detail about her character in case you haven’t seen the film, but suffice to say, Lansbury sure makes an impression.
Presentation: 1.75:1 1080p. How does it look? The lush new 4K digital transfer makes this B&W film look better than ever. Fans will not be disappointed.
Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? It’s hard to get excited about a Mono track, but this one is certainly solid.
* A fold-out booklet that contains an essay by writer/author Howard Hampton.
* “The Manchurian Candidate” trailer.
* A newly recorded 10 minute interview with Angela Lansbury in which she talks about John Frankenheimer, set experiences, Lucille Ball, etc.
* Another newly recorded interview. This one is with documentarian Errol Morris. He chats about politics, history, USA, “The Manchurian Candidate,” and so on for about 16 minutes.
* A short 1988 video conversation between Frank Sinatra, John Frankenheimer and George Axelrod.
* A third new 20 minute interview with author/historian Susan Carruthers. She mainly goes in-depth about historical context.
* A 1997 commentary with John Frankenheimer.
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