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The Manchurian Candidate Details


An unusually tense and intelligent political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate was a film far ahead of its time. Its themes of thought control, political assassination, and multinational conspiracy were hardly common currency in 1962, and while its outlook is sometimes informed by Cold War paranoia, the film seemed nearly as timely when it was reissued in 1987 as it did on its original release. It opens with a group of soldiers whooping it up in a bar in Korea as their commander, Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), arrives to inform them that they're back on duty. These men obviously have no fondness for Shaw, and he feels no empathy for them. While on patrol, Shaw and his platoon are ambushed by Korean troops. Months later, Shaw is receiving a hero's welcome as he returns to the United States to accept the Congressional Medal of Honor, and several of the soldiers who served under Shaw repeatedly refer to him as "the bravest, finest, most lovable man I ever met." It soon becomes evident that after their capture by the Koreans, Shaw and his men were subjected to an intense program of brainwashing prior to their release. While several are troubled by bad dreams and inexplicable behavior, it's Capt. Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) who seems the most haunted by the experience. In time, Marco is able to piece together what happened; it seems Raymond Shaw was programmed by a shadowy cadre of Russian and Chinese agents into a killing machine who will assassinate anyone, even a close friend, when given the proper commands. On the other side of the coin, Shaw is also used for political gain by his harridan mother (Angela Lansbury), who guides the career of her second husband, John Iselin (James Gregory), a bone-headed congressman hoping to win the vice-presidential nomination through a campaign of anti-Communist hysteria. The Manchurian Candidate features a host of remarkable performances, several from actors cast cleverly against type. Frank Sinatra's edgy, aggressive turn as Marco may be the finest dramatic work of his career; Laurence Harvey's chilly onscreen demeanor was rarely used to s better advantage than as Raymond Shaw; James Gregory is great as the oft-befuddled Senator Iselin; and Angela Lansbury's ultimate bad mom will be a shock to those who know her as the lovable mystery writer from Murder, She Wrote. George Axelrod's screenplay (based on Richard Condon's novel) is by turns compelling, witty, and horrifying in its implications, and John Frankenheimer's direction milks it for all the tension it can muster. While Frankenheimer's career has had its ups and downs, The Manchurian Candidate and John Frankenheimer (1966) suggest that he deserves to be recognized as one of the most brilliantly paranoid American filmmakers of the '60s. Entertaining yet unsettling, both films indicate that things in the '60s were not what they seemed, with a resonance that still echoes uncomfortably in the present. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

  • Release date:October 24, 1962


Awarded by
British Academy of Film and Television Arts John Frankenheimer Best Film - Any Source 1962 Nominee
Hollywood Foreign Press Association John Frankenheimer Best Director 1962 Nominee
Directors Guild of America John Frankenheimer Best Director 1962 Nominee
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Angela Lansbury Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture 1962 Winner
National Board of Review Angela Lansbury Best Supporting Actress 1962 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Angela Lansbury Best Supporting Actress 1962 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Ferris Webster Best Editing 1962 Nominee


Frank Sinatra
as Bennett Marco
Laurence Harvey
as Raymond Shaw
Janet Leigh
as Rosie
Angela Lansbury
as Mrs. Iselin
Henry Silva
as Chunjin
James Gregory
as Sen. John Iselin
Leslie Parrish
as Jocie Jordon
John McGiver
as Sen. Thomas Jordan
James Edwards
as Corporal Melvin
Douglas Henderson
as Colonel
Albert Paulsen
as Zilkov
Barry Kelley
as Secretary of Defense
Lloyd Corrigan
as Holborn Gaines
Maye Henderson
as Chairlady
Ray Spiker
as Policeman
Bess Flowers
as Gomel's Lady Counterpart
Whit Bissell
as Medical Officer
Robert Burton
as Convention Chairman
Robert Riordan
as Nominee
Merritt Bohn
as Jilly
Anna Shin
as Korean Girl
Karen Norris
as Secretary
Tom Lowell
as Lembeck
Julie Payne
as Party Guest
Reggie Nalder
as Gomel
Miyoshi Jingu
as Miss Gertrude
Irving Steinberg
as Freeman
William Thourlby
as Little
Helen Kleeb
as Chairlady
Estelle Etterre
as Woman in Lobby
Nicky Blair
as Silvers
Mary Benoit
as Woman in Lobby
Mimi Dillard
as Melvin's Wife
Khigh Dhiegh
as Yen Lo
John Francis
as Haiken
Margaret Mason
John Indrisano
as Reporter
James Yagi
as Man in Lobby


John Frankenheimer
John Frankenheimer
George Axelrod
George Axelrod
Lionel Lindon
David Amram
Composer (Music Score)
David Amram
Musical Direction/Supervision
Ferris Webster
Richard Sylbert
Production Designer
Howard W. Koch
Executive Producer
George R. Nelson
Set Designer
Moss Mabry
Costume Designer
Dorothy Parkinson
Ron Berkeley
Bernard Ponedel