The Manchurian Candidate

Year: 1962
Production Co: MC Productions
Director: John Frankenheimer
Producer: John Frankenheimer
Writer: Richard Condon
Cast: Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Henry Silva
That this film was remade as one of the best movies of 2004 is testament to the strength of the idea and the seriousness with which both sets of filmmakers treated the subject.

Frankenheimer's version was a little more cerebral. The scenes of the Korean war vets being slowly brainwashed are a surreal masterpiece straight out of Lynch or Kubrick before we'd heard of either of them as a CWA-style collection of ladies extol the virtues of needlework and cross-stitch while a group of bored looking soldiers sit around and listen. You'd have no idea until later in the film they're being primed to turn into automatic killers given a simple code word.

As Marco (Sinatra) and his buddies try to ease back into the fold of civilian life, they're plagued by persistent nightmares they can't put their finger on. One in particular, the son of a scheming political wife (Lansbury, as a prototype Hilary Clinton during the Bill years?), has been trained specially while under capture.

If you don't know the story and don't want spoilers, stop reading now, because the movie can't be talked about without revealing that he's being lined up to assassinate a moderate politician who stands in her way, and when Marco finds out the truth, he may be the only one who can stop it.

Richard Condon's book was no doubt influenced by the talk of the time about CIA experiments with LSD and other paranoid cultural markers. You don't hear much about brainwashing in pop culture today as it's regarded as a bit silly, but under Frankenheimer's direction, it seems all too chillingly real.

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