The Manchurian Candidate

[4 stars] [IMDB Link]

[Amazon Link]
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A couple weeks ago, I twitter-snarked at my ex-CongressCritter with a modified quote from a movie which I'm pretty sure I hadn't seen since I was 14 years old in 1965, on a black&white TV in Omaha. I remember being thrilled, heartbroken, confused, shocked, scared (spoiler: by Angela Lansbury), … It really put me through the wringer.

Nearly 60 years later, I can see why.

The movie begins in 1952, with Sergeant Raymond Shaw rousting his US Army unit out of a Korean whorehouse. (Pretty explicit for a movie made in 1962.) It's clear the GIs despise him, and he them. Shortly after that, the unit, betrayed by Henry Silva, gets captured, helicoptered to a brainwashing facility in Manchuria, where Shaw displays his newly-acquired murderous skills.

Miraculously, the survivors are returned with an implausible cover story and a hero's welcome for Shaw. And we're introduced to Shaw's only-irritating-at-first mom (Ms. Lansbury) and his buffoonish stepdad, US Senator Johnny Iselin. Who, even as a 14-year-old, I recognized as a stand-in for Joe McCarthy.

Meanwhile, Ben Marco (Frank Sinatra) is having real bad nightmares that are leaking through his brainwashed amnesia. And he meets Janet Leigh on a train. And… well, they fit a lot of stuff into a two-hour movie.

Being older and wiser, I now noticed a number of "why didn't they just…" points in the movie. (Acceptable answer: "Because that would have made the movie a lot shorter, and less interesting.")