Classic movie site with rare images (no web grabs!), original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
grbrpix@aol.com
Search Index Here




Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Candidate That For Awhile Stopped Running


The Manchurian Candidate (1962) Sees Into Frightful Future

A Chinese Communist plot hatched during the Korea war comes within hairbreadth of successful US takeover, brainwashed servicemen its unwitting pawns. The Manchurian Candidate could, and probably was, taken as satire when it was new, like a following year's Dr. Strangelove, but events of 11/63 sucked humor out, and from there, Manchurian stood as early alarm to political/societal breakdown ahead. Its being tough (for a while) to re-see The Manchurian Candidate enhanced the aura. The set-up won't bear much scrutiny. You have to want to believe Manchurian's outlandish premise. If the Chinese had really been up to tricks like this, we'd long since have been in their net. There's sure not reassurance that US intelligence was on the job, what with infiltration so easily accomplished as here.

Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey Take Lunch Break on Location

How confused were first-run audiences by The Manchurian Candidate? Many said that the pic was "ahead of its time," which meant lots could make heads nor tails of the thing when new. Communists as patient and far-ahead planners did give us pause, and the idea they could plant an emissary in the White House seemed not so far-fetched in light of top-level spies oft-exposed during 50's run-up to The Manchurian Candidate. There's not comfort at the end, every indication that others in Laurence Harvey's squad are ongoing agency for puppet-masters who need only pull strings and move on to Plan B. Even Frank Sinatra's end summation leaves us figuring he'll be next to load an assault rifle and aim same at elected officials. The Manchurian Candidate earned $3.1 million in domestic rentals and less than half that from foreign ($1.5), but careers got a boost for the critical fave this was. Part-owning Frank later got sore at United Artists for their handling of The Manchurian Candidate and this as much as controversy over content kept it out of wider circulation for part of his remaining lifetime.

2 Comments:

Blogger Kevin K. said...

I caught this when it was re-released in the early 90s, and again a few years later on PBS. For the life of me, I can't understand how anyone could view this as a satire. To me, it's pretty scary, whether or not it's believable, and poignant -- Laurence Harvey's character never had a chance. I really find it a very sad movie.

Having said that, what also struck me seeing in a theatre was that the sound seemed to come from the screen, like it used to in the pre-multichannel stereo days of my youth. Having gotten used to music and SFX coming from all around me with most movies, it was like a trip back in time.

5:43 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson considers international villainy as practiced through the years on screen heroes:


Don't mind me. Just babbling.


I mentally flashed on "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror", where a British nobleman is exposed as a German double -- switched in when the original was captured in the previous war decades earlier. Holmes had a line to the effect the calculating Germans anticipated a specific future need, which suggests a German spy biding his time as a respected government figure while waiting for the Nazi party to come into existence, take over Germany and eventually target England.


For a while after WWII it seemed the last-gasp Nazi plot was a standard fallback. The sleeper cell, the thickly-accented scientist with an undeployed superweapon, or simply some Nazi loot pursued by former intimates of Adolf. The gimmick lingered on to the German-accented agents of KAOS on "Get Smart."


Also remember there was an on-and-off queasiness about actually naming China or the USSR as the enemy, at least in lighter movies. Benny Hill did a Bond parody where his boss would delicately reference "a certain unnamed foreign power". Each time, Benny would turn to the camera and announce "Russia!", as if he'd cleverly solved a mystery. An Italian scifi potboiler featured some Asian spies who spent much of their screen time explaining they weren't Chinese (added in translation?). If you were going to actually name Russia or China, it usually had to be in the context of a darn serious film


In the real Bonds, the Russians and Chinese were rarely the direct villains. They might employ a Goldfinger to do some dirty work; more often they'd be manipulated themselves by SPECTRE, a non-ideological gang with corporate trappings. This remained the rule through the Roger Moore period, with the occasional independent megalomaniac stepping in. By the time Roger left, the Bonds were almost friendly towards Russia ("View to a Kill" has Russia being dependent on Silicon Valley for technological progress -- it's presented as a gag). By then we rarely heard about "Red China" at all.


Given a choice (and lacking a clearly-defined war), Hollywood historically preferred made-up villains. Mafias that aren't quite THE Mafia; Arab terrorists of imprecise origin or creed; military or intelligence types clearly stamped "rogue"; and of course the apolitical baddies grabbing something "to sell to the highest bidder".



The current series of Marvel Comics movies & shows have HYDRA, which more or less replaced the Nazis in the WWII-set "Captain America" and lingers on as the successor to SPECTRE.

8:31 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

grbrpix@aol.com
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016