The Manchurian Candidate

Starring Frank Sinatra, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury and Lawrence Harvey
Directed by John Frankenheimer
USA 1962
126 mins

Our last movie 'Brick' was an ingenious modern film noir reworking of the detective genre. Following on from that is one of the most celebrated Cold War conspiracy thrillers of the 1960s - John Frankenheimer's brilliant, neo-noir tale of political intrigue and psychological warfare - 'The Manchurian Candidate'.

Set in the years after the Korean war the film centres on Bennett Marco (played by Frank Sinatra) - an army captain whose unsettling and mysterious nightmares send him on the trail of an extraordinary plot to elect an extreme right wing candidate as President of the United States. He contacts the other members of his platoon (who like him were captured and imprisoned before being released) in an effort to discover what happened to them during their time as prisoners-of-war.

Sinatra is excellent as the troubled officer and Lawrence Harvey is alternately chilling and pitiful as Raymond - the unknowing perpetrator of the plot. However stealing the show is Angela Lansbury (best known as Miss Marple in TV's 'Murder She Wrote')  as Raymond's terrifying, ruthless and politically-ambitious mother.

'The Manchurian Candidate' has a dynamic, modern visual feel - using hand-held camera and extreme angles to give us a dark, distorted viewpoint on the characters and action. It was released only 12 months before the Kennedy assassination and disappeared from distribution for a number of years after Sinatra acquired its rights in the 1970s.

The film's director John Frankenheimer began his career in television and made some of the best films of the era including the underrated 'Seconds' and the excellent 'Seven Days In May'.
With a newly-elected Donald Trump in charge and headlines linking his campaign success to Russian influence this screening could not be more timely. Is it really possible that we now have a Manchurian candidate in the White House?