CNN news anchor Jake Tapper has just released a novel that takes place, in part, on the set during the making of the 1962 Manchurian Candidate. The Criterion Channel saw an opportunity for cross-platform promotion, so they ran a special showing of the movie with Tapper tweeting commentary as it played. Or that was the plan ... you know how it is when you try something new. Nothing was working, nothing was in sync, and eventually Tapper and the attendees just came up with a workaround where we all pressed play at the same time and enjoyed the movie and Tapper.
The Manchurian Candidate remains a marvelous movie. It seems like whenever people watch it, they think it's timely, as if that version of 1962 never quite leaves us. How much of that can be attributed to John Frankenheimer and how much to Richard Condon, who wrote the novel, is hard to say. But it's interesting that a movie with paranoid visions of secret political shenanigans, with brainwashing and demagoguery and a certain off-kilter approach, keeps finding new appreciative audiences. Something like Lawrence of Arabia, which won Best Picture for 1962, might be revived on occasion and appreciated for the epic qualities and amazing cinematography, but I don't think people see that movie and think "it's still true today" the way they do with The Manchurian Candidate.
It's not a perfect picture, although some of its flaws can be equally seen as virtues. The meet-cute scene between the characters played by Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh is bizarre and ultimately unexplainable. To this day, no one seems to know what is going on in that scene, and it is never explained in the movie. But for some people, that scene is one of the most memorable in the entire picture.
Another odd and memorable scene comes when Angela Lansbury, playing Laurence Harvey's son, states her intentions after the master plan of putting a Communist in the White House succeeds ... memorable in part because she kisses her son on the lips. In this case, the confusing motives of Mother are a bit off, even for this movie. She says she is going to make "them" pay for underestimating her, but who they are and how she intends to extract revenge is never mentioned. Thus, it fits perfectly with the confusion surrounding the kiss on the mouth, and also fits with the overall unsettling feel of the movie, but in this one instance, I felt the confusion wasn't put to good use.
Frankenheimer does his best work here. A couple of years later he directed another paranoid film about government, Seven Days in May, and it's a good one, but it is much more straightforward than Candidate and thus carries much less resonance for modern audiences. #620 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.
The opening sequence is one of the great scenes in film history.