The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Rating: A-

Dir: John Frankenheimer
Star: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh

This one has to rank among the all-time classic conspiracy pics. Harvey plays a soldier who returns from Korea brainwashed into becoming a Communist assassin, Sinatra the intelligence officer who wants to unravel the plot, and Lansbury is… well, you’ll never watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks quite the same way again. Predating the wave of “lone nut” assassinations which took out the leading American liberals in the 1960’s, you might wonder whether certain U.S. groups were perhaps using similar techniques to those shown here. It hardly seems dated at all, save the obvious geopolitical changes, since it was way ahead of its time to start with.

Hell, it even has what may be the first martial arts fight in an American movie, between Sinatra and Henry Da Silva, who makes an admittedly unconvincing Korean! Buried by Sinatra for 25 years, there’s a lot going on, and I’m still trying to work out a weird conversation between Sinatra and Leigh on a train (including him asking the very Caucasian Leigh, “Are you Arabic?”) – was he a brainwashee for our side? But from beginning to end, it pulls no punches, and lives up to the hype as one of the best political thrillers ever. The death of Angela Lansbury as a nice person is a small price to pay… 🙂