Movie Review: The Manchurian Candidate

by cmoneyspinner

What is more fun than watching a great old movie? Watching the movie remake back-to-back for contrast and comparison.

One of my favorite most enjoyable pastimes is re-watching an old movie (from back in my day - the 60s and 70s), viewing an updated version of the movie, and then debating with my significant other for hours about which version is the best.

Being both a Frank Sinatra fan and Denzel Washington loyalist, my personal video tape collection now includes:

- The Manchurian Candidate (1962 original) starring Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey, which is now a vintage classic; and

- the 2004 movie remake (2004) starring Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep.

Both films are worth watching and the best (?) is worth defending!

Manchurian Candidate
Manchurian Candidate

A Review of the Original

Plusses include awesome cast; thought-provoking

The original film, The Manchurian Candidate, is gold-framed American cinematic history. Filmed in 1962; it had been removed from circulation after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.  That's understandable as the Kennedy incident plunged the entire country into mourning and U.S. citizens put discussion about political differences and any criticisms of the nation's leaders on a back burner.


However, the grieving period did not last for 25 years.  Sadly, there was a long drawn-out dispute over the distribution rights and the viewing public was put on hold.  It was finally re-released in 1987.  Even better, MGM/UA (Metro Goldwyn Mayer/United Artists) released a home video, 1996, with the original theatrical trailer.  It's in black and white; not colorized. (YAY!) Kudos to all who worked together to assemble such a fine cast. Even though Angela Lansbury and Laurence Harvey were practically the same age in real life, she played the part of the power-hungry ambitious mother most convincingly. Ms. Lansbury, for most of her career, was always a supporting actress, instead of the leading female character in films. No matter, as her performances were star-worthy. She, along with everyone else in this film, were credible, persuasive, believable.


The Communist witch-hunt led by Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy (1950s) is woven into the storyline.  Certainly, at that time, many in the motion picture industry had been blacklisted, as well as American citizens in other fields; and their careers and ability to earn an honest living were adversely impacted; not to mention their freedom to choose their own political philosophy and ideals.  This is not to understate, downplay or negate the unfair oppression and persecution of alleged Communist infiltrators, but!!!


But the idea of a reprobate political and military apparatus secretly engaging in warped behavior therapy, turning honorable soldiers into semi-zombie-like killing machines, with no memory of the murderous acts they commit, so that in effect, they would have no feelings of regret, remorse or guilt????


Let me put it another way.


McCarthyism?  Hmmm ... ??  100 pound Twinkie.  Maybe 1000 pounds.


Mind Control?  Mind control:

  • approved by mother,
  • for use on her own children
  • so that children can be all mom wants them to be!
    War hero?  President?  Whatever!

There isn't a scale in the universe that can weigh a Twinkie that big!!!

But ... but ... but ... the Communists are The Enemy!  Right?  The Russians and the Chinese are who we need to fight to preserve freedom and democracy.  Right?

WRONG!  The Enemy is your mother!  And she knows your full name!


This movie is rated PG-13.  That means parental guidance is suggested for children under the age of 13.  Why?  Because all children know what it means when their moms call them by their full name!  This film might penetrate a young child's subconscious mind and cause nightmares.


As for me, the original film forced my conscious mind to ponder serious questions.

  • The Black Death was real.  The black hole is real.  But do governments really engage in black propaganda and deceive the citizens?
  • Can a person's conscience and free will be subjugated and controlled, so long as the part of the brain that causes dreams is shut down?

I answered both questions NO!! Because I refuse to believe these things can be true. 

Original versus Remake

My Significant Other and I Agree

Regarding the 2004 Paramount Pictures remake of The Manchurian Candidate, it was given an "R" or Restricted rating which means children under the age of 17 need parental approval.  (MPAA Ratings.)

Tina Sinatra, daughter of the late Frank Sinatra, was pleased with the casting of Denzel Washington, in the role previously played by her father.  Mr. Washington himself, was honored to be deemed a suitable candidate, enabled and able to step into the shoes of one of America's most awesomely talented and admired actors.  Respected critics  - e.g. Rolling Stone, CNN, Ebert and Roeper - raved about this modernized updated version.

Oh my!  Do I dare voice a dissenting opinion?  I dare.  I give the movie two out of 5 stars.

Star #1: Because Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep.  Enough said!

Star #2:  Because I thought the chemistry between Mr. Washington as Major Bennett Marco and the female agent, Eugenie Rose, played by Kimberly Elise, was much better than that between Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh.

Sorry but the remake just wasn't all that, in my book.  The updated movie was made in deference to the original; not to improve it and certainly not to serve as a replacement for it.  The original is the best!  My significant other agrees with me!  But in case our opinions don't carry enough weight, well-known film critic Roger Ebert succinctly summed up the legacy of this vintage classic as "one of the best and brightest of modern American films".

POLL - If You have a Few Minutes

Which Version of The Manchurian Candidate Do You Think is Best?
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Film Based on a Book.

It was a novel first and the content of this 1959 Cold War thriller makes it timeless.
The Manchurian Candidate
$6.74  $22.5

In Memory Of

  • Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra (1915 - 1998)
  • Laurence Harvey (1928 - 1973)
  • Janet Leigh (1927 - 2004)
  • Richard Thomas Condon (1915 - 1996)


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Intro Image Credit
Updated: 05/17/2020, cmoneyspinner
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Roger Karny on 11/21/2016

Can't beat Sinatra!

cmoneyspinner on 10/26/2013

@EmmaSRose - You comments add more depth to the review I think.

cmoneyspinner on 07/23/2013

@Thamisgith. - T.Y. Your viewpoints are highly valued.
[ Especiially when they agree with mine. :) ]

Thamisgith on 07/23/2013

Nice review. FWIW, I prefer the original.

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