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The Manchurian Candidate 1962
The Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 American political thriller film about the Cold War and sleeper agents. It was directed and produced by John Frankenheimer. The screenplay was written by George Axelrod, and was based on the 1959 Richard Condon novel The Manchurian Candidate. The film's leading actors are Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh, with Angela Lansbury, Henry Silva, and James Gregory in supporting roles.
The plot centers on the Korean War veteran Raymond Shaw, the progeny of a prominent political family. Shaw was a prisoner of war during the conflict in Korea and while being held was brainwashed by his captors. After his discharge back into civilian life, he becomes an unwitting assassin involved in an international communist conspiracy. Officials from China and the Soviet Union employ Shaw as a sleeper agent in an attempt to subvert and take over the United States government.
The film was released in the United States on October 24, 1962, at the height of U.S.–Soviet hostility during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was well-received by critics and was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Lansbury) and Best Editing. It was selected in 1994 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
During the Korean War, the Soviets and Chinese capture a U.S. Army platoon and take it to Manchuria in communist China. Three days later, Staff Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) and Captain Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) manage to return to UN lines. Upon Marco's recommendation, Shaw is awarded the Medal of Honor for saving their lives in combat. Shaw returns to the United States to a hero's welcome where he is exploited by his mother, Mrs. Eleanor Iselin (Angela Lansbury), on behalf of the political career of her husband and Shaw's stepfather, United States Senator John Yerkes Iselin (James Gregory). When asked to describe him, Marco and the other soldiers automatically respond, "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life," even though Shaw is a cold, sad, unsympathetic loner.
In the years to follow, Marco, who has since been promoted to major and assigned to Army Intelligence, suffers from a recurring nightmare. In it, a hypnotized Shaw blithely and brutally murders the two missing soldiers before an assembly of military leaders from the communist nations, during a practical demonstration of a revolutionary brainwashing technique. Marco is compelled to investigate, but with no solid evidence to back his claims fails to receive support from his uplines. However, Marco learns that another soldier from the platoon, Allen Melvin (James Edwards), has had the same nightmare. When Melvin and Marco separately identify the identical two men from their dreams as leading figures in communist governments, Army Intelligence agrees to help Marco investigate.
Shaw (Harvey, left) with Major Marco (Sinatra) after having jumped into a lake in New York City's Central Park when his programming was accidentally triggered
Meanwhile, Eleanor drives the ascension of Iselin, a McCarthy-like demagogue stirring domestic turmoil and climbing the political ladder based on claims that varying numbers of communists work within the Department of Defense. Shaw, who broke with the couple immediately upon his return to America, is gradually revealed to have had been programmed by Russian and Chinese communists to be a sleeper agent who will blindly obey orders without any memory of his actions. His heroism was a false memory implanted in the platoon during their brainwashing in Manchuria. His programming is triggered by seeing the Queen of Diamonds card while playing solitaire after being induced by his handlers.
Several years pass before Shaw finds happiness when he rekindles a youthful romance with Jocelyn Jordan (Leslie Parrish), the daughter of liberal Senator Thomas Jordan (John McGiver), one of his stepfather's political rivals. Mrs. Iselin had previously broken up the relationship, but now facilitates the couple's reunion in order to garner Jordan's support for Iselin's bid for the Vice Presidency. Although pleased with the match, Jordan makes it clear that he will block any effort of Iselin's to seek their party's nomination. Jocelyn, wearing a Queen of Diamonds costume at a party for her thrown by the Iselins, inadvertently triggers Shaw's programming and elopes with him. In response to the senator's rebuff, Mrs. Iselin, who is revealed to be Shaw's American handler, triggers him to kill Jordan at his home, shooting Jocelyn as well when she happens upon the scene. Afterwards, Shaw has no knowledge of his actions and is grief-stricken when he learns of the murders.
Eventually discovering the card's role in Shaw's conditioning, Marco uses a forced deck in an attempt to deprogram him and reveal his next assignment,
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