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The Manchurian Candidate: Special Edition (1962)

John Frankenheimer's vivid 1962 adaptation of Richard Condon's novel stars Frank Sinatra as Ben Marco, a U.S. Army Major plagued by nightmares that one of his fellow soldiers in the Korean War was brainwashed by a sinister communist cabal and programmed as an assassin. Frankenheimer's movie expertly balances political farce with emotionally wrought, action-movie tension. Most of The Manchurian Candidate's reputation as a classic is owed to Angela Lansbury, who plays the unyielding, controlling political wife to perfection. Without chewing the scenery, Lansbury delivers one of the great sinister turns of all time. It is a beautiful piece of acting in a mostly fine cast. Also excellent is James Gregory as Lansbury's malleable, commie-baiting Senator husband. Sinatra is solid as the movie's straight man, while Laurence Harvey has moments in the key role of the mind-mucked Sgt. Shaw. The movie's worst moments belong to the forlorn Janet Leigh, who is saddled with terrible dialogue, and who is superfluous in a film that is not always as lean and taut as it should be, has a few substantial plot holes, and runs a tad too long. Nevertheless, The Manchurian Candidate is still a terrific Cold War thriller, with both deliciously comic and harrowingly dramatic moments. The film was withdrawn from circulation for 25 years following the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. This new Special Edition DVD from MGM has a great anamorphic transfer (1.75:1) with the original monaural audio (DD 1.0) and a DD 5.1 remix. Extras include a commentary by director Frankenheimer and a 1988 interview with Sinatra, Axelrod and Frankenheimer (both from the previous DVD release), plus new 15-minute interview segments with Lansbury and Frankenheimer-protégé William Friedkin (both of whom also pop-up in interview outtake Easter eggs). Also photo gallery, trailer. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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