Manchurian Candidate

Released October 24, 1962, by United Artists, 35mm black and white negative, 1.85:1 screen ratio, mono sound, 126 mins., theatrical re-release 1988, Videocassette released 1989, Laserdisc released by MGM 1997, DVD released by MGM in 1998 with 1.75:1 aspect ratio

poster from DVD Resource Page



Historical Context:

This cold war spy thriller was released in the New Frontier era of President John F. Kennedy, but was more about the paranoia of the previous decade featured in the 1959 Richard Condon novel. Senator John Iselin is a McCarthy-type figure in the film who used televison during the Secretary's press conference to declare he had the names of 207 communists, just as Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed in 1950 that he had the names of 57 communists. Televison has become an important mass medium in the 1950s, broadcasting the HUAC hearings in 1947 and 1951, and the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954. Televison has also, according to Frankenheimer, become a medium that brainwashed the American public with commercials and propaganda. As he read the Condon story with screenwriter George Axelrod, " we started to get absorbed in the story and realised that what we had was something that could very well be a lot closer to the truth than many people imagined. We consulted every book written about brainwashing, and I remember reading one called In Every War But One, about American prisoners of war in Korea, and not one prisoner ever attempted to escape. It was the story about how the Chinese brainwashed these men, what they did to them, and things like that; and while it wasn't quite as total as the brainwashing in The Manchurian Candidate it was nevertheless a very distinct type of brainwashing that they'd known. On another level we believed that we lived in a society that was brainwashed. And I wanted to do something about it. I think that our society is brainwashed by television commercials, by advertising, by politicians, by a censored press (which does exist in this country whether you want to admit it or not) with its biased reporting. More and more I think that our society is becoming manipulated and controlled." (from Pratley)


revised 4/8/03 by Schoenherr | Manchurian Candidate Narrative | Filmnotes