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The Manchurian Candidate Blu-ray Disc Review

The Manchurian Candidate Blu-ray Disc Review

Manchurian Candidate [Blu-ray] (1962)

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962, Blu-ray released May 10, 2011 – MSRP $19.99)

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There’s no question about it, John Frankenheimer‘s 1962 cynical cold war film, The Manchurian Candidate is an unadulterated masterpiece on every level. And Fox/MGM‘s new Blu-ray disc treatment of the film does it justice in just about every way.

    When a platoon of Korean War GIs is captured, they somehow end up at a ladies’ garden club party. Or do they? Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) can’t remember. As he searches for the answer, he discovers threads of a diabolical plot orchestrated by the utterly ruthless Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury) and involving her war hero son (Laurence Harvey), her senator husband (James Gregory) and a secret cabal of enemy leaders.

It’s tough to talk about The Manchurian Candidate without touching on twisty plot points that could potentially spoil the film for you. Needless to say, if you’re familiar with the tale, you certainly don’t need me to sell you on it. It’s brilliant. If you’ve never seen the film, just know that it’s one of those rare Hollywood efforts where every element of production comes together without flaw. George Axelrod‘s script, adapted from the novel by Richard Condon, is taught and full of character, despite the fact that it rarely wanders off point, staying with its paranoid plot at most every turn. Performances are exceptional across the board, with Harvey convincingly cold and zombified as Raymond Shaw and Lansbury particularly electric in her iconic turn as his controlling mother (made all the more impressive and uncanny in that Lansbury was actually only a year older than her on-screen son!) Frankenheimer does some of his finest work here with Candidate, setting up classic shots, cutting back and forth between vastly differing POVs and drawing out the performances that bind the film together. Astounding. A classic that truly holds up today.

MGM affords The Manchurian Candidate a fine transfer on this new Blu-ray edition of the film, in line with the work they’ve been doing with recent catalogue releases. The studio hasn’t pulled out all the stops and graced the film with a complete restoration but they also haven’t tampered with things unnecessarily either (read: no ugly noise reduction or sharpening). The result is an often stunning, film-like transfer, that shows off the qualities of the print, warts and all. Detail is plentiful, contrast is good and blacks are deep and inky. All good things. But you’ll also see a fair amount of damage popping up on the print. There’s some fairly distracting flicker at the 75-minute mark. But nothing so egregious to detract from this overall excellent presentation. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is clean and clear but provides a fairly pointless upgrade from the original mono. Surrounds are barely used here.

Special features have been carried over from the previously available DVD edition of the film and are actually quite decent, all around. The intelligent, informative commentary track by the late director is a must-listen for any fan of the film, or of Frankenheimer’s for that matter. The 1988 interview footage with Sinatra, Axelrod and Frankenheimer is also a must. It’s not long, clocking in at less than 8-minutes but it’s great to see the three men waxing rhapsodic about the film and about Harvey, who had passed away quite young, only a decade after the film was made. The disc also contains a 15-minute interview with Lansbury, a 13-minute appreciation of the film from director William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist), a brief outtake from Friedkin’s interview, “How to Get Shot” with Lansbury and the trailer for the film.


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Top 5 New Blu-ray releases for the Week of November 9

Top 5 New Blu-ray releases for the Week of November 9

The last couple of weeks have been absolutely overwhelming with scads of killer Blu-ray releases that have been making my head spin (and my eyes exhausted from all the hours of viewing time I’ve been cramming in, outside of the hours of monitor viewing I cram in as part of my daily office grind.) This week is a bit more manageable for we Blu-aholics but, thanks to a couple of A-list films and a few surprises, it’s absolutely just as enjoyable.


Antichrist: (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

I know that the films of Danish auteur Lars Von Trier aren’t for everyone but I kind of worship the ground the man walks on. It’s pretty tough to effect me on any level with film these days but Von Trier seems capable of touching some kind of nerve in me with every one of his works. I wouldn’t call any of his films perfect, by any means. But they’re all masterworks of the medium hewn by one of the finest craftsmen working in the business today. His latest opus, Antichrist might be the most raw and effecting of anything he’s released to date. And it is, without question, the most incredible Blu-ray released today. But if your stomach is easily turned or if you have no taste for a little “art” in your “film” then you’ll most likely want to skip Antichrist.

Special Features:

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Lars von Trier and supervised by director of photography Anthony Dod Mantle with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
  • Audio commentary by von Trier and professor Murray Smith
  • Video interviews with von Trier and actors Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg
  • A collection of video pieces delving into the production of Antichrist, including interviews with von Trier and key members of his filmmaking team as well as behind-the-scenes footage
  • Chaos Reigns at the Cannes Film Festival 2009, a documentary on the film’s world premiere, plus press interviews with Dafoe and Gainsbourg
  • Three theatrical trailers
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Ian Christie

Amazon: $29.49


If the premium Criterion Collection edition of the film profiled above is a little beyond your budget, eOne films is also releasing a more affordable version of Antichrist on Blu-ray today. No word on how the transfers of the two discs compare but the special features look relatively similar.

The Visual Style of Antichrist from eOne Films on Vimeo.

Antichrist [Blu-ray]

Special Features:

  • Feature Commentary with Director Lars von Trier and Journalist Murray Smith
  • The Antichrist Test (English subtitled)
  • Antichrist – Chaos Reigns at the Cannes Film Festival 2009
  • Confessions About Anxiety
  • Eden – Production Design
  • The Sound and Music of Antichrist (English subtitled)
  • The Three Beggars – The Animals of Antichrist
  • The Make-Up Effects and Props of Antichrist
  • The Evil of Woman
  • The Visual Style of Antichrist (English subtitled)
  • Interviews $19.99 CDN


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy) (2010)

It’s almost half-way through November and I still haven’t seen Scott Pilgrim yet. Sigh…I’m starting to believe it’s never going to happen. Honestly, I have pals who’ve seen it three, four times already and I’m still waiting for the chance to have my Pilgrim-cherry popped. I won’t have any time to run out and grab this disc any time this week, so I’ll be waiting to hear what you think of it. Do you think it’s been worth the wait? Does the disc live up to the film itself?

READ MORE: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World Blu-ray officially announced

Amazon: $24.99


Sherlock: Season One [Blu-ray]

I love Sherlock Holmes mysteries in any form. I guess it was only a matter of time before some genius had the idea of taking those famous tales by Arthur Conan Doyle and giving them a modern spin. But as wonderful as the script-work of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat happens to be, the real breakout star for North American audiences is going to be the electrifying Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. Martin Freeman, our future Bilbo Baggins is also wonderful as faithful partner Watson.

Amazon: $27.99


Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam (DC Showcase) [Blu-ray]

If you’ve been reading our reviews of the last number of DC Animated Blu-ray releases, you’ll note that no matter the quality of the main feature, one of the aspects of the discs that stands out as truly spectacular time and again is the DC Showcase short film. This new release from the studio collects the last number of shorts and adds a brand new, exclusive Superman/Shazam team-up to the mix. This is some of the best stuff that Warner animation has created in years, if not ever and definitely worth a look.

Amazon: $19.99

5. OCEAN’S 11

Ocean's 11 (50th Anniversary) [Blu-ray] (1960)

This is the classic. The real-deal. The good stuff. Sinatra and all his boys making trouble and messing things up in Vegas. This new 50th Anniversary Blu-ray edition of Ocean’s 11 from WHV isn’t going to blow your mind if you’re not already a fan but will certainly impress those who’ve been longing for a little Rat-Pack in HD. The image is clean and clear with vibrant, if not slightly unstable colours and more detail than you’ve ever seen in the film before. The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix isn’t very modern but will no doubt delight fans of the film. An excellent commentary track from Frank Sinatra Jr. and Angie Dickinson is the highlight of a collection of special features that also packs in a couple of trailers and a bunch of vintage clips.

Amazon: $19.99


Circus [Blu-ray]

Boy, did this show ever take me by surprise (and no, it’s not because it’s number six in our Top 5 list this week!) Circus is a new reality show from PBS following the Big Apple Circus from the inception of one of its yearly productions through to their “350-show tour – an epic, unforgettable journey from town to town and stand to stand, from the big top to “backyard” where the trailers are parked and the heart of the circus beats.” It seems to have just debuted on the network last week but the entire 6-episode series is already available on Blu-ray today. It’s unfortunately shot and transferred in 1080i, which only impacts the image a handful of times (an unfortunate “ghosting” effect.) Otherwise, this is a great looking high-def representation of a beautifully photographed reality show.


Amazon: $31.49

Clicking an image will take you to where you can learn more about and purchase the Blu-ray disc:

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series [Blu-ray] (2010)Grown Ups (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (2010)Charlie St. Cloud [Blu-ray] (2010)Tremors [Blu-ray] (1990)

Xam'd: Collection 2 [Blu-ray]Love Ranch [Blu-ray] (2010)Metalocalypse: Season 3 [Blu-ray]Scooby-Doo 1 & 2 Collection [Blu-ray]

Hunt to Kill [Blu-ray] (2010)Knucklehead [Blu-ray] (2010)Damned by Dawn [Blu-ray] (2009)Ramona & Beezus [Blu-ray]

Robin-B-Hood [Blu-Ray] (2006)Locked Down [Blu-ray] (2010)The Dry Land [Blu-ray] (2010)A Christmas Carol [Blu-ray] (1984)

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