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.