The Manchurian Candidate, DVD version
Five out of five stars
The term “brainwashing” entered the world vocabulary in the 1950s as a means to explain the behavior of United Nations soldiers after they had been captured and held by communist soldiers in the Korean War. When the soldiers engaged in extensive cooperation with their captors, it was believed that it was a consequence of heavy psychological manipulation.
That concept is taken to the extreme in this movie, a small unit of American soldiers is on patrol with their Korean interpreter when they are captured alive and then subjected to a series of intensive psychological manipulation techniques. Some of the captured soldiers are killed while in captivity and one soldier, Raymond Shaw, is singled out for praise, his fellow soldiers repeat by rote, “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life." They say this even though they know that he is a cold loner.
Shaw’s mother is a ruthless political plotter with a heart of stone and a member of the plotting cabal. Her husband is a United States Senator (Senator Iselin) that is engaging in communist-hunting tactics reminiscent of Senator Joe McCarthy. Shaw has been so conditioned that he can be triggered to kill people he considers friends when properly approached. The goal is to make Senator Iselin president of the United States so that his wife can control the country.
Frank Sinatra plays Major Bennett Marco, one of the members of the patrol and he gives a very good performance. However, the movie is made by the performance of Angela Lansbury as the scheming mother of Shaw. There has never been a better depiction of a ruthless, unprincipled woman that will sacrifice anyone, including her son, in order to satisfy her lust for political power.