Monday, 6 February 2012

The Manchurian Candidate

Recently I caught up with a movie that I have more than a passing interest in the subject  and yet I'd never seen the quintessential film production on the matter. It took about ten seconds to realise I'd made way to many assumptions on how it would be. From the opening scene in Korea I was already sitting up straight and by the time the display of mind control was on show I realised the movie was way more sophisticated and polished than I had ever anticipated. It's quite an extraordinary film. The original that is. When we look at the time it was made it's hard to ignore that some very deep secrets were being spilled quite early on about the business of MKULTRA. 

Unfortunately the subtitles were lost in my screen grabs and so the essence of the movie is not captured as well as I wanted, so I'll just introduce that Leslie Parrish below is being informed her new husband is afflicted with the hidden condition that is a little too complex to describe fully in that moment. She was an extraordinary beauty.

The presence of Frank Sinatra elevated his credentials (already simmering on cool) for me up to the next level. He chose the right script, the right role and he plays it very well (with advice from JFK we're informed) though to be fair Laurence Harvey's wooden role and flat personality worked out well for me too. What makes the JFK connection more poignant is he was assassinated shortly after the movie was released in the same manner as the film's senator and so the real life parallel of Lee Harvey Oswald as MKULTRA is so raw the film was withdrawn. Well of course. Can't have the public asking awkward questions can we?

 I immediately began researching the book and the film and came across a claim that the book stole scenes from Robert Graves I Claudius and I just knew that Angela Lansbury's controlling character was based on Emperor Augustus' wife Livia.

To assist Angela Lansbury's senator husband in remembering how many communists there are in the military they settle on Heinz 57 varieties as a number mnemonic. I'm quite sure the same arbitrary technique is used today to assess the mickey mouse terrorist threat but I was amused as the 57 number has resonance elsewhere too.

The original Manchurian Candidate is an extraordinarily mature subject in a time when 50 years later many people still don't grasp the full impact of what MKULTRA is all about. In addition to this Hollywood makes a rare gem of a movie and treats the subject in all of its complexity instead of a binary good versus evil narrative that would have been so easily to fall into. I would never had thought this movie could be anything more than a 5 or a 6 out of 10 but in the final analysis it's a 9 for layman and a 10 for the person who gets what is being conveyed here. I suggest digging around the MKULTRA tag below to get a little more depth out of this movie. It blew me away.

Any suggestions for your top black and white movies are most welcome. This gave me an appetite for catching up on old classics as there's a lot I've never seen.