Letter: ‘The Manchurian Candidate’

To the Editor:

Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation is wrapped. Congress is miffed, conspiracy is sniffed in every dork’s stool. Deep spy-craft is afoot. What better time for Ridgefield to relax and watch John Frankenheimer’s 1962 film versions of Richard Condon’s 1959 classic novel, “The Manchurian Candidate?”

A Korean war vet (James Edwards) suffers a recurring nightmare about his platoon’s last mission. He writes his old CO Ben Marco  (Frank Sinatra), now a congressional military intelligence attaché, for help. Marco’s having the same nightmare and decides to take a train to NYC  to find his old platoon’s decorated, but very unloveable Sergeant, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), son of Eleanor (Angela Lansbury-her greatest role),  a wealthy widow just remarried to the odious Senator John Iselin (James Gregory), who just happens to be running for Vice President of the United States. Raymond loves Jocelyn, the daughter Senator Thomas Jordan, Eleanor’s mortal enemy.

On his way, Marco meets Eugenie (Janet Leigh), a media “production assistant.” They engage in the most enigmatic dialogues ever delivered on the set of a moving train, and fall in love. Or do they? Marco discovers that the Russians, Chinese and North Koreans have combined to set a three-dimensional trap inside a deck of playing cards. All depths of human depravity are plumbed inside this cleverly updated Greek tragedy, brushed with Roman Empire intrigue.

Condon and Frankenheimer were, and are still, eerily prescient. They uncannily predicted a many things that came to pass and political characters that we see today, all while asking the question that we ask now: Whose side is the “Unlovable Man” really on? The film’s final scene seems a little flat until you realize the answer was never what anyone expected. And so it may go now.

John Tartaglia

Danbury Road, Jan. 5