The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

USA, 1962
35mm film, black and white, 1.85:1
mono; Dolby SR, Dolby Digital [re-releases], English

An American science fiction film directed by John Frankenheimer.

Plot Summary

An American soldier taken prisoner during the Korean War is brainwashed by Communists and returns to the States as a political assassin.


* = uncredited

Directed by: John Frankenheimer
M.C. Productions
Executive Producer: Howard W. Koch
Produced by: George Axelrod, John Frankenheimer
Written by: George Axelrod; John Frankenheimer *
Based on the novel by: Richard Condon
Director of Photography: Lionel Lindon
Editor: Ferris Webster
Music by: David Amram
Sound Mixer: Joe Edmondson
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Make-up: Ron Berkeley, Jack Freeman, Bernard Ponedel
Hair Stylist: Mary Westmoreland
Special Effects: Paul Pollard
Photographic Effects: The Howard Anderson Company
Production Designer: Richard Sylbert

Frank Sinatra (Major Bennett Marco)
Laurence Harvey (Raymond Shaw)
Janet Leigh (Eugenie Rose Chaney)
Angela Lansbury (Mrs Eleanor Shaw Iselin)
Henry Silva (Chunjin)
James Gregory (Senator John Yerkes Iselin)
Leslie Parrish (Jocelyn Jordan)
John McGiver (Senator Thomas Jordan)
Khigh Dhiegh (Dr Yen Lo)
James Edwards (Corporal Allen Melvin)
Douglas Henderson (Colonel Milt)
Albert Paulsen (Zilkov)
Barry Kelley (Secretary of Defense)
Lloyd Corrigan (Holborn Gaines)
Madame Spivy (Female Berezovo)

Alternative Titles

O Anthropos tis Mantzourias – Greece (re-release)
Botschafter der Angst – Austria, Germany
Candidatul Manciurian – Romania
Casuslara Karsi – Turkey
Un crime dans la tête – France
El embajador del miedo – Argentina, Colombia, Mexico
O Enviado da Manchúria
– Portugal
De Geheimzinnige ruitenvrouw – Netherlands
Hjärntvättad – Sweden
Kagenaki sogekisha – Japan
Kandidaten fra Manchuriet – Denmark
Kato apo enan allo ilio – Greece
A Mandzsúriai jelölt – Hungary
Mandžurijski kandidat – Serbia
Mandzuský kandidát – Czechoslovakia
Mantshurian kandidaatti – Finland
Mantsurian sankari – Finland
El mensajero del miedo – Spain
Przezylismy wojne – Poland
Ruterdame dreper – Norway
Sob o Domínio do Mal – Brazil
Ushinawareta toki wo motomete – Japan
Va’ e uccidi – Italy

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)


Variety 17 October 1962 p.6
Every once in a rare while a film comes along that “works” in all departments, with story, production and performance so well blended that the end effect is one of nearly complete satisfaction. Such is “The Manchurian Candidate,” George Axelrod and John Frankenheimer’s jazzy, hip screen translation of Richard Condon’s bestselling novel. With Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury all giving top performances, the picture not only has strong built-in boxoffice values, but the controversial makings for the kind of word-of-mouth that turns a good grosser into a blockbuster. […] Like all the best films, there probably has never been anything quite like “The Manchurian Candidate” before, though in sheer bravado of narrative and photographic styles it shares the tradition of Hitchcock, Capra, Welles and Hawks. In character and incidental comment, it displays irreverence towards hallowed cliches, be they (all-consuming) mother love, the commercialization of Christmas (“‘The 12 Days of Christmas‘? – one day is quite loathsome enough”), Iron Curtain spies (here the Russ agent is an apprehensive boor and the Chinese a whimsical, literate mind from outer Manchuria, if not space), to say nothing of homegrown political frauds who hide behind portraits of Abe Lincoln. […] Some mention should be made […] of the form of the film. Though it includes three flashbacks (two of which are hypnotically weird dream sequences), the picture moves forward with a constantly increasing tension and momentum which never allow for audience second-guessing of the macabre plot twists or coincidences. The quick cuts and tricky juxtaposition of scenes match the flamboyance of the script. – from a review by Anby

Monthly Film Bulletin vol.29 no.347 (December 1962) p.168
The Manchurian Candidate follows Richard Condon’s novel closely in outline and in detail, down to some of its more quirkishly individual dialogue (the Sinatra-Janet Leigh train meeting). But the visual inventiveness and the cool, contained style, keeping the whole fantasy well this side of the all-American hysterical nightmare, belong to Frankenheimer, rapidly establishing himself as one of Hollywood’s most promising young talents, and the ingenious George Axelrod. […] The Manchurian Candidate is not just a series of finely timed explosive devices. The performances hold it solidly together, from Laurence Harvey’s unlovable victim, somnambulistically setting out the games of patience which will turn up the lethal trigger card, the queen of diamonds, to the red queen herself, splendidly played by Angela Lansbury. Sinatra, James Gregory and John McGiver command an equally telling sense of character and effect. All in all, the American – and incidentally the un-American – film of the year. – from a review by P.H.

Sight & Sound vol.32 no.1 (Winter 1962/1963) p.36
It is the complex, off-beat form of the film which classes it so interestingly with recent French exercises: neither satire nor suspense thriller nor science fiction fantasy nor identity-puzzle nor allegory but something of all five, its unreal characters essentially relevant to ourselves in the Cold War, its extravagant fears for the future rooted logically in the recent past. […] It sounds like the very worst sort of overheated, paranoid fantasy, but this isn’t Frankenheimer’s way at all. His treatment is richly atmospheric yet beautifully controlled, and bubbling over with all kinds of engaging touches and conceits which keep at bay any of that 1984 pessimism or slick hysteria one might expect to find in such a typically American nightmare. […] Frankenheimer and Axelrod, joint producers of this refreshingly un-American film, are unfailingly inventive and apposite throughout. Tough-minded in a new, convincing way about the cannibalism of the American Mom or the TV techniques of the McCarthyite demagogue, they nevertheless retain a pointed sense of fun. […] [T]he film is extremely well thought out. But Frankenheimer’s control isn’t just a matter of innovation, though there’s plenty of that, and all-round proficiency. It is at its most promising – and he promises very highly indeed as a director – in the memorable performances he has got out of a conventional star cast. – from an illustrated review by Peter John Dyer

Cinefantastique vol.18 no.5 (July 1988) p.53
Its brainwashing sequence is especially terrifying as we see Harvey kill on command for an audience while through his eyes we see a meeting of a women’s garden club. Angela Lansbury is memorable in an Oscar-nominated performance as Harvey’s mother. Hailed as one of the major psychological and political thrillers of the ’60s. – from a review by Daniel M. Kimmel

Monthly Film Bulletin vol.55 no.656 (September 1988) pp.280-281
Sinatra was part of the Kennedy entourage, and it was reputedly his intervention with Kennedy, and the latter’s encouraging word with a reluctant studio boss, which enabled the film to be made in the first place. By an ironic twist, true enough to the film’s own contradictory workings, Sinatra’s dismay over the connection between The Manchurian Candidate and Kennedy’s assassination one year later prompted him, in 1972, to buy up the rights and suppress the film. (Though other accounts have it that the film’s disappearance for the last fifteen years is a simple and dull matter of contracts and money.) […] The Manchurian Candidate is [Frankenheimer’s] watershed and crossover film, the moment when his earlier domestic dramas – All Fall Down, with Angela Lansbury again as controlling mom, or Birdman of Alcatraz, whose hero has evidently been emotionally ‘imprisoned’ by his mother before the penitentiary gets him – make the transition to an era when the state plays parent (the all-seeing eyes of Seven Days in May, the ‘agency’ of Seconds), with a similar range of ambivalences about dependency and control. […] The Manchurian Candidate, in the end, is a work of sophisticated primitivism – black humorist Axelrod and Freudian burlesquer Frankenheimer taking on board a political sensibility not unlike that of the Samuel Fuller of, say, Park Row. – from a review by Richard Combs

American Cinematographer vol.85 no.8 (August 2004) pp.14, 16
Some motion-picture masterpieces endure because they’re infinitely comforting in their greatness; they provide more or less the same satisfactions on each viewing, and the intelligence and artistry of the people who made them keep the films fresh and lively decade after decade. But The Manchurian Candidate is a different kind of masterpiece, one so bold and complicated that its meaning seems to change all the time, depending on what has changed in the culture that produced it. It always seems to tell us something new about America – the America of 1962 (the year in which the picture was made), the America of the 1950s (the year in which the story takes place), and the America of today. This perception might stem in part from a sense that The Manchurian Candidate is a movie spiraling out of control, a film so overflowing with contradictory ideas and wild shifts in tone that it always seems in danger of collapsing into an incomprehensible mess. Both politically and technically, the picture is as audacious as the masterpieces of the French New Wave that were coming out at about the same time, but The Manchurian Candidate didn’t gain widespread critical acclaim until its theatrical re-release in 1988. – from an illustrated review (DVD Playback) by Jim Hemphill



  • American Cinematographer vol.85 no.8 (August 2004) pp.14, 16 – illustrated review (DVD Playback by Jim Hemphill)
  • Castle of Frankenstein no.17 p.32
  • Cinéaste vol.16 no.4 (1988) pp.30-31 – review
  • Cinefantastique vol.18 no.5 (July 1988) p.53 – review (by Daniel M. Kimmel)
  • Cinema Retro vol.1 no.3 (Autumn 2005) pp.8-10 – illustrated article (Benson turns back the clock – 1962 by Raymond Benson)
  • Cinemaya no.17/18 (Autumn/Winter 1992) pp.34-37 – illustrated article (Damned clever these Chinese by Chris Berry)
  • City Limits no.359 (18 August 1988) pp.22; 25 – article; review
  • The Daily Cinema no.8674 (15 October 1962) p.9 – review
  • Empire no.136 (October 2000) p.134 – illustrated review (Video to buy by KN [Kim Newman])
  • Empire no.138 (Decmber 2000) p.144 – illustrated review (Remote control: DVD by Colin Kennedy)
  • Empire no.186 (December 2004) pp.72-73 – illustrated article (The 10 Best Ever Screenplays)
  • Film and History vol.31 no.2 (2001) pp.40-44 – illustrated article (Subverting the Cold War in the 1960s: Dr Strangelove, The Manchurian Candidate, and The Planet of the Apes by Jonathan Kirshner)
  • Film Comment vol.6 no.4 Winter (1970/1971) pp.9-13 – illustrated article
  • Film Culture no.34 (Autumn 1964) p.28 – article
  • The Film Daily vol.121 no.74 (16 October 1962) p.4 – review
  • Film Score Monthly vol.3 no.2 (February 1998) pp.22-23 – illustrated interview with David Amram (by Jeff Bond)
  • Films and Filming vol.9 no.3 (December 1962) p.37 – review
  • Films and Filming no.407 (August 1988) p.33 – review
  • Films in Review vol.13 no.9 (November 1962) p.558 – review
  • Films in Review vol.39 no.11 (November 1988) pp.538-546 – illustrated article
  • Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television vol.18 no.1 (March 1998) pp.49-74; 75-94 – illustrated article (Missing action: POW films, brainwashing and the Korean War by Charles S. Young); illustrated article (“The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) and the Cold War brain washing scare by Susan L. Carruthers)
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.172 no.22 (12 October 1962) p.3 – review
  • Journal of Popular Film & Television vol.35 no.3 (Autumn 2007) pp.120-126 – illustrated article (Electronic media and the feminine in the national security regime: The Manchurian Candidate before and after 9/11 by Mark E. Wildermuth)
  • The Listener vol.120 no.3074 (4 August 1988) p.32 – review
  • The Listener vol.122 no.3145 (21 December 1989) p.49 – illustrated review
  • Literature/Film Quarterly vol.28 no.1 (2000) pp.34-40 – illustrated article (The Manchurian Candidate and the gender of the Cold War by Tony Jackson)
  • Metro no.115 (1998) pp.92-93 – illustrated review (The Manchurian Candidate by Anna Dzenis)
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.29 no.347 (December 1962) p.168 – credits, review (by P.H.)
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.55 no.656 (September 1988) pp.280-281 – credits, review (by P.H.)
  • Movie no.5 (December 1962) p.35 – credits, review (John Frankenheimer by Paul Mayersberg)
  • Positif no.335 (January 1989) pp.68-70 (France) – illustrated article (Le cinéma retrouvé by Gérard Legrand)
  • Premiere vol.17 no.10 (July 2004) p.117 – illustrated review (Home guide)
  • Revue Internationale d’Histoire du Cinéma vol.1 no.1975 Fiche nos.0-6 (France) – illustrated article (John Frankenheimer and science fiction by Michelle Slavinsky)
  • Sight & Sound vol.32 no.1 (Winter 1962/1963) p.36 – illustrated review (by Peter John Dyer)
  • Sight & Sound vol.3 no.4 (April 1993) p.69 – illustrated review
  • Sight & Sound vol.3 no.12 (December 1993) pp.16-21 – illustrated article (When Dr No met Dr Strangelove by J. Hoberman)
  • Sight & Sound vol.10 no.12 (December 2000) p.63 – illustrated review (DVD)
  • Sight & Sound vol.14 no.12 (December 2004) pp.14-18 – illustrated interview with Jonathan Demme (Mind control by David Thompson and Ryan Gilbey)
  • Soundtrack! The Collector’s Quarterly vol.17 no.65 (March 1998) pp.28-29 – illustrated interview with David Amram (Scoring Session: David Amram Returns from Manchuria by Randall D. Larson)
  • Starburst no.317 (December 2004) p.97 – illustrated review (New movies by Anwar Brett)
  • Time Out no.933 (6 July 1988) p.45 – article
  • Time Out no.938 (10 August 1988) p.35 – illustrated article
  • Time Out no.939 (17 August 1988) p.40 – review
  • Variety 17 October 1962 p.6 – credits, review (by Anby)


  • 101 Greatest Films of Mystery & Suspense by Otto Penzler pp.161-163
  • 500 Essential Cult Movies: The Ultimate Guide by Jennifer Eiss with J.P. Rutter and Steve White p.91 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • Encyclopedia of American Spy Films by Larry Langman & David Ebner p.233 – credits, note
  • The Encyclopedia of Novels Into Films second edition by John C. Tibbetts and James M. Welsh pp.279-180 – illustrated credits, review K.F. and J.M. Welsh [James M. Welsh]
  • The Espionage Filmography: United States Releases, 1898 through 1999 by Paul Mavis p.196
  • Feature Films, 1960-1969: A Filmography of English-language and Major Foreign-language United States Releases by Harris M. Lentz III p.280
  • The International Spy Guide 002 by Richard Rhys Davies p.568 – illustrated credits, note
  • Movies of the 60s by Jürgen Müller pp.160-165 – illustrated review (by SH [Steffen Haubner])

Other Sources

  • BFI Southbank Guide October-November 2017 p.29 – illustrated listing