The Manchurian Candidate (Blu-ray Review)

Time to dive back into the classics!  Classic films on Blu-ray always make me smile, because of the luster and time period, and because most of the time I wasn’t even born yet.  It’s great to see how films were made back in the day.  The Manchurian Candidate is one of these films.  Make no mistake now, this is the original 1962 release and not that abomination of a remake with Denzel Washington.  The original Manchurian Candidate starred Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury, Janet Liegh, and Henry Silva.  That’s a very impressive cast.  Will this be a very impressive Blu-ray?  Let us visit with The Manchurian Candidate, shall we? 


The Manchurian Candidate is the story of a group of U.S. troops who are kidnapped during the Korean War and are submitted to various experiments of behavior modification and so forth.  Major Bennett Marco (Sinatra) knows something is up, but can’t quite put his finger on it.  His nightmares seem to hold all the answers.  Meanwhile Staff Sergeant Shaw (Harvey) is credited with his platoon’s rescue and given all the props in the world.  Angela Lansbury who plays Shaw’s mother was also brought in and she received an Oscar nomination for her creepy portrayal.  

Watching the 2004 film starring Denzel Washington in the role made famous by Frank Sinatra was no way to indoctrinate myself to this crazy and wild world filled with so much taboo subject matter.  I’m glad that the Blu-ray of the original rectified that.  This version features an all star cast along with some great supporting actors.  In watching John Frankenheimer’s version I could see what a skilled director he already was.  Certain compositions are amazing and invoke some serious foreshadowing.

The Manchurian Candidate also features one of the greatest hand-to-hand combat scenes between Frank Sinatra and Henry Silva.  Sure, stuntmen were used, but so were the actors themselves.  It’s a fight so vicious that Sinatra broke his hand during filming of that sequence.

Originally released in 1962, and depending on who you believe, The Manchurian Candidate would be pulled from public eye just over a year later after the JFK assassination.  It would not be released again until 26 years later in 1988.  I was shocked, but could almost understand the implication of it all.  The Manchurian Candidate covers subjects of assassinations, brainwashing, Communism, and all sorts of topics that you would not talk about in the open and especially not in 1962.

I would suggest that viewers curious for an intense and scathing political thriller to give this film (the 1962 version) a shot.  It’s readily available at Best Buy as an exclusive purchase, but can also be purchased via third party sellers on Amazon.  As for me, I’ve got to go play a little solitaire…


The Manchurian Candidate is presented in 1080p 1.75:1 widescreen.  Presented in glorious black and white The Manchurian Candidate boasts a very nice picture.  Edge enhancement has been put on a tight leash, because I didn’t spot any throughout the film.  Maybe an occasional bit here and there, but I got up several times to inspect the image and didn’t see any.  Shadows and black levels are all up to snuff.  The black levels never crush, and are sharp and detailed.  I did not detect overblown contrast levels.  Being a political thriller lots of folks are under pressure, so you get to see them sweat.  Literally.  Facial detail is pretty sharp especially during closeups.  I was very impressed as to how good The Manchurian Candidate looked on Blu-ray. 


The Manchurian Candidate is presented in DTS-MA HD 5.1. The Manchurian Candidate was given a lossless overhaul and it does not disappoint.  Dialogue is always crisp from the loudest screams and shouts to lowest of whispers, and there are plenty of both.  Sound effects mesh well through the various channels as do the surrounds.  The LFE also does its job properly.  Watching this nearly 50 year old film one would not guess that sounds 50 years old.  This is a treat.

Special Features 

The Manchurian Candidate Blu-ray does contain a small selection of special features.  Included in the Blu-ray we have interviews with director John Frankenheimer, Frank Sinatra, and screenwriter George Axelrod.  There’s an audio commentary by Frankenhiemer as well.

  • Exclusive interview with Frank Sinatra, George Axelrod and John Frankenheimer
  • Audio Commentary by Director John Frankenheimer
  • Queen of Diamonds Featurette
  • A Little Solitaire Featurette
  • How to Get Shot
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts 

The Manchurian Candidate is a taught political thriller disguised as a satire.  Or is it a satire disguised as a political thriller? Great performances by everyone involved keep this one above water. The Blu-ray is excellent in all categories with the exception of the special features.  Those could have been bumped up with a bit more content, but an audio commentary does this disc right.  I would suggest watching this with a clear head, because it will blow your mind.

Order The Manchurian Candidate on Blu-ray!


3 Responses to “The Manchurian Candidate (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Great, great movie.

  2. Jiminy Criric

    Really like this movie…

  3. Sean Ferguson

    One of Frankenheimer’s best! Ronin is still my favorite of his.