The Manchurian Candidate

I read the book before seeing the entirety of the movie. George Axelrod adapted the Richard Condon novel, and John Frankenheimer directed. Another of Condon's books, "Prizzi's Honor," was made into an acclaimed movie as well.

The novel, as usual, for the "The Manchurian Candidate" was much better. In fact I found the movie somewhat disapointing, but still great. I presume this due to the differences in story and plot between the two mediums, this causing the novie version to appear jerky in story.

In the book Marco is rebuked by the Army and it is the FBI and CIA that eventually take up his investigation. Also, the movie relies much more on Marco placing him in scenes that, in the novel, he is not in. Most of the background of the mother is left out, her relationship with her father and brother, the relationship between Raymond's father and step-father, what has been happening with Jocie while Raymond was in the Army or in New York was changed.

A lot of sexual context was removed for the movie- Raymond's mother having an insestiuous relation with her father, her adulty with Senator Iselin while he was Raymond's father's law partner, Marco brining home at least 3 women a night while he lived with Raymond (prior to Chunjin's employment as raymond's valet), that Marco and Eugenie Rose live together from the first day they meet, and that Raymond's mother is noted as having young women sent to sleep with Senator Iselin. Less sexually motivated, but maybe too taboo for the time, was there was no mention in the movie of the divorce between Raymond's parents or that Jocie was married in Argntina when Raymond first learns of where she is, but shortly thereafter he husband dies in a riot. (The movie merely mentions that she was returning from Paris)

In "The Manchurian Candidate--Roger Ebert Review" there is an interesting idea about Marco (played by Sinatra in the Movie) that I had not thought of while reading the book. In fact, I think the book makes a stronger case for this than the movie does:

Midway in his investigation, Sinatra meets and falls in love with a woman played by Janet Leigh, and their relationship provides the movie with what looks to me like a subtle, tantalizing suggestion of an additional level of intrigue. They meet in the parlor car of a train, where Sinatra, shaking, cannot light a cigarette and knocks over the table with his drink on it. Leigh follows him to the space between cars, lights a cigarette for him, and engages him in a very weird conversation, after which they fall in love and she quickly ditches her fianc*. What's going on here? My notion is that Sinatra's character is a Manchurian killer, too-one allowed to remember details of Harvey's brainwashing because that would make him seem more credible. And Leigh? She is Sinatra's controller.

Overall I think the movie gives the impression that the events are all taking place within a few days, or, at longest, a couple of weeks. In the book it is clear that months go by with not much happening. The book doesn't try to race to give suspense. It allows the reader to feel that things are going on- but that on the surface things seem normal. An example is Marco going around the US with CIA and FBI agents questioning people from his milatary unit or the extended honeymoon that Raymond and Jocie take when they take off during the party together. They go from Washington, DC, to Miami and then sail from Puerto Rico, by a chartered schooner, to the islands of Guadloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, Tobago, and Trinidad.


BACK HOME