Major Ben Marco (Frank Sinatra) is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army. He served valiantly as a captain in the Korean war and his Sergeant, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), even won the Medal of Honor. Marco has a major problem however: he has a recurring nightmare, one where two members of his squad are killed by Shaw. He's put on indefinite sick leave and visits Shaw in New York. Shaw for his part has established himself well, despite the misgivings of his domineering mother, Mrs. Eleanor Iselin (Angela Lansbury). She is a red-baiter, accusing anyone who disagrees with her right-wing reactionary views of being a Communist. Raymond hates her, not only for how she's treated him but equally because of his step-father, the ineffectual U.S. Senator John Iselin (James Gregory), who is intent on seeking higher office. When Marco learns that others in his Korean War unit have had nightmares similar to his own, he realizes that something happened to all of them in Korea and that Raymond...Written by
The topic of the movie was considered politically so highly sensitive it was censored and prohibited just before its theatrical release in many of the former 'Iron Curtain' countries, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria - and even in neutral countries such as Finland and Sweden. The theatrical premiere for most of those countries was held after the collapse of Soviet Union in 1993. See more »
Marco's dress uniform coat has two discrepancies: he wears no ribbon for the National Defense Service Medal, to which every Korean War veteran was entitled; and even though he has been assigned to Washington, D.C., for some time, he continues to wear his previous 24th Infantry Division patch on his left shoulder instead of the Military District of Washington patch. See more »
Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.
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The live TV cameras in the senate hearing and press conference carry the NBC logo used at the time the film was made, not the logo used at the time the story takes place. See more »
West German version was edited (ca. 4 minutes) to remove every scene with the ladies in the greenhouse. To this day all home video releases contain the cut version. An uncut version (with subtitles for the missing scenes) was shown on Arte. See more »
While many cast members did an outstanding job in this disturbing and often violent political thriller, it is Angela Lansbury who stands out in her superb portrayal of a woman who not only dominates her son and husband but who wants to take over the entire country, if not the world! In the end, this is Angela's triumph, and I don't understand why she took second billing behind any of the other actors.
As much as I love Janet Leigh, she was handed a bizarre and somewhat minor role here which I believe only served as a deliberate distraction in that she never influenced Major Marco (Sinatra) as an agent working on either side. And don't get sidetracked by the fact that "Pinocchio" was playing at the Manhattan movie theater that she and Major Marco passed in the cab because that was probably a deliberate "red herring" too. Granted that Leigh and Tony Curtis, including their sensational divorce, were quite the rage at the time, but Angela deserved top billing here.
When I read that Lansbury has only appeared in 54 full length movies to date, it seemed like a number too small only because she leaves such a strong impression in so many of her performances dating back to Nancy, the maid, in "Gaslight" and Sybil in "The Picture of Dorian Grey". To this day, I am haunted by the memory of poor Sybil singing "Goodbye, Little Yellow Bird" in the latter. Lansbury masters a wide range of effective acting from the kindly, unassuming Miss Marple to the powerful, detestable Eleanor Shaw Iselin here.
In addition to a towering Lansbury, the excellent portrayals by Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, John McIver, Henry Silva, and James Gregory as the annoying buffoon of a step-father contribute to the success of this political thriller. I think that director John Frankenheimer and screenplay writer George Axelrod should be commended for staying close to Richard Condon's original novel, and the stark black and white photography enhanced the gloomy and ominous atmosphere. The filming of the three separate interpretations of the brainwashing sequence alone was a unique and unforgettable cinematic experience.
What a dish like Jocelyn Jordan (Leslie Parrish) ever saw in Raymond Shaw is beyond me, and we have surely witnessed Harvey as the dark, brooding character before ("Room at the Top", "Butterfield Eight", etc.), but who else could play this morose character more accurately?
As to that newspaper headline "Violent Hurricane Sweeps Midwest", did you folks in the Midwest ever experience a direct hurricane? I know about the tornadoes and the floods, but a direct hurricane? Was that another subtle attempt at humor by the director? Anyway, I'll never look at another hydrangea without much trepidation and dread.
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