DIRECTOR: John Frankenheimer
The film is a classic because watching it now in the 21st century, it is still fresh and relates to contemporary politics. The film plays to our anxieties that not everything is as it appears. Who is there to believe in the smoke and mirrors that is happening around us.
Bennett Marko (Sinatra) and Raymond Shaw (Harvey) serve in a patrol in the Korean War and captured by Asian communists. One of them will be trained and programmed as an assassin to serve as a Presidential assassin for an upcoming election. That person is Raymond Shaw and while plot developments happen Marko and other soldiers in that patrol are having nightmares of those Asian Communists knowing something is not right. The army sideline these people until they’re forced to take notice of Marko’s beliefs. The frenzied and paranoid beliefs of Marko see him relegated to a Public Relations official responsible for a political contender. That role turns on him so he is allowed to investigate the paranoia, his nightmares and prove to them that something is wrong with Shaw. The very fact that Shaw has received a Medal of Honour is in question and how a group of soldiers were rescued by Raymond Shaw. Double agents abound in this film and to tell you more would be to spoil a spy thriller.
“Why don’t you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?”
Angela Lansbury plays a major part as Raymond Shaw’s mother and we wonder what her motives are behind her charade. The film keeps you interested even after fifty five years. The plot twists, the speculation, the hidden clues we watch unfold are well told and thriller and spy directors of the 21st century can learn a thing or two. Janet Leigh plays a fiancee to Marko and Shaw has an female interest in Jocie (Parrish).
This film didn’t need a 2004 remake because in my opinion remakes are only required if something can be added to the film. This film has everything in it where the 2004 Jomathan Demme retelling just wanted to cash in on what was happening in 21st century politics.
Watch this film again or for the first time and you’ll see its significance. Ignore the 2004 remake and set aside time to watch a cold war thriller.
Frank Sinatra as Bennett Marko
Laurence Harvey as Raymond Shaw
Angela Lansbury as Raymond’s Mother
Janet Leigh as Eugenie Rose Chaney