Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Manchurian Candidate: 1962/2004 versions compared

I recently watched not only the original, but also the 2004 remake (dir: Jonathan Demme), curious to see which I’d like best.

Inexplicably, Demme's remake ditched the powerful ‘red queen’ motif of the ‘62 version; what he adds seems to dilute the basic premise. Now, the bad guys aren’t a diabolic commie cabal - it’s a (fairly vague) corporate organisation within the US. The starting point is Gulf War Pt.1, rather than Korea.

Both films explore disturbing mind experiments; the original goes for brainwashing, but the remake prefers more icky brain surgery.

2004 version on the left; 1962 on the right.

Denzel Washington is a much better actor than Sinatra, playing the guy caught up in the conspiracy, trying to unravel harrowing dreams that seem to suggest a complicit involvement in the murders of former comrades.

This works against the story - we care about his plight more than the bigger scheme. Meryl Streep fills Angela Lansbury’s shoes and stomps all over the set in them, playing the terrifying matriach.

2004 version on the left; 1962 on the right.

There’s an assassination of a mentor and his daughter in both movies, but the clumsy, rather banal nature of the killing in the original packs far more of a punch.

Needless to say, I found the original much better than the modern reworking.

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