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Question about original Manchurian Candidate

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Question about original Manchurian Candidate

Old 07-25-04, 02:58 AM
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Question about original Manchurian Candidate

spoilers, i guess, below...

Just finished watching the original for the first time and loved it. There was only one thing that really flipped me out that I can't resolve...

When sinatra meets Janet Leigh for the first time, he freaks out and moves to a separate part of the train. She follows, and says, "I was one of the original chinese workmen who laid down this track."

It didn't read to me as sarcasm, so is she suppose to be a communist operative as well that could potentially manipulate sinatra's character. I tried listening to the commentary but there was nothing regarding that line. It stuck with me the entire movie and I kept thinking to myself, "She's really a chinese man."

Any thoughts? Am I totally misreading this, growing paranoid, or what?
Old 07-25-04, 03:38 AM
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When I first saw this, I though it was good except for the unrealistic love story between Sinatra and Janet Leigh. It really ruined the movie for me. Why would she fall in love with him all sweaty and creepy. Then I was reading some articles ( http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s1283manc.html )that theorized exactly what you were thinking. I really need to watch it again and see what I think of it now.
Old 07-25-04, 12:39 PM
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well it certainly would explain the rather abrupt and almost obsessive way she interacts with him. especially in that scene after the police station in the car, where she gets all crazy-eyed, and talks about dumping her fiance and how she could have told the cops how good he was because she knows, she knows, and then she just starts making out with him. i was like... whoa!
Old 07-25-04, 06:57 PM
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I've always wondered just what the hell she meant by that line, and basically the entire train conversation, too. My theory is she's Marco's handler, but there isn't really anything I'm going on right now except paranoia.
Old 07-25-04, 09:41 PM
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I thought it was just a lame joke in order to put him at ease.

It never crossed my mind that she was a Communist operative. I thought she was just introduced to the movie because she was a hottie. Her attraction to Sinatra's character was unavoidable; after all, he was Frank Sinatra.

Last edited by funkyryno; 07-25-04 at 09:43 PM.
Old 07-26-04, 12:19 AM
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Originally posted by funkyryno
I thought it was just a lame joke in order to put him at ease.
A lot of the dialogue in the movie is just surreal, I think, for the sake of surreality. That particular exchange is lifted directly from the book. Besides the Chinese workmen exchange, there's the comment, "You Arabic?" Plus Leigh's confession, "I used to be convinced that as a baby I was the sole survivor of a spaceship that overshot Mars." Yeah, no kidding.

Leigh's character was completely superfluous, of course. It was written in a time when there had to be a woman for the man, even if it didn't make sense.
Old 07-26-04, 12:30 AM
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When I watched it, I was thinking along the same lines...

Leigh's character is never seen or talked to by any character except Marco. Marco tells Shaw to call her, but it is never shown onscreen.

The Manchurian Hypnotist tells the entranced Shaw that he can't strangle Marco, as he will be needed later.

I was thinking that, as Marco was put in charge of stopping Shaw... that Leigh was just another Manchurian operative, who would then put Marco under a trance and have him carry out the assassination in case Shaw was unable to. That never happened. Ah well.

EDIT: Just read Savant's review. And that he had the same idea. And that the BFI Classics book mentioned it. Bastards, stealing my interpretation.

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Old 07-26-04, 01:38 PM
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hey breakfast with girls

so janet leigh's character is in the book? is she fleshed out anymore in the book, or what further action takes place in the book that we don't get on screen?

does the book mention any more about the person sending marco all the books that he's not quite sure why he's reading?

if the book's as good as the movie, then i'll read it eventually. but thanks for answering these questions.
Old 07-26-04, 02:42 PM
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Originally posted by metaridley
I've always wondered just what the hell she meant by that line, and basically the entire train conversation, too. My theory is she's Marco's handler, but there isn't really anything I'm going on right now except paranoia.
If you read Savant's review, you will see you are correct. That is why none of that conversation makes sense.
Old 07-26-04, 03:56 PM
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Originally posted by Breakfast with Girls
A lot of the dialogue in the movie is just surreal, I think, for the sake of surreality. That particular exchange is lifted directly from the book. Besides the Chinese workmen exchange, there's the comment, "You Arabic?" Plus Leigh's confession, "I used to be convinced that as a baby I was the sole survivor of a spaceship that overshot Mars." Yeah, no kidding.

Leigh's character was completely superfluous, of course. It was written in a time when there had to be a woman for the man, even if it didn't make sense.
According to the John Frankenheimer commentary on the disc he says this dialog sounds strange but it was lifted directly from the book.

After watching it a few times I can't help but think the Janet Leigh character is an operative too. She falls a little too quick for Marco especially in his delusional condition.

"Mr Bennett Marco is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

Last edited by Husker; 07-26-04 at 03:59 PM.
Old 07-26-04, 04:54 PM
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One thing I really dig about it, is that I'm not a big soundtrack fan, and the fact that most of the film is without a soundtrack really adds to how good the film is.
Old 07-26-04, 06:38 PM
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Believe me, I want Leigh to be Sinatra's controller--the movie would be much better if she were. There's only one problem: there's not a shred of evidence from within the movie to support it. The "proof" she's an operator goes something like this:

1. The scenes between Sinatra and Leigh are awkward, badly written, and full of non-sequiturs.

2. But the Manchurian Candidate is a classic! It says so right in the textbook.

3. Clearly classics cannot contain crappy scenes, so therefore these scenes must have a Super-Secret Deep Meaning.

4. Since the rest of the movie is about brainwashing and other freaky mind control stuff, clearly Janet Leigh must be one of the brainwashers. Never mind that none of the other brainwashers speaks in random non-sequiturs the way she does in the train scene--they're always blunt and to the point. Never mind that she never refers to cards or solitaire. Never mind that, if she's a controller, she's a complete and utter failure, as she actually helps Marco regain the self-confidence needed to (indirectly) foil the brainwasher's plan. Regardless of all that, the theory goes, she must be a controller, because otherwise the movie is just wasting our time with an extraordinarly badly told love story.

Not a compelling case. It's a lot easier to believe that The Manchurian Candidate isn't some shining example of consistent quality, but rather a textbook example of a curate's egg--good in parts, not so good in others.

(There's lots of other things in the movie in the movie that are just as wildly uneven--dear God, that narration at the beginning!--and by all accounts the book is the same way. Here's a sentence from the book, plucked from a review site: "To the extent that wartime zymurgists imperil the norm, the Korean beer was about as good as local Mississippi beer or Nebraska beer, which is pretty lousy, but it was hot." Someone who could could write a sentence like that could easily write the bizarre dialoge on the train without intending any Super-Secret Deep Meaning. He just thought he was being clever. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes bad writing is just bad writing!)
Old 07-26-04, 10:14 PM
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Roger Ebert has included The Manchurian Candidate among his Great Movie selections and here's some of his comments about Leigh's character:

This look is matched by Axelrod's dialogue, which often jumps the tracks of reality. Consider the peculiar first meeting between the Sinatra character and Rosie (Janet Leigh), who will become his fiancee. He's so shaky on a train that he can't light a cigarette. She follows him to the platform between cars, lights his cigarette, and then says, "Maryland's a beautiful state." "This is Delaware," Sinatra says, and she replies: "I know. I was one of the original Chinese workmen who laid the track on this stretch. But nonetheless, Maryland is a beautiful state. So is Ohio, for that matter."

Soon she has broken off an engagement and taken up with Marco, leaving us to wonder what in the hell that dialogue was about. Was it in code? Was Marco hallucinating? It seems strange that the Chinese brainwashed the entire patrol, but needed only Raymond as an assassin. Why, then, spare the others with their nightmares and suspicions? Is Sinatra's Maj. Marco another Manchurian sleeper, and is Rosie his controller? If you look at their scenes carefully, you find that she broke off her engagement immediately after their awkward train meeting and before their first date. Reflect on the scene where she talks about Marco beating up "a very large Korean gentlemen," and ask yourself what she means when she calls this man, who she has never seen, "the general." I don't know. Maybe Rosie just talks funny. It would be a nice touch, though, for this screwball story to have another layer circling beneath.



I've never read the book but it wouldn't surprise me if her character's comments and behavior were just the product of goofy writing coupled with the "love at first glimpse" subplot common is a *ton* of '50's-'60's era films. At least two of Hitchcock's best films, Spellbound and Notorious took advantage of it to further the central plot of the film. Actually, The Birds did too, come to think of it.

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