The Manchurian Candidate appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.75:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with an excellent transfer.
Overall sharpness seemed solid. Any instances of softness remained negligible, as the movie usually looked tight and concise. Even when the image lost a bit of definition – such as during a close-up of Sinatra late in the film – the issues stemmed from the source. I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes failed to materialize. Print flaws were nearly non-existent; I viewed one quick streak and a minor mark, but the vast majority of the movie seemed clearn.
Black levels came across as deep and dense. Dark tones offered some of the image’s highlights, as they seemed nicely rich. Shadow detail generally appeared solidly clear and opaque; “day for night” shots came with the expected thickness, but that wasn’t the fault of the transfer. I felt very pleased with this strong presentation.
The movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack was fine for a movie from 1962. Speech usually came across as accurate and acceptably natural, with no concerns related to intelligibility. Music sounded clear and adequately smooth; highs lacked bite but lows seemed nice for an older mix.
Effects occasionally seemed a little distorted - mainly during combat scenes - but for the most part they were clean and distinct. The audio didn’t blow me away, but its quality earned it a “B”.
How did the Criterion release compare with the original Blu-ray from 2011? Audio differed, as the 2011 disc only included a 5.l remix; it left off the original mono found here. That remix worked well enough, but I prefer the 1962 mono.
Picture quality demonstrated a decent step up. The Criterion release came across as tighter and cleaner than the MGM version. The old disc worked fine, but the Criterion version gave up improvements.
The Criterion release mixes new and old extras. From 1997, we get an audio commentary with director John Frankenheimer, who provides a running, screen-specific chat. When he speaks, he provides some very compelling information that adds insight into the production. Unfortunately, Frankenheimer lets much of the movie pass without any information.
It’s an excellent piece when Frankenheimer offers his thoughts, though. He covers a nice variety of topics, from alterations made to the original novel to casting to his overall intentions as a director. He tosses in some great anecdotes along the way, including one gem about a screening in Greece. Ultimately, Frankenheimer’s commentary can be frustrating due to its many silent stretches, but it nonetheless provides more than enough excellent details to merit a listen.
Another piece found on earlier DVDs, a 1988 Interview involves three of the film’s primary participants. This seven-minute, 49-second piece gathers director/writer Frankenheimer, actor FrankSinatra, and producer/writer George Axelrod to discuss the film. All three men were corralled into one room where they interacted with each other and reminisced about the movie.
It’s a great idea, but the result seems less than thrilling. We hear some basic information about the movie and get a few decent anecdotes, but the absence of an actual interviewer harms the piece, as an outside presence may have better focused the men’s thoughts. Still, the brevity of the program means that it doesn’t become excessively tiresome, so it’s worth a look.
Three Criterion exclusives follow. From November 2015, an interview with actor Angela Lansbury runs 10 minutes, 48 seconds. It gives us Lansbury’s thoughts about working with Frankenheimer and how she got her role, thoughts about other cast and crew, and the film’s legacy. No one will mistake this for a deep discussion, but Lansbury offers an enjoyable conversation.
Also from November 2015, an interview with documentarian Errol Morris lasts 16 minutes, 33 seconds. Morris discusses the film’s era and influences as well as an appreciation for the movie. I’m not sure Morris adds a lot of insight, but he provides a decent overview.
Another November 2015 program, we get a 20-minute, 51-second interview with historian/author Susan Carruthers. She chats about historical elements related to the film, with an emphasis on brainwashing. Carruthers delivers an insightful overview that adds to our understanding of the movie.
Finally, we get the film’s trailer and a foldout booklet. On one side, this provides an essay from film critic Howard Hampton, while the other side shows a poster. It offers a nice complement to the set.
Although many movies seem dated within months of their release, 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate has barely aged a day over the last four decades. It remains a taut and tense piece that manages to be eerie and thrilling throughout its entire running time. The Blu-ray provides excellent visuals as well as good audio and a generally useful set of supplements. Though I’d like a more expansive package of bonus materials, the representation of the film itself makes this the best Manchurian Candidate to date.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE