The Manchurian Candidate: Assassins and the CIA
The Manchurian Candidate Film
On October 24, 1962, John Frankenheimer's film The Manchurian Candidate opened. Starring Frank Sinatra, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury, it tells the story of an American platoon fighting in the Korean War, captured by enemy Communist forces and transported to Manchuria, China. The men are then hypnotized and brainwashed by a sinister cabal from various Communist countries. With their false memories in place, the platoon is then returned to the battlefield, believing that one of their own, Captain Raymond Shaw, heroically saved them all in combat.
Shaw is hailed as a war hero and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. When asked about him, his fellow soldiers all robotically recite, Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life, though Shaw is actually cold, distant and unfeeling. We then see that Shaw has become a brainwashed assassin whose trigger is the Queen of Diamonds playing cardupon seeing that, he snaps into a hypnotic state, ready to perform any task, no matter how dangerous or nefarious. He is the perfect assassin, primed to kill whomever he is pointed toward, as well as any witness to the act. He asks no questions, remembers nothing of the kill and can blend in with other Americans.
It is revealed that Shaw's mother is a Communist agent, as is his stepfather, Senator Iselin, who makes frequent harangues against Communist infiltration of the government. The Communists plan is to install Senator Iselin in the White House and then control every facet of the United States through their puppet president. To this end, Shaw's mother activates him using the Queen of Diamonds and instructs him to murder Senator Iselin's rival to the vice-presidential nomination.
Shaw's next mission is to murder Iselin's running mate, so that Iselin can step right in to the presidential nomination. Once installed in the Oval Office, Iselin promises to whip up such an anti-Communist fervor to justify emergency powers that would, in Mrs. Iselin's words, make martial law seem like anarchy. But with the help of one of his fellow soldiers, Shaw is able to momentarily shake off the brainwashing and, rather than assassinate the presidential nominee, train his sniper scope on his mother and stepfather and shoot them dead.
The movie was a hit and Angela Lansbury's portrayal of Mrs. Iselinthe cold, calculating power playerbecame an iconic film role. Lansbury was nominated for an Academy Award and Newsweek named Mrs. Iselin as one of the 10 greatest villains in cinematic history.
But is this idea of a mind-controlled assassin realistic or Hollywood hokum? The concept was exploited for laughs in the film comedies The Naked Gun and Zoolander, but is it really a laughing matter? Could the complete brainwashing of a trained American soldier to kill mindlessly at the turn of a card be possible? Is this something that our government knows aboutor has attempted to perform on its own citizens? There is strong evidence that the answer is yes.