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''TheManchurianCandidate'' is a 1959 ConspiracyThriller novel by Richard Condon, about the son of a prominent political family who has been brainwashed into being an unwitting assassin for the Communist Party. The novel has been adapted for the screen twice - once in 1962 and once in 2004.

During the Korean War, Captain Bennett Marco and Sergeant Raymond Shaw were part of a platoon that was captured in 1952. They are taken to Manchuria, and are brainwashed to believe that Sgt. Shaw saved their lives in combat for which the Army awards him the Medal of Honor.

Years later Marco, now an intelligence officer, starts suffering from a recurring nightmare about Shaw murdering two of his comrades, all observed by Chinese and Russian officers. When Marco learns that another soldier from the platoon also has been suffering the same nightmare, he sets to uncovering the mystery - and makes a terrifying discovery. Shaw is being used as a sleeper agent for the Communists, programmed as a guiltless assassin, subconsciously activated with a particular trigger - the Queen of Diamonds in a deck of cards. Thus, he is activated, kills the target, and immediately forgets. Shaw's controller is his own mother, who is working with the Communists in order to quietly overthrow the United States government with her Manchurian Candidate. His programming is eventually broken by Marco using a deck of cards entirely composed of the Queen of Diamonds.

The first movie adaptation (directed by Creator/JohnFrankenheimer) stars FrankSinatra as Marco and Laurence Harvey as Shaw. Creator/AngelaLansbury plays Shaw's mother Eleanor Iselin. It is a very faithful adaptation of the novel, with much of the dialogue taken straight from the book.

The 2004 remake updates the setting to [[UsefulNotes/TheGulfWar Operation Desert Storm]], makes the bad guys an evil corporation instead of communists, and stars DenzelWashington as Ben Marco and Liev Schrieber as Raymond Shaw. MerylStreep plays Shaw's mother, Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw. It also adds a twist.

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!!This novel and its adaptations contain examples of:

* AffablyEvil: Yen Lo, a Chinese scientist. A consummate gentleman and scholar, it seems in any other genre he'd play the role of a wise old mentor. In this story, he creates sleeper assassins.
* AmbiguouslyBrown: Bennett Marco is of partially Spanish extraction and is described as looking like an Aztec crossed with an Eskimo with "copper colored" skin and straight black hair with an "aboriginal look". He's played by Frank Sinatra in the 1962 film and Denzel Washington in the 2004 film.
* AmbiguousSituation: The very end of the novel has two possible situations for what happens when Marco [[spoiler:goes into the booth where Raymond has just shot his mother and stepfather: Raymond either shot himself of his own free will after Marco freed him from the brainwashing completely after Marco told him he killed Jocie himself, or Marco ordered him to shoot himself using the card deck and decided to LetThemDieHappy by never letting him realize the truth of what he did to Jocie.]] It's never clarified exactly which of the two occurred.
* AMillionIsAStatistic: A subtle example, on the newspaper that shows the headline of [[spoiler:Thomas Jordan and his daughter's murder]] in the 1962 film version, there is a subheader of twenty people being killed in a hurricane. Twenty normal people dead is less important than [[spoiler: one politician and his daughter]].
* ArtifactTitle: The 2004 movie doesn't have anything to do with Manchuria, although the writers justify the title by involving a ''corporation'' called "Manchurian Global" in the plot.
* BadHabits: The sleeper agent dresses as a priest to assassinate the presumptive President of the United States.
* BigApplesauce: Most of the story takes place in New York.
* BillingDisplacement: Janet Leigh over Creator/AngelaLansbury, who plays a much more important role.
* BittersweetEnding: In the film versions.
** In the original, [[spoiler:Marco manages to undo some of Shaw's brainwashing, which allows him to shoot his mother and Senator Iselin instead of the nominee, thereby foiling the communist plot. But the victory comes at the cost of Shaw's will to live, now being unable to live with the knowledge of the things he did when he was "activated."]]
** In the remake, [[spoiler: the plot is also foiled, with Raymond having Marco assassinate him along with his mother. But the film leaves it ambiguous whether Marco will ever fully recover from the entire ordeal.]]
* BrainwashedAndCrazy
-->'''Dr. Yen Lo''': "His brain has not only been washed, as they say... It has been dry cleaned."
* CameraTricks: The [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds rule of thirds]] is dramatically averted in the first shot of Janet Leigh. She is presented right in the middle of the frame. It's a bit startling.
* TheCasanova: Marco is said to have at least two women every night, and Raymond's pretty good at with women as well. Raymond was originally shy around women, but Dr. Yen Lo [[ThrowTheDogABone "removed" Raymond's sexual timidity during his brainwashing.]]
* CatapultNightmare: 1962 film.
* CatchPhrase: "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."
** "Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?"
* CigaretteOfAnxiety: Marco tries to light a cigarette on a train, but is so nervous and wound-up that he keeps fumbling the matches.
* ConspiracyThriller
* ContrivedCoincidence: Raymond's mind control trigger is a queen of diamonds playing card. Guess what his LoveInterest Jocie Jordan dresses as for the costume party?
** Oddly enough, though the costume's appearance is contrived in the script and the book, the particular costume that was used was in fact a coincidence: it had been created for a TV production of The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
* DeepCoverAgent: Raymond's mother is a Communist spy pulling strings to get her husband (and thus, herself) into the White House.
** Rosie in the remake (see SatelliteCharacter below).
* DeniedParody: MerylStreep denied that her portrayal of Eleanor Shaw in the 2004 movie was based on Hillary Clinton, PowerHair notwithstanding. She also reports that many British viewers assumed that [[HilariousInHindsight her take on Eleanor Shaw was based on Margaret Thatcher.]]
* DiesWideOpen: 1962 film.
* DirtyCommunists: The ones who do the brainwashing in the novel and first film.
* DownerEnding: "Hell... hell..."
* DramaticIrony: "I think, if John Iselin were a paid Soviet agent, he could not do more to harm this country than he's doing now." [[spoiler: His wife is.]]
** RealitySubtext: In an introduction to a later edition of the novel, [[WordOfGod Richard Condon]] said he remembered reading an editorial which read something to the effect of, "If Joe [=McCarthy=] were a paid Soviet agent, he could not do more to harm this country than he's doing now," and started to wonder, "What if he really *was*?"
* DreamingTheTruth: Marco has very realistic dreams about the brainwashing sessions, and they happen so often that they take a toll on his health. But he's smart enough to take notes on them.
* EvenEvilHasLovedOnes: Eleanor does show a twisted love for her son when she expresses anger over how he's been selected as the killer, and swears vengeance on those who did this to him once she comes into power.
* EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep: Raymond's mom's name is Eleanor Iselin, but the narration only calls her "Raymond's mother". The Communist agent who keeps tabs on Raymond in America is only called "Raymond's operator". [[spoiler: They're the same person.]]
* EvilInc: 2004 film.
* EvilMatriarch: Keep reading, and you'll learn all you need to know about Raymond's mom.
* FireForgedFriends: Neither Marco nor Shaw liked one and other at first. It's one of the few things that tips Marco off that something isn't right when he mentions the phrase "Raymond Shaw is the most kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I have ever known in my life." However eventually they do become good friends as aside from Jocie, Marco is the only person that he's ever expressed a side opposite of his usual {{Jerkass}} persona. However judging by the brainwashing scene, it was implied that from the start, Raymond did respect Marco and said he hated him the least.
* FiveFiveFive: The prefix for Rosie's phone number, "[=ELdorado=] 5", was at the time a phone company test number that gave a busy signal.
* FramingTheGuiltyParty: A complex example in the 2004 movie.
* GenderNeutralWriting: Descriptions of [[spoiler:Raymond's operator, his own mother]] are very careful to avoid any gendered pronouns to disguise their identity.
* UsefulNotes/GulfWar: In the remake, Marco and Raymond were buddies during this period, and it was in this time that the brainwashing took place. The meat of the story, meanwhile, is set TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture during the WarOnTerror.
* HenpeckedHusband / ParentingTheHusband: The Manchurian Candidate in the novel is Mrs. Iselin's husband, John. She fusses over him day and night...after all, world domination is at stake!
* HeroicSacrifice: In the remake, [[spoiler: Shaw and Marco are both able to partially overcome their programing and Shaw gets Marco to shoot him and his mother to stop the plot.]]
** [[spoiler: Also an example of TakingYouWithMe.]]
* HollywoodSilencer: 1962 film. On a revolver, no less.
* HypnoFool: In the novel and the 1962 film, Shaw obeys a suggestion not even meant for him: "Why don't you go and take yourself a cab and go up to Central Park and go jump in the lake?" This helps him realize that something may be wrong with him.
** Somewhat averted in the remake. WordOfGod says they intended to portray the brainwashed state as a state of ''heightened awareness'' rather than a zombielike trance. How easily this comes across is debateable, though.
* IKEAWeaponry: The 1962 film is possibly the TropeCodifier, coming out just a year before ''Film/FromRussiaWithLove''.
* ItMakesSenseInContext: but you probably couldn't get away with a heated fight scene in a modern thriller wherein the hero continually screams ''"HOW DID THE OLD LADIES TURN INTO RUSSIANS?"''
* JerkassFacade: Raymond is a top tier douchebag. He's rude, haughty,and [[LackofEmpathy he doesn't care about you]]. He developed this personality to cope with his vicious mother and loutish stepdad. The only people who have seen his vulnerable side are [[HeterosexualLifePartners Major Marco]] and Jocie.
* KarmaHoudini: [[spoiler:The Iselins]] are the only bad guys in the original who receive any kind of LaserGuidedKarma at all. The DirtyCommunists in charge of Raymond's brainwashing, notably Yen-Lo, all get off scott-free.
* UsefulNotes/TheKoreanWar: The opening scene of both the novel and the 1962 film.
* ManchurianAgent: The TropeNamer.
* MercyKill: [[spoiler: In the book, Marco orders a brainwashed Raymond to shoot his mother and stepfather, then shoot himself. He remarks, "No electric chair for a Medal of Honor man.]]
* MoodWhiplash: Part of the charm of this book. It jumps from campy political farce to bleak character study to suspenseful thriller and back. A lot. (This is less of a problem in the 2004 version.)
* TheMole
* MotiveRant: Angela Lansbury gets off a real corker of a speech.
* MyBelovedSmother: Mrs. Iselin SerialEscalation.
* NoCelebritiesWereHarmed: Iselin is an obvious parody of Joe [=McCarthy=].
* NoPartyGiven: In the 2004 remake the political party responsible for all this is never named, even during a strategy session involving the electoral map.
** Only in the 1962 film is the Republican Party specifically named. (Raymond's mother's party is also not named in the book.) Reinforced by all of the Lincoln imagery the Iselins surround themselves with.
** In the 2004 version, it's implied that they are Democrats, what with the mention of being denied the White House another four years and their strength being with the northeast, west, blacks, and college students. It nevertheless comes off as a little forced when even after [[spoiler: Sen. Jordan's assassination]] newsreaders only ever refer to "his party".
* NotEvenBotheringWithTheAccent: Brit Laurence Harvey in the 1962 film. It helps that his accent kind of works as an [[UsefulNotes/FranklinDRoosevelt FDR]]-style New York blueblood accent.
* OOCIsSeriousBusiness: When Raymond wakes up in the hospital after a hit-and-run accident [[spoiler:not really]] he finds his mother at his bedside, clearly having been crying. He's startled by how disheveled she looks, and while he accuses her of putting on an act it's implied that this is her mask genuinely slipping as a result of [[spoiler:realizing that's she's to be the operator for her own son as an assassin.]]
* ParentalIncest: Part of Ellie Iselin's FreudianExcuse is that she was repeatedly raped by her father as a child. Late in the story, she has sex with Raymond while he's brainwashed (though this is only implied in the film versions).
* PlayingGertrude: Angela Lansbury was only 37 years old (three years older than Laurence Harvey) at the time. Averted in the remake, where Meryl Streep (55) plays the mother of Liev Schreiber (37).
* PowerHair: Shaw's mother in both movies.
* PresentCompanyExcluded: In the 2004 film, Raymond says this to Marco.
-->'''Raymond''': Who would I ask? My old Army "buddies," who love and adore me for saving their pathetically unimportant -- present company excluded -- asses?
* RealAwardFictionalCharacter: Sgt. Raymond Prentiss Shaw is awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing his platoon. Perhaps a case of ItWasHisSled, but [[spoiler: the action never happened, they were kidnapped and brainwashed, and Captain Marco was brainwashed into nominating him for the Medal.]]
* RedChina: The 1962 film.
* ReplacementGoldfish: Raymond's mother only instigates having sex with him after she sees him smile and is reminded of her own long-dead father, with whom she had a sexual relationship when she was a child.
* TheRemake: The 2004 film shares the basic plot of its predecessors, but many things are changed.
* SatelliteCharacter / SatelliteLoveInterest: In the novel and 1962 film Rosie pops up out of nowhere, helps calm Marco down at a point where the nightmares are really getting to Marco, and then does absolutely nothing else except [[MsFanservice fill out some dresses nicely]] in the movie. [[note]]All of which lends itself to AlternativeCharacterInterpretation; see the YMMV page for details[[/note]]
* SpySpeak: The strange rhythms of Marco's conversations with Rosie (see above) led some fans to theorize that they are elaborate codes. (And then [[EpilepticTrees you start wondering]] whether Marco is ''aware'' of this...)
* ThroughTheEyesOfMadness: Teased at in the remake. Marco is talking with his... [[OmnidisciplinaryScientist let's say practical psychologist]] about his dreams, when the doctor abruptly asks "[[ParanoiaFuel What if this is all a dream and you are really still back in Kuwait?]]". Given the [[TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture setting]] and [[PsychologicalHorror tone]] of the movie, and some of the later events (including how the aforementioned psychologist simply ''[[NothingIsScarier vanishes]]'' not long after[[note]]alternately because he was killed or "removed" by Manchurian Global[[/note]]), there's really no reason to totally discount this theory. In the DVD commentary Creator/JonathanDemme remarks that at any point in the course of the film it would be totally plausible to cut to Ben waking up.
* TriggerPhrase: The original movie has both a Trigger Phrase ("Why don't you pass the time by playing solitaire?") ''and'' a Trigger Card: The Queen of Diamonds. The remake has a more personalized Trigger Phrase, in the form of [[spoiler: their names and old ranks, recited in a certain specific way]].
* TroublingUnchildlikeBehavior: Besides the fact that she was already using her sexuality to manipulate men as a preteen as a result of her father's abuse, Ellie mentions an incident when she nailed her cocker spaniel's feet to the floor after the dog wouldn't obey a "stay" command.
* UnfriendlyFire: Featured prominently.
* UpToEleven: Mrs. Iselin's obsession with getting her husband into the White House and overthrowing the government, even if it means [[spoiler:using her own son as a brainwashed killing machine to help speed things up. The one thing she ''didn't'' do was specifically choose to have him be the assassin, that part she believes was done to attempt to control her.]]
* WhatWeNowKnowToBeTrue: Apparently, it's an "old wives' tale" that hypnotized people can't be forced to do things that are against their natures.
* YankTheDogsChain: Raymond is finally reunited with Jocie, his FirstLove from when he was a teenager, and elopes with her on a terrific honeymoon. [[spoiler:He then shoots her while brainwashed after she walks in on him killing her father.]]
* YellowPeril: Dr. Yen Lo, the sinister brainwasher in the 1962 film. Dr. Lo was played by Khigh Dhiegh (born Kenneth Dickerson), a American actor of North African ancestry, who specialized in playing sinister Asian villains, most notably Wo Fat on ''Series/HawaiiFiveO''.
* YouKeepUsingThatWord: Raymond's Mother Mrs Iselin always calls anyone that disagrees with her political views, or even her overall views in general, a communist. [[spoiler: Which makes her role as Raymond's controller more ironic.]]

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[[TheStinger Now, why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?]]
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