215px-the_manchurian_candidate_1962_movieWe watched the 1962 original version, based on Richard Condon’s novel, this evening. You know; the one that launched Clint Eastwood‘s career as ‘Dirty Harry’ (I’ll come back to that). The Cold War, with its obsessive paranoia,  seems so far away already that the underlying politics of the plot seem as old as the massive television cameras and the wispy helicopters that appear in the film. Of course, few, if any, regret the end of the Cold War’s absurdities but I imagine more than a few authors and filmakers have regretted the disappearance of a whole locker room of plotting devices: double agents; triple agents; ‘sleepers’; brainwashing; ‘letterboxes’; and so on. Condon skilfully mixed all of these in with a basic plot about betrayal and counter-betrayal but also a daring dash of incest to set off an Oedipus complex.  And what about Clint Eastwood (who doesn’t appear in the film)? Well, it was strongly rumoured in the late 1960s that Frank Sinatra (who does, playing Bennett Marco) had been lined up for the role of Harry Callahan in the first Dirty Harry movie but turned it down because he had difficulty in carrying the .44 Magnum gun that became Dirty Harry’s trademark.  And why did he have difficulty? Because he broke his wrist karate chopping a table in a scene in The Manchurian Candidate – (allegedly the first-ever karate fight in a film, by the way). If the story is true, it was Eastwood’s second big stroke of luck. The first was Sergio Leone’s failure to convince a major Hollywood star to play in A Fistful of Dollars. Eastwood was very much a last choice.