This is an incredible film. I watched the original movie and was amazed at how good it is. I did look up the update that was done in 2004 and after watching the original have absolutely no interest in seeing the update, it seems so distant and contrived versus the original from what I have read that why was it even created. The original could have bee re-done in basically the same way maybe using a different war than Korea, but the same thing and it may make sense. Anyway, on to more of a review. Angela Lansbury is incredible as the mother. I really only know her from Murder, She Wrote and as the voice of the teacup in Disney's Beauty and the Beast and this was such a different role fro her that it really was a bit of a surprise. On the Special Edition DVD that I watched, there is an interview with Lansbury about how different this role is for her compared with so many other roles she has done and she does acknowledge the difference. This is, again, a women who is a total bitch in the truest sense of the word as I described Nurse Ratched in my previous review of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. She is so controlling and devious that you never are able to fully understand her motivations even at the end of the movie. But she looks the same 45 years later as she did when she did that film, with only the hairstyle changing. We talk people who never seem to age and she is definitely one of them. Frank Sinatra is awesome as the tortured and yet somehow very lucid major. His scenes with Janet Leigh are so very good. The two of them are able to interact and play off of each other so perfectly, you really believe that they truly had a relationship in this movie. I especially love the scene on the train with this exchange:
Leigh: Maryland is such a beautiful state.
Sinatra: We are in Delaware.
Leigh: I know, but Maryland is still such a beautiful state.
I continues from there with these seeming non sequiturs which creates a great interchange. Lawrence Harvey who plays Shaw does a fabulous job of playing man who has two different facets to his being. When he does become entranced, he indicates a difference with not much more than facial expression and voice tone and yet it is instantly recognizable. So if you have not seen this, than see it. If you have seen it already, than see it again.
That was the end of the review, now for a brief commentary. It is interesting that even after over 40 years, it still seems to be perceived that the Chinese are the primary threat to America's way of life and world dominance. In this movie, there is a Russian element as those were the largest Communist countries at that time, but it seems so much more focused on the Chinese or maybe that is my perception. This perception of the fear of the Chinese still seems to permeate our country. We are still afraid of their size, military possibilities and at this point consumer abilities. They are still the largest Communist country and are moving closer toward Western style market economy even if the government is not changing toward democracy and yet we still fear that the Chinese will at some point launch a military attack on the U.S. and we will become Communists. I know we are also afraid of the Arabs too, but we really don't think we will become Muslims, just that they threaten our existence in some way. They threaten our democracy and hate us because we are free. This makes no sense to me, but that is a whole 'nother post. Back to China, I also look at Firefly and Serenity which, are awesome by the way, in this universe Joss Wheden posits that the Chinese will become a superpower and that at some point the only cultures left will be the American and the Chinese cultures, so again we are pointing out the might of the Chinese culture. Although I do not think Whedon fears the Chinese, he does seem to point out that they are a large country who could wield real power on the international stage.
Finally, when Angela Lansbury's character says, "We will make Marshall Law look like anarchy" toward the end of the movie about what will happen when she and her husband take over the presidency, I couldn't help, but see Dick Cheney saying that to Bush. Cheney really is the puppet master, Angela Lansbury's character, to Buch. In fact the Iselin couple really do mirror Bush and Cheney with Cheney being the puppet master looking for absolute power through control of another person. While Bush is Senator Iselin, the slightly buffoonish, naive character who allows someone else to tell them what to say and do at all times.