May 14, 2004
During the Korean War, a small detachment of Americans led by Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) were captured by the enemy. They escaped, though, telling stories of the heroism of Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), the man who saved them all. He is, by their accounts, the "kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being" he's ever known. In fact, they all say that about him, word for word. For his heroism, Sgt. Shaw is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Years later, Maj. Marco begins to have nightmares about his time in Korea, but he doesn't recall any heroics by Sgt. Shaw. Instead, he dreams about he and his men being hypnotized by a group of political and military leaders from various countries. And he silently watches as Sgt. Shaw strangles one of his own men, and shoots another. Maj. Marco is terrified by his dreams, but doesn't know if the "memories" are true, or if he's just going crazy. He contacts the Army, looking for help and wondering if any of the other men have had these dreams. There's no evidence of it.
Raymond Shaw is actually doing very well, despite the overbearing presence in his life of his step-father Presidential candidate, Senator Iselin, and his mother, Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury). Raymond hates them both, especially his mother who cost him his only chance to marry his true love, Jocelyn, and who constantly butts her way into his life. But things get really strange when Raymond starts to find himself in situations with no memory how he got there. Maj. Marco tracks down Raymond and tries to piece together their memories until they know for sure that their memories of the events in Korea were manufactured. Raymond, in particular, was "programmed" to respond to certain phrases ("Why don't you pass the time with a game of solitaire?") so he would obey orders and commit terrible acts, such as the murder of two of his fellow soldiers.
The mystery remains: why would Raymond be programmed? What will he be forced to do? In a stunning turn of events, Raymond's own mother is revealed to be the "American handler," the one who set this insidious plan in motion to brainwash someone capable of following through the orders of assassinating the Presidential candidate running against her husband. Raymond was chosen because his mother has an inherent control over him already, but even when he is revealed to her as the "candidate," she coldly continues with the plan.
Maj. Marco is able to break down much of Raymond's programming and hopes he will not follow through with the plan to assassinate the Presidential candidate, that he'll be able to reject the hypnotic orders he'll be given. Raymond does go to Madison Square Garden, the site of the Presidential convention, but instead of shooting his intended target, he assassinates Sen. Iselin. Raymond then fires one more shot, killing his mother! Maj. Marco finds Raymond, who tells him he had to stop her. And then Raymond shoots himself, committing suicide.
Raymond's mother was relentless in a very flippant and disrespectful way, doing whatever she wanted to satisfy her own designs. Mrs. Iselin was certainly destined to be a powerful figure in Washington; her ambition and greed far eclipsed those of a normal person. But she was ready to sacrifice her son to secure her own success, and she underestimated his will, and that of Major Marco, who valiantly cut the puppet strings from Raymond's psyche. Mrs. Iselin is the type of mother every son hates, and feels lucky to have never had.
INTELLIGENCE - 7: Fast on her feet and smart as a whip, she was ambitious and poised to become one of the most powerful figures in D.C.
POWER - 3: Mrs. Iselin's plan was to never lift a finger. Her "candidate" would do all the dirty work for her.
VILENESS - 10: Raymond's mother deftly crushed his hopes to marry Jocelyn and couldn't wait to sacrifice him to become the First Lady.
SWAY - 10: Unrelenting and powerfully gifted in intimidation, she ordered around her Senator husband and poor patsie son.
PURITY - 10: Even after the identity of the "candidate" is revealed, she is still intent on using her own son to bring herself to power.
PHYSICAL - 4: She wore the power suit of a First Lady, hiding her stone cold black heart.
Posted by Destro at May 14, 2004 09:20 AM