Time: 126 mins.
Won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Lansbury) and Best Film Editing.
SYNOPSIS: A former Korean War POW is brainwashed by Communists into becoming a political assassin. Another former prisoner, tortured by weird dreams, figures out what happened to their platoon and tries to save him.
BOTTOM LINE: It's hard to fathom why Hollywood would even attempt to remake a classic flick like this one. There was no chance an updated version could come close to the sheer audacity and powerful intensity of the original. This is the mother of all political thrillers, with one unforgettible mama, played voraciously by Lansbury, whose actions on behalf of her combat-scarred son Raymond (Harvey) and ambitious senator husband (Gregory), will leave you breathless. Sinatra stars as Bennett Marco, another veteran from the same platoon as Raymond Shaw (Harvey), which disappeared on patrol and then suddenly reappeared all telling the same exact story. Unable to sleep due to a disturbing recurring dream, Marco decides to look up some of his former buddies and see if they're suffering the same fate.
With a little help from a woman (Leigh) he happens to meet on a train, Marco slowly starts to put together the pieces of the puzzle and discovers the sinister meaning behind those missing days. That she dumps her fiancé to help a man she's never seen before in her life is more than a little wierd and one of the many incongruent, unexplained aspects of the story that adds to the paranoia. Unfortunately, he's a bit too slow to help Shaw, who's being manipulated into becoming a murder machine. His poor brain is bombarded on all sides and it doesn't take him very long to snap. The question by the end, is not can he be stopped, but how many people is he going to take with him before he is?
Harvey is brilliant in this role of conflicted killer. Even though his actions are repugnant, he still makes you feel like he's the victim. His scenes with Lansbury showcase some of the most demented mother/son relationship issues you are likely to come upon in the movies. Which is saying something considering the film is over 40 years old. For those only familiar with her later work on "Murder, She Wrote", you're in for a rude awakening. In her early career, Lansbury was the prime go-to actress when you wanted someone to play a haughty, ambitious bitch. She knocks this role out of the park. It's rare to encounter a film that's so intelligently written that also keeps you on the edge of your seat from the first frame to the last. It occasionally lapses into high melodrama, which makes the story seem a touch ridiculous and why I held back the final half star. All in all, great characters, an intensely complex story and no-fat editing make this a must-see cinematic treat.