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The Manchurian Candidate [Paperback]

Greil Marcus
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 22 2008 BFI Film Classics
As Greil Marcus reconstructs the drama, "The Manchurian Candidate" is a movie in which the director and actors were suddenly capable of anything, beyond any expectations. This book shows how the film has burrowed into American culture.

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About the Author

Greil Marcus is the author of Mystery Train (1975), Lipstick Traces (1989), The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes (1997/2001) and Double Trouble: Bill Clinton and Elvis Presley in the Land of No Alternatives (2000). In 2001 he taught an American Studies seminar on 'Prophecy and the American Voice' at Princeton and the University of California, Berkeley.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Hopeless entrant in fine series May 17 2003
This book contains bad writing and has absolutely no focus, The Manchurian Candidate is an important film and the BFI film classics should be the highpoint of film criticism. This book wanders all over the place and cannot focus on the film. Coupled with some of third rate writing and muddled thinking, the book should only be bought if you must have all the books in the series. Don't buy it.
The BFI editors should be embarassed for having released it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
What a waste. Whoever thought Griel Marcus had anything of value or merit to add to the lexicon of film artistry - much less one of the great works of film artistry - completely missed the boat - or doesn't care to see this film get the passionate discussion it deserves. BFI Film Classics have issued an incredible set of books devoted to individually worthy films - such as this one. But this must be the worst book in a truly great series. Honestly, this must be a joke. It's got to be. I don't care if Griel Marcus is a professor, esteemed or respected, outré-hip or passé-hip. This guy has no business talking about, reflecting on or wasting anybody's time with his useless commentary on film. He was the wrong man for the job. This is a book about film as cultural signifier - and little else. Kennedy and Oswald. Columbine and George Bush. Kennedy and Sinatra. Who cares. The book, the film, and ultimately, the meaning of "The Manchurian Candidate" has nothing whatsoever to do with Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin or any of the endless quotes Marcus pulls from a library trip's worth of newspaper articles that refer back to the film. If you had no other point of reference other than this book, Marcus may convince you that this film is more symbolic than meaningful - and even hollowly symbolic. This is not a book about film, the art of film, the art of this particularly magnificent film or the artists who had anything to do with this film. It's about Marcus and the way he views the world - or the way he views the world through the lens of this film. Again, who the hell cares? This film is far too important to be left to someone whose trite aphorisms are as meaningless as those of Griel Marcus - an alleged writer who seems awfully damned confident to write his subject off so easily. Proof that you just can't hide behind other people's quotes - or your own cleverly-worded turns of phrase that have little to do with the subject at hand.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the Worst Entry in an Excellent Series Feb. 6 2003
Griel Marcus is so out-of-sync with "The Manchurian Candidate" that he has absolutely nothing interesting or informative to say but manages to make his fifty-five page essay sound like one long run-on sentence. Each chapter is further padded with desperate introductory quotes -anything vaguely referencing the film- as Marcus belaboredly tries to build a case for - What? He has no point of view other than "The Manchurian Candidate" is the single best film between "Citizen Kane" and "The Godfather"; though is knowledge of film is questionable. He wildly overpraises the casting of a black actor as a psychiatrist, a professional, and asks, "How many other American movies use a black actor to play what audiences expect to be a white character without patting themselves on the back to congratulate themselves?" I guess he never saw Sam Fuller's 1951 film "The Steel Helmet".
This book isn't so much a commentary as it is a rant. Rob White, the series editor, seems to have let this slip into print with no concern for it's complete lack of content and deleriously circuitous writing "style". It's a shame because, as usual, the book is generously illustrated with stunning B&W stills from the film.
I have over two dozen commentaries from the BFI Modern Classics Series, each filed along side the DVD or VHS of the film itself. This book has no place in anyone's library. The definitive analysis of this classic has yet to be written, and but Marcus and BFI have misfired with this one.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Greil Marcus is the best writer I've ever read Nov. 8 2002
Rarely has a book so slim managed to be so wordy. Then again, the excess verbiage nearly conceals the utter lack of insight, unless the subject of this book was supposed to be how darned smart Greil Marcus is. His breathless prose when discussing movie scenes becomes simutaneously irritating and laughable -- the movie were as overwrought as the words he uses to describe it, it would hardly be worth writing a book about in the first place. Moreover, his attempts at putting the movie in an intellectual perspective are often undermined by the fact that he continually falls back on comparing the movie to great moments in music history. OK -- Marcus is a hallowed rock critic, and 'write what you know' is generally a good philosophy, but I was left with the feeling that trying to provide a thought provoking analysis was beyond his grasp here.
I'm particularly perplexed by his need to devote an entire chapter to denigrating the cast and director of the movie -- Marcus marvels that no one in this movie came close to producing art at this level. Yet, what is remarkable about this? A substantial number of great movies are a result of special convergences that one might not expect. Furthermore, maybe Frankenheimer, Sinatra and Lansbury never hit this height again (though Marcus is extremely disingenous to Lansbury -- to cite Murder She Wrote and not note her distinguished stage career [Sweeney Todd, for example]) -- so what?
Marcus utterly fails to evaluate this work in the context of film in general. And his take on its societal effect is inaccurate (this movie is known in some circles, but it's not very pervasive). His token effort to add an academic lense to view it through is ineffective.
In the end, if you've seen and loved the movie, you will come away from this wondering what the heck Marcus was talking about. If you've haven't seen the movie, heaven knows why you'd want to after reading this.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 2.5 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the Worst Entry in an Excellent Series Feb. 6 2003
By George Hatch - Published on Amazon.com
Griel Marcus is so out-of-sync with "The Manchurian Candidate" that he has absolutely nothing interesting or informative to say but manages to make his fifty-five page essay sound like one long run-on sentence. Each chapter is further padded with desperate introductory quotes -anything vaguely referencing the film- as Marcus belaboredly tries to build a case for - What? He has no point of view other than "The Manchurian Candidate" is the single best film between "Citizen Kane" and "The Godfather"; though is knowledge of film is questionable. He wildly overpraises the casting of a black actor as a psychiatrist, a professional, and asks, "How many other American movies use a black actor to play what audiences expect to be a white character without patting themselves on the back to congratulate themselves?" I guess he never saw Sam Fuller's 1951 film "The Steel Helmet".
This book isn't so much a commentary as it is a rant. Rob White, the series editor, seems to have let this slip into print with no concern for it's complete lack of content and deleriously circuitous writing "style". It's a shame because, as usual, the book is generously illustrated with stunning B&W stills from the film.
I have over two dozen commentaries from the BFI Modern Classics Series, each filed along side the DVD or VHS of the film itself. This book has no place in anyone's library. The definitive analysis of this classic has yet to be written, and but Marcus and BFI have misfired with this one.
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A surprising ... in the classy BFI Film Classics series Feb. 11 2003
By Douglas Payne - Published on Amazon.com
What a waste. Whoever thought Griel Marcus had anything of value or merit to add to the lexicon of film artistry - much less one of the great works of film artistry - completely missed the boat - or doesn't care to see this film get the passionate discussion it deserves. BFI Film Classics have issued an incredible set of books devoted to individually worthy films - such as this one. But this must be the worst book in a truly great series. Honestly, this must be a joke. It's got to be. I don't care if Griel Marcus is a professor, esteemed or respected, outré-hip or passé-hip. This guy has no business talking about, reflecting on or wasting anybody's time with his useless commentary on film. He was the wrong man for the job. This is a book about film as cultural signifier - and little else. Kennedy and Oswald. Columbine and George Bush. Kennedy and Sinatra. Who cares. The book, the film, and ultimately, the meaning of "The Manchurian Candidate" has nothing whatsoever to do with Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin or any of the endless quotes Marcus pulls from a library trip's worth of newspaper articles that refer back to the film. If you had no other point of reference other than this book, Marcus may convince you that this film is more symbolic than meaningful - and even hollowly symbolic. This is not a book about film, the art of film, the art of this particularly magnificent film or the artists who had anything to do with this film. It's about Marcus and the way he views the world - or the way he views the world through the lens of this film. Again, who the hell cares? This film is far too important to be left to someone whose trite aphorisms are as meaningless as those of Griel Marcus - an alleged writer who seems awfully damned confident to write his subject off so easily. Proof that you just can't hide behind other people's quotes - or your own cleverly-worded turns of phrase that have little to do with the subject at hand.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Little Solitaire And Then Some!" April 20 2007
By Tony Rome - Published on Amazon.com
I'm not too sure what to make of some of these negative reviews of Griel Marcus' brilliant analysis of "The Manchurian Candidate"...maybe these folks were reading another tome or turned over over the Queen of Diamonds in mid page...

Marcus' contribution to the BFI film series contains one of the most insightful looks at a classic motion picture I've ever read.........

Marcus begins by explaining how John Frankenheimer's 1962 masterpiece has become part of American folklore...

His examination of the performances, Frankenheimer's direction, Axelrod's screenplay, Dick Sylbert's set decoration and David Amram's amazing musical score is right on the money...

Of course he felt obligated to discuss the "Candidate" in the context of the American history that both surrounded and followed it (ie: McCarthy, the assassinations of the 60's; coupled with the fact that for a number of reasons the film was taken out of circulation for many years).

Marcus concludes that in the case of this amazing Cold War relic, everyone involved was 'working over their heads'...propelled by the material that was given them............

A conclusion that's impossible to argue with since Sinatra, Harvey, Lansbury, Frankenheimer et al subsequently never did another project that equalled what they did in the remarkable film.
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Great, But Not Quite as Painful as Other Reviewers Make It Out To Be Dec 10 2013
By Dash Manchette - Published on Amazon.com
Reading the reviews, I could not help but wonder: Why all the hate? I have read about 45 of these BFI books and have never encountered so many one-star ratings. But I will admit, although the negative reviews overstate the case, this is one of the weaker entries in this series (though hardly the worst, a distinction still held by The Matrix).

The Manchurian Candidate was more than an entertaining movie. It was one that touched on a number of issues of the day, which is no doubt why it is the subject of a BFI monograph to begin with. No need to analyze the mediocre. The aftermath of the Korean War, political assassinations, brainwashing and the limits to free will, all are explored in the movie through an entertaining film.

Author Greil Marcus, however, grossly overstates the case. It is to be commended that the publisher chooses authors particularly taken with the film about which they write. But with Marcus, they might have picked someone whose enthusiasm clouds his vision. Yes, the movie is good, and timely, and portentous, and all that. Marcus considers it more and, unfortunately, the result is a rather monotonous essay basically repeating over and over again just how wonderful The Manchurian Candidate really is, about how everyone – everyone – is not only wonderful in the movie but taken to new heights by it that they never reached before and never reached again. One expects Jesus, upon his return, to walk on water in order view it.

Marcus also takes the lazy way out by quoting far too extensively from sources, both from the ‘60s and the ‘00s, that seem to place the film into some historical context. A better author would be able to do this himself, through analysis, with a far more sparse use of other sources directly in the text. A passage regarding the reporting of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination is particularly confused and difficult to get through.

Well, take from it what you can. I cannot say I recommend this book. But if you are a real fan of The Manchurian Candidate and really, really want to read some analysis of it, I suppose this is what you get, and you at least will not be worse off for reading it.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What's Marcus' day job? June 8 2006
By M. Case - Published on Amazon.com
I rate it as 1 star, because zero (or less) is not listed as a choice. Mr. Marcus has proved, once more, that most film critics are essentially clueless. See the movie. Read Condon's book. Forget this drivel. If you think you have to read this book, check it out at the library.
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