Gary A. Braunbeck

Of Subtext, Subtlety, and Coming In After The Fact

I’m kind of a snob when it comes to fiction — horror or otherwise — and don’t mind admitting it. This gets me into a lot of trouble when it comes to reading for pleasure, something I have less and less time for these days. I often make the mistake of applying (sometimes consciously, mostly not) my own storytelling standards to the work of those I read, and that’s just silly (as well as being a habit I am fighting to break); if everyone wrote the same kind of stuff I do, and wrote it the same way I do, “variety” would be the stuff of fairy tales. And everyone would be depressed and grumpy all the time.

But every once in a while I start to ask questions about the fiction being produced in the horror field, simply because I’m still stubborn enough to want to see the field expand beyond its popular definition.

The Manchurian Candidate

1962’s The Manchurian Candidate

A lot — a lot — has been written and said about The Manchurian Candidate, the film that put John Frankenheimer on the map as a director. How effective you’ll find the film today depends on your personal level of cynicism.

Candidate — a satire in the truest sense of the word — deliberately sets out to make the viewer uncertain as to whether or not it’s supposed to funny. Admittedly, some of the scenes in the film have an aura of comedy about them which I think was intentional, while others (scenes obviously intended to be serious) unintentionally draw chuckles. Laurence Harvey’s British accent seems ludicrously out of place for a veteran of the Korean War, especially since he’s supposed to be American, but once you get past his voice, you cannot help but admire his rich, complex performance.