Frankenheimer. Frankenheimer is often overshadowed because his artistic peak was in the early 1960’s- a time so fertile with, frankly, superior efforts from more talented auteurs. Still, his trademark kinetic style holds merit—as does The Manchurian Candidate as a film that lands in the top 220 of all-time—an impressive #1 for a director way down the list at #161 now. He has nine archiveable films (certainly no one-hit wonder) but can only muster one film that lands in the top 100 of its respective decade.
Best film: The Manchurian Candidate. The opening brainwashing scene (and shot) and the dramatic climax are simply magnificent—this is easily his best work.
total archiveable films: 9
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (The Manchurian Candidate)
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (The Manchurian Candidate)
most overrated: There is no overrated film for Frankenheimer. He only has one TSPDT consensus top 1000 film and it’s below here in the underrated section.
most underrated: It is Manchurian again—I have it at #220 and the consensus puts it at #575—that’s enough to note here.
gem I want to spotlight : Ronin.
- Ronin is rightly known for the brilliantly filmed and choreographed car chases. It’s not quite Bullitt or the French Connection (or even We Own the Night by James Gray) but it’s superb nonetheless
- Oddly enough Frankenheimer directed the French Connection II—not the first one with the famous car chase
- Solid ensemble case including Stellan Skarsgard, Sean Bean, Jonathan Pryce but the best part of the film is the largely unspoken friendship and mutual admiration between De Niro and Jean Reno’s character
- Great chase set piece in a massive stadium
- Cheese lines I could do without like “you’re interested in saving your own skin? Yeah, it covers my whole body”
- Influenced by the dirty dozen, seven samurai (mainly) and French connection
- Very nice intense scene of Reno and De Niro cleaning a wound on De Niro that is similar to the scene in Saving Private Ryan (also 1998) with Giovanni Ribisi
- Though I enjoyed and am archiving ronin it’s a reminder of how superior something like Heat is
- Gorgeous chases through the French Rivera
- Feels like an Audi commercial at times
- 47 Ronin– Warrior code—great scene between De Niro and Lonsdale as he has he builds miniatures of Samurai
- The chase at the 90 minute mark is stunning, stunt work, editing, tunnel crash, wrong way traffic
- Kinetic, agile filmmaking—chases (though he didn’t make The French Connection) in The Train, Grand Prix, French Connection II, Ronin—even the final sequence in Manchurian and the big set piece finale in Black Sunday show off the talents of a great action auteur — he can do more than that—one of the best scenes in the Frankenheimer body of work is the detox scene with Gene Hackman in French Connection II
- one of the originals that graduated from television to film
- for much of the 1960’s he was a top Hollywood director (working with Burt Lancaster often including three archiveable films below is a sign you’re a big director in the 1960’s but these images here from Seconds, the Laurence Harvey gun in your face (that’s French New Wave bold) have an avant-garde spirit for sure.
- The Manchurian Candidate
- The Train
- Seven Days in May
- Black Sunday
- Birdman of Alcatraz
- French Connection II
- Grand Prix
By year and grades
|1962- Birdman of Alcatraz||R|
|1962- The Manchurian Candidate||MP|
|1964- Seven Days In May||R|
|1964- The Train|
|1966- Grand Prix||R|
|1975- French Connection II||R|
|1977- Black Sunday||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
It’s a little disappointing that Frankenheimer worked with two of the 10 best actors of all time in the 90s and wasn’t able to get a great performance out of either.
@Harry- Great point- I totally forgot he directed The Island of Dr. Moreau.
I’ve been doing a Frankenheimer mini study this week too and have got to both. I don’t think Island of Dr. Moreau is one of the worst movies of all time or anything close that it, it’d be like a fringy recommended if I wanted to be generous, some good directorial choices from Frankenheimer and I think the costuming is brilliant so definitely works in that regard. The location shooting also pays off and its a nice looking film when they are just shooting the “island”. Performances are mixed (Kilmer is terrible but I don’t think Brando and Thewlis are) but I do find it to be a very interesting narrative. I should definitely check out Island of Lost Souls at somepoint
Manchurian Candidate – MP (only one I didn’t watch this week, caught it in March I think)
Seconds – HR (maybe HR/MS)
Birdman of Alcatraz – HR (maybe HR/MS)
Ronin – R
Island of Dr. Moreau – Fringy R
Have you ever seen Frankenheimer’s 1973 adaptation of The Iceman Cometh? And if so what did you think?
@Ross- I have actually- great cast. I’d see it again, but it did not make the archives after one viewing. My note are old as this was 10 years ago but it felt a little too much like a filmed version of a play. Did you see it? What do you think? Always a chance I’ve missed something of course.
I did see it a few weeks ago and I thought it was very good, the cast as you said was great it doesn’t get much better than having legends like Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Fredric March and Jeff Bridges (who was very young here) in a film together. I’m not entirely sure if they did the whole play when making the film but it is a hard thing to pull off making a film version of one of the most legendary plays in American history. Frankenheimer’s direction was superb as well as the acting. the standout performance for me was from Robert Ryan who I’m sure as you already know was dying from cancer while making this movie which made his performance as Larry Slade (who was literally waiting to die) in this movie all the more poignant.