Friday, December 3, 2010

Gods Of Cinema: John Frankenheimer

Director John Frankenheimer (1930-2002) has made many memorable films over his career which has spanned five decades. He's perhaps best known for the political thriller The Manchurian Candidate from 1962. A film which garnered 2 academy award nominations as well as much critical praise. The film itself didn't really get much play after it's initial release. Some speculate the picture conjured up too many memories of the JFK assassination of 1963 with it's similar plot, but also the movie might have been put into limbo due to star/producer Frank Sinatra's lawsuits against the film's studio to obtain a share of the profits.

Frankenheimer's career flourished greatly throughout the 60's and 70's. Things slowed down a bit for him in the 80s, with the director taking a bit of a break away from films. Still he managed to make Four theatrical films that decade. The 90's had Frankenheimer returning to where he got his start... Television. But this time with a string of very memorable and stirring Cable Television movies. In 1998 he went back to cracker jack action with Ronin and in 2002, John Frankenheimer left us due to complications following some emergency spinal surgery. However, Frankenheimer left on a high note with the critically praised HBO film about Lyndon Johnson's involvement of the Vietnam war, Path To War. He was also working on the Prequel to The Exorcist at the time, a film which eventually fell into the hands of Two subsequent directors.

Even though he's made a plethora of great films, sadly, John Frankenheimer never received a best Director nomination. But hey, what does the academy know... Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Akira Kurosawa, Sidney Lumet, Stanley Kubrick, Sam Peckinpah, Cecil B. DeMille, Robert Altman, Fritz Lang and a lot of other worthy filmmakers never picked up a gold statuette for best Director, either. Frankenheimer will always be known for being an unrivaled master of action and suspense. And one who also had quite a range of films under his belt.

I have a lot of Frankenheimer favorites, but I would narrow down a list of Five to:

1. Seconds (1966)  - A paranoia thriller that is one of my absolute favorites. It doesn't get any more eerie than this. Stars Rock Hudson. Revolutionary filmmaking. A must see!

2. The Manchurian Candidate (1962) - Frankenheimer's political thriller raises the bar really high. Once which not many others in this genre could really ever reach. Excellent performances all around. Especially by a very evil Angela Lansbury.

3. The French Connection II (1975) - Follows Popeye Doyle as he continues to chase down Fernando Rey's Alain Charnier, and in the process gets addicted to Heroin after being kidnapped by Charnier's henchmen. Excellent action (including a great foot chase) and performance by Gene Hackman.

4. 52 Pick up (1986) - Roy Scheider stars in this Crime Thriller based on the Elmore Leonard novel. Dark, strange and supremely entertaining. With a great evil performance by John Glover.

5. Ronin (1998) - I was a happy fella in 1998... I finally got a fix of the best action and chase scenes in a film for a very long time. Not many can do it right like the Frankenheimer way.

Here's a look back at Frankenheimer's body of work. What are your favorites?


The 70's

The 80's

The 90's - 2002

Additional works: 

TV Episodes of: Lamp Unto My Feet, Search For Tomorrow, You Are There, Danger, Climax!, Studio One, Playhouse 90, Startime, The Dupont Show Of The Month and Sunday Showcase (1951-1960)
The Ninth Day (1956) TV
The Turn Of The Screw (1959) TV
The Fifth Column (1960) TV
The Rainmaker (1982) TV
Riviera (1987) TV
Tales From The Crypt (Maniac At Large) (1992) TV
Ambush (The Hire Series) (2001)


Scott (gotankgo) said...

excellent - saw Seconds as a young-un in the mid 70s and it left quite an impression - still enjoy it (and many of his other films)

davidfullam said...


J.D. said...

I finally caught up with SECONDS a few weeks ago and that film really messed me up! What an odd film but great, but really strange. I'm still trying to wrap my head 'round that one.

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