247 Great Directors: John Frankenheimer

“I feel that my job is to create an atmosphere where creative people can do their best work. In other words, I have to create an atmosphere where these people feel safe, where they feel respected, and where they feel that they can contribute.”

What Got This Director Here?
: His more political work in the 60s.

My Favorite Past Experience Was…: None had.

What Did I Watch: His paranoia trilogy: Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May, and Seconds.

Where Does He Fit: The Manchurian Candidate may not hang together perfectly thanks to nonsense like that Queen of Diamonds…costume, and the final shooting initially being aimed differently. It also has a male cast that can best be described as flat if we are being charitable, but when the work behind the camera is this propulsive and in tune with the anxieties of the Cold War, who cares? Much more important is the horrifying monster mother played by Angela Lansbury, Eleanor Iselin, a card toting agent whose solitaire tricks are what drives us all mad. The movie’s personality mutates, and it hypnotizes right down to the downer ending.

Fredric March was starting to look a bit worn out by the time he got his final Oscar nomination 13 years prior to Seven Days in May for Death of a Salesman, and it’s put to good use here as he plays the President, a weary and unpopular man who wants to disarm nuclear weapons on both sides when dealing with Russia. A coup is coming, and it’s all wrong for the country, but would it really be such a bad thing in a slightly different context? The closeups are distinctive, and the talkative nature is productive to the goings on.


Seconds sees Frankenheimer going into allegorical territory and taking James Wong Howe along with him as they create one of the most unnerving movies ever made, with photography that portrays a series of worlds trapped in bubbles with how distorted the lenses are. Everything is horrible and the American Dream is a corrupt text, but no one is willing to acknowledge this except maybe for a few brief seconds at the end. Would we all really turn down the chance to look like Rock Hudson and live a life of decadence? Hard to say, but all our problems seem all-encompassing.


Most Valuable Asset: Lean and politically mean.
Most Excited For: The Train.
Did They Deserve a Spot?: He’s a three hit wonder at worst and very talented at best. Sure.

Coming Up Next: Bob Rafelson, who quickly fell out of favor.


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