Oswald's Trigger Films: The Manchurian Candidate, We Were Strangers, Suddenly?

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9780964889736: Oswald's Trigger Films: The Manchurian Candidate, We Were Strangers, Suddenly?

This study examines three presidential assassination films in their relation to the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy. They have long been neglected as potential factors in Lee Oswald's motivation. The study presents several major revelations. To begin with, Oswald was definitely very aware of The Manchurian Candidate, from reviews, advertisements, and his daily walks and bus rides right past a Dallas theater (the Palace, on Elm near Ervay) where it played for one month in late 1962. The film then played for another month at other Dallas theaters, including the Texas Theatre near his apartment (the same theater in which he would be arrested on November 22, 1963). Since Oswald's wife Marina later reported that he went to movies alone during the same period, it seems probable that he even saw the film. In any event, within weeks thereafter he bought his fateful rifle, a near-twin of the one featured in the film. In April 1963 he used the rifle when trying to assassinate General Edwin Walker, a nationally-prominent Dallas conservative. The attempt failed, but emboldened Oswald in his militant Marxism. Then, in October 1963, only days after learning that President Kennedy would soon visit Dallas, Oswald definitely saw another presidential assassination film, We Were Strangers (1949). He saw it on television and even watched it twice on the same weekend, October 12-13. Dallas TV guides prove that the film was broadcast twice, Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, during hours when Oswald had access to a television and was known to watch it. Moreover, that December his widow Marina reported that he had seen the film twice. Finally, Oswald did not see a third presidential assassination film, Suddenly (1954, starring Frank Sinatra) in the autumn of 1963, despite some claims to the contrary, but he was also influenced by it, at least indirectly. In sum, this study strongly supports the lone assassin conclusion about Oswald by adding significant copycat factors to it.

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From the Publisher:

Readers should welcome the brevity of this book, which can be read in a single evening (but slowly and carefully, please). The main text of Oswald's Trigger Films is 42 pages long. Most of this is new material, unknown to the field before. Then come 12 pages of notes, including much detailed and, again, new information. On 14 further pages there are 21 illustrations that constitute important evidence in the case. Almost all of these illustrations have been previously published only in works not available to most readers today. The illustrations include relevant Dallas street plans, photographs of relevant sites and objects, a Time Magazine film review of The Manchurian Candidate from Nov. 2, 1962 ("At the climax, he holds in his telescopic sights a U.S. presidential candidate whose death...."), Dallas newspaper advertisements for The Manchurian Candidate (exactly as Oswald himself once saw them), excerpts from rarely seen government documents, and pages from Dallas TV guides proving that We Were Strangers was shown there twice on the weekend of October 12-13, 1963. With such evidence in hand, readers can better judge the case for themselves.

While the book is very focused on its copycat case, its presentation is neatly chronological and includes much background information about the assassination. It therefore serves well both as a specialist study and as a general introduction to the tragedy for any readers unfamiliar with it. Given the large number of wild conspiracy theories still proposed in the field today, this sober yet fresh analysis should be greatly appreciated. Anyone who has ever imitated a specific word, gesture, fashion, or action from a movie should understand the validity of the copycat case.

Of course, some people will deny the strength of the case made in Oswald's Trigger Films. Two noteworthy examples have already made themselves known: Prof. Louis Menand, a book and film reviewer for the New Yorker, and R. Hoberman, a prolific film scholar and film reviewer for the Village Voice.

Professor Menand, writing about The Manchurian Candidate in a September 15, 2003 article (available on-line) in the New Yorker, mentions Oswald's Trigger Films at length, but finally expresses skepticism about its copycat case with regard to The Manchurian Candidate: "What self-respecting assassin [Oswald] would take such a [brainwashed] character for his role model?" But Menand's objection is weak, and comes from a reviewer who loves movies and clearly does not wish any movies implicated in President Kennedy's assassination. The facts are these: Oswald was not yet an assassin, self-respecting or otherwise, before he become well aware of The Manchurian Candidate in late 1962. Nor did he own any guns at that time. He was also an impressionable young man (just 23), prone to copying other people (e.g., his brother Robert). Moreover, the brainwashed movie assassin, Raymond, is a moody loner, who, however, is portrayed as sympathetic and in the end even heroic - precisely through his act of assassination. What an obvious role model for Oswald after all.

Hoberman, writing a review (accessible on-line) of the new film version of The Manchurian Candidate in the U.K. newspaper The Guardian on October 30, 2004, likewise alluded to Oswald's Trigger Films in skeptical terms. He wrote: "There's no proof that Oswald ever saw or even heard of The Manchurian Candidate." The first part of Hoberman's statement, "... no proof that Oswald ever saw....," is correct, but is very misleading, because the second part is completely incorrect. There are indeed abundant proofs that Oswald was massively aware of The Manchurian Candidate in late 1962. Those proofs are documented at length in Oswald's Trigger Films, which Hoberman had presumably read, however superficially, since he alludes to its author. To deny that Oswald was even aware of the film betrays a certain desperation on Hoberman's part, similar to that of Menand. Maybe the only proof that Hoberman would accept is a signed statement by Oswald that he knew of the film. Moreover, those many proofs that Oswald was indeed aware of the film certainly also constitute evidence - not proof, admittedly, but evidence - that he may very well have gone to see the film, too. Even if he did not see it, his reading knowledge of its plot line, including assassinations with pistol and rifle, can only have encouraged him - and perhaps originally inspired him.

Since the 1970s, the copycat phenomenon has been abundantly documented as a significant psychological factor in many instances of youthful violence. Oswald's act, so similar in detail (rifle, window) to that of The Manchurian Candidate, and so similar in purpose (Cuba) to that of We Were Strangers, should now be included among such instances, despite entrenched denials by Hollywood and its loyalists.

From the Author:

Some comments seem appropriate here on Vincent Bugliosi's 2007 book, Reclaiming History. Bugliosi, who rightly defends the lone assassin theory, also recognizes that the copycat factor was a major one among Oswald's motivations. In his main text, p. 765, Bugliosi praises my book Oswald's Trigger Films on that point, and correctly describes Oswald viewing We Were Strangers. Yet, Bugliosi also claims that Oswald saw Suddenly, a claim I refuted in my book. Bugliosi, on pages 389-90 of his end notes on the CD included with his book, acknowledges my finding that We Were Strangers was shown on Dallas TV twice on one weekend in October 1963. That finding partly explained the confused claim that Oswald saw a "second" assassination film that month, supposedly Suddenly. But Bugliosi does not acknowledge this factor, and, while advancing his belief that Oswald also saw Suddenly at that time, he engages in some petty and mistaken criticisms and paraphrasings of me and my book. Why, I have no idea. We don't know each other, have never corresponded, and there was no animosity between us. Anyhow, Bugliosi's mistaken comments, which can only be summarized here (I'm limited in words), are these: "... Loken ... couldn't quite get his ... typewriter to clearly say...."; "... not printed in Loken's book...."; "... he [Loken] pointed out that last-minute substitutions are frequently made in TV showings"; "Oswald could have seen Suddenly on a remote TV station...."; "... we know that Oswald saw Suddenly, ... because Marina accurately described what the movie was about...." Now, anyone who has read Oswald's Trigger Films carefully will realize that all of these comments by Bugliosi are erroneous, pointless, or both. Lesson: Beware the big "authorities"; they sometimes make big mistakes.

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