As written in Richard Condon’s hilariously overheated novel, Eleanor Iselin is Woman Macbeth armed with Gertrude’s incestuous intercourse drive. This ain’t hamartia — it is power. And it is solely an eleventh-hour, deus-ex-machina second of readability that compels Shaw to homicide his mom and step-father. As presented by screenwriter George Axelrod, Eleanor’s sexual affection for Shaw is acknowledged however by no means consummated. It really works higher this fashion. You sense that Eleanor has actually overplayed her hand (Shaw’s murderous instincts are activated by the Queen of Diamonds), however you doubt the younger man’s resolve — and this doubt is wholly predicated on Lansbury’s efficiency.
Lansbury’s Eleanor is a gloriously evil reptile. She holds in her arms not simply the destiny of her cuckolded husband and addled son, however the international stability of energy. She has efficiently, by years of coordination with the Soviets, orchestrated a palace coup. As soon as her drunken blowhard of a partner assumes energy, she’ll name the pictures and destroy her enemies. For her, the US shouldn’t be sufficient, and that is the kicker — she didn’t know Shaw had been brainwashed.
It’s, as Roger Ebert noted in his Nice Motion pictures essay, a reckless, seemingly illogical transfer on Russia’s half. However in fact these Kremlin baddies underestimated Eleanor.