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Seven Days in May (1964)

1 rating: 5.0
Classics movie

John Frankenheimer's follow-up toThe Manchurian Candidateis as intimate and subdued as its predecessor is flamboyant and energetic. Burt Lancaster is calm and calculating as the steely-eyed military hawk General Scott, who opposes the president's (Fredric … see full wiki

Tags: Movies
Genre: Classics
1 review about Seven Days in May (1964)

Crisp and Compelling Drama

  • Jul 23, 2003
For whatever reasons, I am intrigued by films and television programs which offer recreations of Presidential activities which are presumably authentic. The West Wing, for example, as well as The American President and this film. Produced by Kirk Douglas and directed by John Frankenheimer, Seven Days in May is based on a hypothetical and perhaps plausible idea: During the Cold War, a cabal of senior-level officers in the United States military services led by General Robert Mattoon Scott (Lancaster) secretly plan a coup by which to remove President Jordan Lyman (March) who is perceived to be "soft" on Communism, indeed naive as he stubbornly pursues policies which (the officers fear) would render their beloved nation impotent to foreign domination. Kept highly secret for obvious reasons, the coup preparations have been underway for quite some time as the film begins. Douglas plays Colonel Martin ("Jiggs") Casey, a Marine officer who reports directly to General Scott. Casey views Scott (as do countless others) as a great American patriot. As portrayed by Lancaster, he is indeed impressive. At times intimidating. Scott's brilliant mind is wholly free of any second thoughts, either about himself or about the course on which he proceeds. He would vigorously deny the accusation that he and his coup associates are committing treason.

Inadvertently, Casey learns about the coup and at first refuses to believe it. Loyal to Scott and methodical by nature, he begins to gather the salient facts like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle (no pun intended), dreading the image which begins to emerge. At this point, it would be a disservice to those who have not as yet seen the film to reveal any more about the narrative. Suffice to say that Frankenheimer brilliantly increases the tension as President Jordan and his associates (who include a reluctant Colonel Casey) scramble to prevent the coup. The acting is consistently outstanding. The events preceding the inevitable climax are credible (including some unexpected luck which does not seem to me farfetched), and the film concludes with style and grace. It is worth noting that Rod Serling wrote the screenplay, based on a best-selling novel co-authored by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Waldo Bailey II. Also, that Ava Gardner skillfully plays a small but essential role as Eleanor Holbrook. This is not a thriller, much less a chiller. Rather, the film offers an especially interesting story, well-told. It has lost little (if any) of its dramatic impact during the almost 40 years since its initial release. Thoughtful and thought-provoking entertainment is always appreciated, whenever and wherever we may find it.

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