""Seven Days in May" was a so-so book that John Frankenheimer turned into an absolutely brilliant movie. It's an excellent cold-war drama, made at a time when tension between this country and the Soviet Union was at boiling point. At the center of the story is President Jordan Lyman, a well-meaning, somewhat naive chief executive who has pushed through a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets, which most of the country, and all of the military, fear the Soviets have no intention of honoring. The stage is set for a political confrontation between the president's supporters, who feel they must back him whatever their private apprehensions, and his opponents, who fear he is selling the country out. Enter at this point a career soldier with political ambitions, General James Scott, who plans to put his enormous popularity to work in devising a scheme that he thinks will save his country, which is nothing less than a military plot to overthrow the government. However, loose lips can sink a ship, and a few chance words reach the ears of Colonel Jiggs Casey, a Marine torn between his loyalty to his general, General Scott, and his commander in chief, president Lyman. What makes a good soldier, and what makes a true patriot? That is the dilemma Casey has to come to grips with as he realizes that the clock is ticking, the plot is underway, and there are less than seven days left before something very big goes down. The movie has minimal action and a lot of dialogue, but the tension is maintained nicely throughout, and the acting is uniformly excellent. Among the excellent cast, the standouts are Frederic March as the president, Burt Lancaster as General Scott, Kirk Douglas in one of his finest roles as Colonel Casey, and Ava Gardner, still drop-dead gorgeous, as Scott's cast-off mistress, drowning herself in booze, self-pity and resentment. The final verbal confrontation between Casey and Scott near the movie's end is one of the best I've ever witnessed on film. The movie grabs hold of you from the opening frames and keeps you riveted right to the end, all the while making you wonder, could it really happen here? Let's hope we never find out..."
Classic movie of the Cold War
Alan R. Holyoak | 07/25/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Seven Days in May" is a gripping political drama surrounding efforts of an American President to eliminate stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the midst of the cold war. He is opposed by a demagogic army general (B. Lancaster), whose chief of staff is a marine colonel (K. Douglas).Tactile suspense develops as clues about behind the scenes military activities pop up here and there that lead one to guess that plans are in effect that could undermine the basic principles of self-government upon which the US Constitution is based. Tensions of the cold war years are presented and preserved in this film, filmed and presented in black and white. As you watch this film you will notice that the special effects are not what they are today (there are few of them, anyway), since the center of this movie is philosophical rather than a visceral viewing experience. And that's fine...you will, regardless, find yourself drawn into the story as the plans of the primary protagonist (the president), and his antagonist (the army general) face off. This is top-notch drama. The most important figure in the film is Douglas, who is caught between loyalty to his superior officer and his loyalty to the constitution and to his country. This film explores gray areas...come along for the ride. This is the sort of film that makes you wonder if this kind of event may actually have taken place.While this film is excellent, it may not be for everyone. If you are someone who must have non-stop action, explosions (a la "The Terminator" etc.), then this film is NOT for you. If you are a thoughtful viewer though, you will thoroughly enjoy this gripping film.5 stars all the way for the story, character development, acting, and dramatic suspense.Don't miss this film!Alan Holyoak"
An All Too Real Thriller
James L. | 04/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There were a number of excellent political thrillers in the Sixties, and Seven Days in May is one of the best. Fredric March stars as the President who is trying to push through a nuclear disarmament treaty, but he is meeting a lot of resistance. Chief among them is General Burt Lancaster, who has decided to take over the government to continue building America's military. Lancaster has developed an elaborate plan for his takeover, but his assistant, Kirk Douglas, has been left out. When Douglas begins to suspect something, the tension starts to rise. The plot sounds incredible, yet as written by the great Rod Serling and directed by John Frankenheimer, it is only too believable. The performances are all top notch by the stars, while Ava Gardner as Lancaster's former mistress and Edmond O'Brien as an alcoholic senator supporting the treaty shine in supporting roles. This is a smart movie that will take you back to a time not long ago when the Cold War had paralyzed the world. This is the kind of intelligent, tense thriller I wish we could see more of these days."
Powerful and Provocative
Bud Garner | Ft. Worth TX | 12/21/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas pitted against each other under the direction of John Frankenheimer, this movie could not be less than excellent. In the daily friction that often exists between the military and executive branches, this movie is as timeless as the year it was released shortly after JFK's assination. In a military setting, Douglas's character faithfully serves Lancaster's only to find out he is left on the outside of a master coup d'etat of the United States government.Fredrick March's portrayal of the President is stellar. The tension and emotion generated between these three characters is quality acting rarely achieved. The final confrontation between Douglas and Lancaster is one of the best lines ever recorded in film."
A STRONG ARGUMENT FOR THE CONSTITUTION
Heather L. Parisi | St. Augustine, FL USA | 12/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"IN A NUTSHELL:
This is an absolutely compelling Cold War fable which dramatizes what might have happened had the President adopted a disarmament treaty which threatened the security of the United States in the minds of many Conservatives, including the military.
WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT:
A popular Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Scott [Burt Lancaster] is not about to comply with the terms of a seemingly-disasterous nuclear disarmament treaty. Scott is willing to take immediate action to prevent this from happening and has enlisted a wide variety of "patriots" to assist him in his "conspiracy to overthrow the government". But who are they?
One of Scott's aides and a close friend, Colonel Martin "Jiggs" Casey [Kirk Douglas], discovers hints of a possible plot and brings them to the attention of the President, Jordan Lyman (Fredric March), a "liberal" who Scott later accuses of being a "criminally weak sister".
The film is all about getting solid evidence of a conspiracy, acting on it in a political/legal manner, and avoiding a military coup, which seems imminent throughout the film. How this is averted is what the film is all about. The idea of civilian control is dramatized, emphasized, and re-emphasized through a number characters and scenes. Colonel Casey's repeated assertion that once the decision has been made [by the civilian authority], "we have to go along with it" (despite the widely held view in the Pentagon that the treaty is not a good one), is lucidly presented throughout the film.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
This is a terrific film that emphasizes dialogue and a thought-provoking plot over action. Rod Serling's characterizations are powerful and reminiscent of the Twilight Zone which he also created. Some of the theories, such as Lyman's insistence that the Soviets would immediately attack the United States if the military took over the government, are perhaps scare tactics in much the same way that Scott asserts that the Soviets would violate the treaty, as they have violated all their agreements [according to Scott--NOT history]. Since both viewpoints are dramatized and biased, this balance keeps the film from becoming a political platform representing one side or another. Instead, it emphasizes the absolute necessity of maintaining the civilian government that the Constitution outlined and that we have adhered to ever since.
QUITE A CAST:
This film features a cast reminiscent of Oliver Stone's JFK in its use of very charasmatic figures to credibly suspend disbelief. It was ably directed by John Frankenheimer and written by Rod Serling.
Burt Lancaster - Gen. James M. Scott Kirk Douglas - Col. Martin "Jiggs" Casey Fredric March - President Jordan Lyman Ava Gardner - Eleanor Holbrook Edmond O'Brien - Sen. Raymond Clark Martin Balsam - Paul Girard George Macready - Christopher Todd Whit Bissell - Sen. Prentice Hugh Marlowe - Harold McPherson Richard Anderson - Col. Murdock Andrew Duggan - Col. "Mutt" Henderson John Houseman - Adm. Barnswell
You get a lot of movie for $2,000,000!
ABOUT THE DVD:
This is an excellent Widescreen transfer in Black and White. There are available Subtitles in English and French plus available Audio Tracks in English in Dolby Digital plus Commentary by Director John Frankenheimer. Naturally, it includes the popular "Scene Selector" feature as well."