112 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It could never happen here... or could it??
"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...
Published on November 11, 2002 by JLind555
3.0 out of 5 stars Kirk's Choice...Genius!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I will never comprehend the so called 'charity' of Douglas to defer the JCS Director role to Lancaster. Jigg's character was quintessential to saving the day for the USA! He had a much meatier script, showed stronger character and sensitivity and overall the much better man. How could this be seen as anything but a...
Published 1 day ago by DoMeNiQuE CoE
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112 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It could never happen here... or could it??,
"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...
47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An All Too Real Thriller,
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.
52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic movie of the Cold War,
"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!
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A STRONG ARGUMENT FOR THE CONSTITUTION,
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.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and Provocative,
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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Political Thriller From John Frankenheimer,
President Jordan Lyman: All right, Colonel. Let's sum it up, shall we? You're suggesting what?
Colonel Martin "Jiggs" Casey: I'm not sure, Mr. President: just some possibilities, what we call "capabilities" in military intelligence...
President Lyman: You got something against the English language, Colonel?
Colonel Casey: No, sir.
President Lyman: Then speak it plainly, if you will.
Colonel Casey: I'm suggesting, Mr. President, there's a military plot to take over the government. This may occur some time this coming Sunday.
And we're off on one of the best political thrillers Hollywood has made. Jiggs Casey (Kirk Douglas) works at the Pentagon as an aide to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster). The president, Lyman Jordan (Frederic March) is planning to implement a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets. A large number of the military and not a few politicians are deeply opposed, believing that the treaty will effectively lead to unilateral disarmament by the U.S. A few senior military officers, led by General Scott, plan to do something about it. Casey discovers secret activities leading to Scott that could suggest a military take over of the government. He reluctantly goes to the president with his suspicions. The movie details the struggles of the president and a close circle of his advisors, men he can trust including Casey, to verify the existence of the plot and then to checkmate Scott.
John Frankenheimer, who also directed The Manchurian Candidate with Sinatra, knows how to put together a movie that crackles with energy and tension. Jordan sends his close friend, Senator Raymond Clark (Edmond O'Brien) to the Nevada desert to try to locate a hidden military base where soldiers are being trained to seize communications and energy centers. He sends his press secretary, Paul Girard (Martin Balsam) to the Mediterranean to get a sworn statement from a wily admiral admitting the plot. He has Jiggs Casey continue to work for Scott while looking for any evidence that can implicate Scott directly in the plot, an assignment Casey hates. All these threads weave back and forth until there is enough for Jordan to confront Scott directly...and Scott doesn't back down. The conclusion centers on a televised press conference where, given vital evidence at the last minute, Jordan announces that he's requesting the resignation of Scott and most of the other joint chiefs, speaks of the role of the military to bring honest opinions to the table, but when a decision is made, to support it. He talks about the Constitution. It's a dramatic and effective moment.
The movie was written by Rod Serling. He has Lyman Jordan a couple of times almost slip over into preaching...but not quite. Jordan speaks for decency and the rule of law under the Constitution. Serling does a first rate job.
And so do the actors. March plays the president as an honest but realistic politician, determined to do the right thing regardless of how unpopular it might make him. Lancaster, in my view, has one of his great roles as General Scott. He's dynamic and absolutely sure of himself. Watch Lancaster as he testifies before a senate committee on the treaty. His face is stern and he is absolutely attentive, but he barely suppresses his contempt for the treaty, for the process and for the senators. All the while a finger is impatiently tapping on the table. Douglas is Douglas, sincere and intense. He does a good job. Part of what makes this movie work is how effective the secondary characters are. O'Brien and Balsam are first rate and so are George Macready as a crusty, cynical and trusted advisor and Whit Bissell as an opportunistic Senator. They're all good.
This is a fine movie that is just as involving to watch now as it was when it came out. The DVD transfer is very good.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crisp and Compelling Drama,
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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An overlooked American conspiracy classic!,
By A Customer
Extremely provocative and thought provoking, this movie is diametrically opposed to the political atmosphere of the day. I was totally flabbergasted that a mainstream Hollywood conspiracy thriller, with a large budget and an all-star cast could have been made in 1964 with this kind of plot. (If the film were made in 1974, when the military were being blandly villainised in every movie from "MASH" to "The Andromeda Strain" I would not have been surprised. But in 1964 military men were still being heroised with full cold war propaganda enthusiasm.) "Seven Days in May", together with "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) are in a class all of their own as political commentaries from this era. The fundamental question raised by this movie is `could a military coup d'etat take place in the United States?' I can only conclude that this movie has not gotten the attention that it deserves because too many people have dismissed this question with an all too smug `no.'
"Seven Days in May" breaks all of the predictable Hollywood formulas by casting in the villains role the handsome and dashing Burt Lancaster (General James Matoon Scott), a heroic General (the chairman of the joint chiefs) who, together with the other chiefs, feels that he must temporarily usurp the democratic government of The United States to protect the American people from a naive and faulty nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets. The weak and unpopular lame-duck President (March) is an unlikely hero (by Hollywood standards), as is his ally, a corrupt Georgian Senator (Edmond O' Brien). An aging Ava Gardner is well cast as the Generals jaded mistress. Kirk Douglas gives an excellent performance as the Generals aide, torn between his loyalty to the General and his belief in the democratic process. The only drawback to the movie is that the acting performances are somewhat dwarfed by the scope of the subject matter (a problem Douglas didn't have in `Spartacus.') There are no emotionally charged scenes, just a lot of deadpan political intrigue. But this intrigue is more than enough to hold the audiences attention!
I agree with many of the comments made by Eric Paddon (below) about the movie being a watered-down version of the book. However, since this was a mainstream Hollywood movie from the early sixties, it had to be somewhat simplified for the naive movie audiences of the day. (The movie might have become a little bit TOO ambiguous if the producers had shown that General Scott was right in a practical sense, while President Lyman was right in an ABSOLUTE sense.) Nevertheless I am still amazed by the maturity of its content. I particularly love President Layman's closing speech to the nation, since history has proven it to be true! I highly recommend this movie for all audiences.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The enemies are inside the walls,
John Frankenheimer followed up his 1962 cult classic THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE with SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, a very sobering but nevertheless gripping Cold War political thriller that remains interesting from start to finish.
The president (Frederic March) is about to sign a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union in order to ease tensions between the superpowers. But the Soviets have had a history of renegging, and this prompts March's poll numbers to go through the floor. It also opens the door for General James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster), a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to plan a coup d'etat against March.
The only problem is, though, that a dedicated underling (Kirk Douglas) has gotten wind of the attempt. At the moment, Douglas has no hard proof on him, only whisperings of a secret base or operation known as ECOMCON. But it is enough to get March to consider the possibility, and he gets his closest friends, including a congenial but inebriated Georgia senator (Edmond O'Brien) to investigate.
When the proof is presented to March, he realizes that this coup is not just being caused by Lancaster's men, it is caused by the age in which we live--a nuclear age. The superbly mounted confrontation between March and Lancaster in the Oval Office in which March reveals his hand is one of the great dramatic moments of 1960s cinema.
All the performances in SEVEN DAYS IN MAY are brilliant, and Frankenheimer's direction is appropriately suspenseful in the best Hitchcock tradition. The Charles Bailey/Fletcher Knebel novel upon which this film is based was excellently adapted to the screen by Rod Serling; and while there is a moral tone to the film, it is never heavy-handed. Jerry Goldsmith's fine score tops everything off.
Next to THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, DOCTOR STRANGELOVE, and FAIL SAFE, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY is an essential Cold War drama that, despite the fact that the Cold War acutally ended over a decade ago, has lost none of its punch.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Huge cast makes it real.,
Seven Days in May has everything going for it - directed by John Frankenheimer from a screenplay by Rod Serling with an all star cast including a number of great character actors such as Edmond O'Brien (D.O.A.), Martin Balsam (12 Angry Men), Whit Bissell (Trial), Hugh Marlowe (Come to the Stable), Richard Anderson (Six Million Dollar Man), John Houseman (Paper Chase), George Macready (Gilda), Victor Buono (King Tut on Batman), Andrew Duggan, and even Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) in a bit part, all in addition to the stars - Douglas and Lancaster, Fredric March (A Star Is Born) and Ava Gardner. Douglas plays a Colonel at the Pentagon who finds evidence that his boss, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Burt Lancaster), is plotting to overthrow the government. Concerned that the President's (Fredric March) new treaty with the Soviets has enervated the defense of the USA, Lancaster devised a scheme to kidnap the president during a military alert, and take over the nation's communication systems - primarily the major TV networks. Douglas goes to the president and convinces him to at least look into his suspicions. You'd think the plot could be easily foiled at this point, but the president's few trusted friends each run into trouble trying to get the proof to stop Lancaster. If you like movies about national consipiracies, like Twilight's Last Gleaming and The Pelican Brief, or just political thrillers like The Sum of All Fears, Seven Days in May is one of the earliest major examples, along with The Manchurian Candidate. It's pulled off well, made realistic by the competent actors in every role.
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