Seven Days in May (1964)

Seven Days in May (1964), directed by John Frankenheimer.

First review

My favorite political thriller. Notice how important black & white has always been in this genre? Perhaps because it seems more serious than color, but I also think they are trying to evoke the 1950s television look, when most people started watching congressional hearings and presidential news conferences live.

It is also curious that although the military coup conspiracy has been a favorite plot in fiction and film, I am not aware of a hint of anything like that actually occurring in US history. During the Civil War I suspect Gen. McClellan's army would have marched on Washington if he had told them to, but he didn't (and they wouldn't have been able to keep it anyway).

I've never seen a more presidential performance than Fredric March, or a more steely would-be Napoleon than Burt Lancaster. Kirk Douglas and Edmond O'Brien are both very fine, and Ava Gardner still has those eyes; even with circles under them it's jump back or fall in.

Rod Serling screenplay; the dialog sometimes sounds like him. Jerry Goldsmith score.

Second review

A nice mix of detective story and political thriller, my favorite. How quickly can Kirk Douglas come to believe that a military coup is scheduled for the weekend, how to convince the president, and how to stop it?

It's a great cast but the two utterly believable performances are Fredric March as the President and Martin Balsam as his chief of staff. They could be those people.

Burt Lancaster is the perfect soldier, brave, precise and scrupulously if pointedly polite, but also our egomaniac villain.

Ava Gardner is a love-lorn ex-girlfriend and Edmond O'Brien the hard-drinking senior senator from Georgia who is on the side of the angels.

John Houseman had been a long-time producer. At age 62 he got his first real acting part as the patrician admiral who will only bet on a sure thing.

Screenplay by Rod Serling; now and then I can hear his voice when the characters start to lecture.

Jerry Goldsmith score.

Available on DVD with a relaxed, conversational commentary track by the director. As always he lavishes praise on his cast and crew. He collects people who are dedicated and hard working. He says:

Where's the Blu-ray? (Later: available)