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Seven Days in May (Widescreen)

Burt Lancaster , Kirk Douglas , John Frankenheimer    PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
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John Frankenheimer's follow-up to The Manchurian Candidate is 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 March) plan to end the cold war with a bold nuclear disarmament plan. Lancaster's longtime friend and frequent costar Kirk Douglas is his smiling, joking right-hand man, Colonel "Jiggs" Casey, whose easygoing manner is jolted by evidence of a possible plot to overthrow the American government. Scripted by Rod Serling from the novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey, the film plays much like a classic live TV drama (the medium that spawned both Frankenheimer and Serling), with the drama arising from conversations and confrontations and the action largely limited to scenes within the Pentagon and the White House. An ominous undercurrent of danger seeps through the realistic (and often real) settings of the film, conveyed chiefly through the intensity of the excellent ensemble performances. Notable among the supporting cast are Ava Gardner as a lonely Washington socialite who was once the general's mistress, Edmond O'Brien as an amiable alcoholic senator, Martin Balsam as the president's shrewd but skeptical secretary, and underrated character actor George Macready as the wily presidential advisor. --Sean Axmaker

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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hidden gem Feb. 12 2003
By Greg
Seven Days in May is a wonderful cold-war suspense drama that looks superb on DVD. It features excellent acting and a truly unique and riveting storyline. The story, written primarily by Rod Serling (he of the Twilight Zone), describes the events leading up to a near-military coup within the U.S. at the height of the cold war. Given that the U.S. represents the largest fully democratic system of government on Earth, a military coup would usually be unthinkable. However, Serling makes the possibility semi-plausible: an unpopular pacifistic president, the threat of nuclear war, and a rising military star who is revered by the joint chiefs.
The acting is amazing. Lancaster and Douglas are at their very best here. And Frederic March easily gives the best portrayal of any U.S. president in a movie. He shows exactly the right mix of emotions: you see his leadership skills, his diplomacy skills, and even his own weaknesses. Two amazing scenes stand out: the one between Douglas and March where the coup is revealed and the one between March and Lancaster near the end of the film. Martin Balsam and John Houseman are equally convincing -- the latter actor only appears for a short time onscreen, but milks the time for all its worth.
The DVD is worth purchasing for 2 reasons. The picture quality is great and the movie looks crisp in its original 1:85:1 ratio. The second reason is that you get to hear the excellent commentary of the late John Frankenheimer, who goes into extraordinary detail about the scenes. He even relates one story where his ex-wife noticed a set decoration in apartment owned by Ava Gardener's character that Frankenheimer stole from the house they shared together -- it's a total crack up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A cold war general with god-like pretensions. July 1 2004
Format:VHS Tape
That is General James Matoon Scott, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, played by Burt Lancaster. He is dismissive & looks down on everyone including the president whom he despises for his perceived weakness. The President (Fredrick March) has decided to unilaterally disarm our nuclear weapons. General Scott will attempt to seize power. This concerns Col. "Jiggs" Casey, (Kirk Douglas) Scott's chief of staff & best friend. Douglas's character is the key. He informs the president of the plot, as it becomes known to him & contacts Scott's old mistress (Ava Gardner). Edmund O'Brien won an Oscar as the president's best friend, a drunken southern senator. Rounding out the fine cast is Martin Balsam as a presidential advisor. The suspense builds as they attempt to stop the coup. No special effects here, very little action of any kind.
Frankenheimer has a more subtle touch in this movie, the follow-up to the Manchrian Canidate. This one is not quite as good but still an engossing flick.
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5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT POLITICAL THRILLER June 6 2004
One year after "The Manchurian Candidate", John Frankenheimer was back at it with "Seven Days in May", screenwritten by "Twi-Light Zone" creator Rod Serling. Serling's "Zone's" were a masterpiece of semi-liberal social conscience. Frankenheimer seized on another 1950s novel based on the real events of 1934, in which Republican industrialists recruited Marine hero Smedley Butler to orchestrate a coup d'etat against FDR. The novel and Frankenheimer's film fictionalize the event. It was, again, one of the best movies ever made, but completely liberal. Frankly, I have to ask why in 1963 the decision was made to examine a political conspiracy from 1934 when the worst political crime in U.S. history, the stealing of the 1960 election by Kennedy over Nixon, had occurred just three years prior. The answer to that question, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.
After JFK's assassination, "The Manchurian Candidate" was pulled because it hit too close to home, but in June, 1968 RFK was staying at Frankenheimer's Malibu home the night of the California Primary. He was tired and wanted to stay there. The enthusiasm of his victory that night convinced him to make the long drive on a twisting, turning Pacific Coast Highway, up the Santa Monica Freeway to downtown Los Angeles, where Sirhan Sirhan was waiting for him with a gun at the Ambassador Hotel.
Kirk Douglas is the Butler character In "Seven Days In May", an upright Marine whose politics are explained early by a fellow officer who says to him, "I though you'd be an ACLU lawyer by now, protecting the great unwashed." Douglas describes this officer as the kind who would be better suited for an army that goosesteps. Good dialogue, though. Burt Lancaster is the right wing Air Force General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Political Thriller Jan. 27 2004
By David
John Frankenheimer's masterpiece is probably one of the best political thrillers of all time. Burt Lancaster is superb in the role of General James Matoon Scott, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, and chief conspirator of a plot to overthrow the United States government after a weak-kneed President, played wonderfully by Frederic March, signs a disarmament treaty with the Russians.
Helping foil the plot is General Scott's aide, Colonel Jiggs Casey, played by Kirk Douglas. Intrigue, deception, and treachery are played out against a backdrop of Washington offices and political seats of power. Edmund O'Brien, Martin Balsam, and Ava Gardner all add significant performances in the film.
I was also very impressed with the way the military was portrayed with regard to uniforms and behavior--especially Lancaster's character. Very realistic indeed. Rumor has it that Frankenheimer wanted to shoot some scenes in the actual Pentagon but was turned down (probably because of the heretical subject of the movie).
The tense story starts a bit slowly, but the tension builds as more the plot is revealed. The ending is very credible.
I really like movies where Lancaster and Douglas are paired, and this is my favorite of them.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars "Seven Days In May (1964) ... Lancaster & Douglas ... John...
Seven Arts Productions presents "SEVEN DAYS IN MAY" (1964) (118 min/B&W) -- Starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Frederic March, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien & Martin Balsam... Read more
Published on April 29 2011 by J. Lovins
4.0 out of 5 stars Great acting with a good story line
Simply put, Lancaster's and Douglas's acting are enough to give this movie excellent ratings. The story line of course is very relevant to today's events where a pacifist President... Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2010 by Winston
2.0 out of 5 stars Mayday
Funny how both conservatives and liberals can cook up their own paranoid fantasies from the same sets of facts. Read more
Published on July 5 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars This is How Movies Should be Made
I'd been meaning to see this film for many years and finally did last year in our local photography museum's theater. Read more
Published on Oct. 16 2003 by Sure Thing
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Stark Thriller from John Frankenheimer
John Frankenheimer (who died not very long ago) left us with a terrific repertoire of films, yet I don't hear his name mentioned often in discussions about influential American... Read more
Published on Aug. 11 2003 by brewster22
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. Read more
Published on July 23 2003 by Robert Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars It could have happened
This is one of the great Cold War movies made during the '50's and '60's, and, like Fail Safe and Dr. Read more
Published on June 11 2003 by B. Causey
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes me want to stand up and salute
"Seven Days In May" has an impressive cast list, great direction, and great story.
For the MTV generation, this would probably be very boring as it relies on... Read more
Published on June 5 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Filled with Suspense and Drama
This movie is dated, and anyone who didn't live through some part of the Cold War may not feel the full effect, but it is filled with suspense and drama. Read more
Published on April 14 2003 by Anthony Duca
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