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.