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Seven Days in May (B&W) [VHS]
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Product Description

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

Customer Reviews:

  • 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....more info
    This is an excellent film that is just as current now as it was when it came out during the early 1960's. This is a graphic example of manipulation, old boys clubs, tainted politics and even loose canons in positions of military leadership. It even lends one to take a closer look at political leaders who have military experience in their backgrounds because this often leads to gunboat diplomacy and the big stick stigma. The cloak and dagger cliches are also found throughout the movie.

    There is an outstanding cast with Kirk Douglas as an investigative boatrocker with not one ounce of quit in his bones. Burt Lancaster is also very convincing as the general who wants to be a modern Caesar. Ava Gardner is also charming as the female who travels in all the circles of power. These characters are very evident in any society. It strengthens the argument to seperate military and civilian leadership from each other because the passions will always run deep.

    The film should be required viewing for all military officers. ...more info
  • More Plausable Than Ever Before
    Quite by accident, several years ago, I stumbled across the Seven Days in May on the telly. I stopped for a moment and in an instant was completely pulled into this film. Brilliantly written, acted, and directed, it is nothing short of a modern masterpiece.
    At the time it was just a very good film, unlikely but perhaps plausable... Now, as the checks and balances of the American constitution are rapidly being eroded, it becomes more believable, and considerably more frightening. If you've seen the remake you must see this original, because as originals most often are, this is far superior.
    Recommended for those with an interest in politics, history-buffs, and every fan of well crafted film!...more info
    Army chief of staff Scott(Lancaster) is sick and tired of his Cmdr-in-Chief(March)and is going to do something about it on Preakness Sunday.Operating out of a secret base in Texas, Scott and the other Joint Chiefs are simply going to seize control of all United States communications and proclaim Scott as President.It seems to the military that President Lyman is too soft on communism and only Scott can lead the nation properly. Enter Douglas,rushing to the White House to warn the president, as the ever dependable Balsam is dispatched overseas to elicit a written confession from Navy chieftain Houseman.Look for Gardner to play a key role in delivering demeaning letters written by Scott, letters that Lyman refuses to use even when disaster befalls Balsam.What we have here is a political and psychological thriller that maintains interest throughout.With a cast such as this, no wonder!...more info
    Yes, with the right ingredients, it could. All those military coups going on in other countries and all the unrest in the world, you can easily assert...yes, it could happen here. The unthinkable dread of a military takeover. SEVEN DAYS IN MAY is more than a great film. It is a reminder for us to take a minute and be thankful that a takeover hasn't happened here and hope such an event won't take place....more info
  • Seven Days in May
    Two years after "The Manchurian Candidate," director Frankenheimer scored again with this gripping political thriller. Beyond serving as a showcase for two frequently paired stars- Lancaster as power-mad general, Douglas as principled whistle-blower--the movie works because in the context of the paranoic Cold War era, the premise feels all-too-plausible. Stark black-and-white photography and brisk pacing only add to the film's breathless tension....more info
  • A Believable Political Thriller
    Here is a film that just might be less effective were it filmed in color. Built around a not-so-improbable scenario involving a plan by a powerful, popular, and charismatic Air Force Four-Star General to take over the US government during the Cold War, the story certainly has a "dark side." The cast of the film is obviously top-notch, as the published synopsis shows, and the roles are played with exceptional believability.

    In this review, I will not cover the story line, just in case there are those out there who have not viewed the film. But I have rarely seen an entire cast who have played their roles with such evenness and veracity, despite the intensity of the story. With other actors, the potential for over-acting would be tremendous. It develops quickly and has enough twists and turns to suggest an Agatha Christie connection. ...more info
  • Frightening
    This film is remarkable and far better than the updated version from a few years back. It demonstrates the dangers of politicizing the military and their desire to formulate foreign policy.

    Though I first viewed it many years ago, it is still fresh and "edge-of-the-seat" exciting....more info
  • 7 days in may
    excellent movie based on a best selling book. douglas and lancaster really relate to each other as to how the american military gets involved in the political system....more info
  • Drama of the Highest Order
    It rarely gets better than this. The cast is stellar, near unbelievable: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Frederic March, Edmond O'Brien, Martin Balsam AND Ava Gardner - with John Houseman, Andrew Duggan and Hugh Marlowe in supporting roles. John Frankenheimer's direction, in black and white, captures the Cold War era in a remarkable way. If that is not enough, the script, by Rod Serling, is literate and crackles. This is a thinking person's film - could there be a military plot to overthrow the government? In the film, the dispute is between a pro-nuclear disarmament President (March) and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (Lancaster). You do not have to be sympathetic with the apparent politics of the film in order to enjoy this - the twists and tensions are terrific. It may very well be that they do not make movies like this anymore - if bang-bang special effects are what you are looking for, this is not it. If gold-plated dialogue, great actors and a serious subject for thought are what you are looking for, you could hardly do better than Seven Days in May, certainly among the great films of the post - WW II era....more info
  • A classic of it's kind
    A superb example of a great political thriller. Director Frankenheimer had just completed "the Manchurian Candidate", and with a great script from Rod Serling, a stellar cast helmed by Dougals and Lancaster, made a brilliant what-if of American history. As we are learning today, our cherised freedoms do, as the movie says "rest on the point of the Washington Mounument, ready to fall to the pavement below". A superb film, and one that shows where we were a a people not to long ago, and where, if we are not careful, we could wind up again. ...more info
  • 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 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...more info

  • JFK assassination
    JFK knew about this film as it was being filmed which concerns a military coup. It was release after the real military coup which took JFK's life....more info
  • Great movie (but not his best) and superb DVD
    Though it's not quite as good as "The Manchurian Candidate," this is still an outstanding movie. John Frankenheimer's adept direction and Rod Serling's literate, nuanced script complement the fine work of a brilliant cast. And unlike most of the nuclear war flicks of the '60s, "Seven Days" avoids the preachiness and propaganda that run through the bulk of the genre.

    The DVD equals the film in quality. The print appears flawless, and the sound is as good as can be expected from a 60's era movie. Special features include a theatrical trailer, some brief production notes, and a detailed, informative commentary from Frankenheimer. He includes all kinds of fun details about the making of the movie. (Ex: rather than building gigantic sets to represent the infinite cooridors of the Pentagon, the crew built a V-shaped corridor, and hired midgets to walk back and forth across the corridor, creating the illusion of distance.) (Ex #2: the intensity of the performances might have something to do with the Cuban Missle Crisis taking place during filming.)

    My only quibble is that Frankenheimer apparently had a cold when he taped the commentary, because he sounds congested. It's distracting at first, but otherwise it's a first-rate commentary.

    One bit of trivia: Leonard Maltin notes this film marks John Houseman's screen debut, but there are two other sightings: Leonard Nimoy in an uncredited role, and I could be wrong, but I could swear I saw Robert Mitchum in a non-speaking cameo as a U.S. Senator....more info
  • 3 stars out of 4
    The Bottom Line:

    Though the movie suffers a bit when Lancaster is offscreen and the viewer never gets the impression that the situation is dire enough for a coup, Seven Days in May is a decent political thriller....more info
  • 7 days in 2 hours
    A well written and well casted political thriller drama. The characters are quite believable. The tension gets so thick you can cut it with a knife. At issue is the attempted takeover of the government by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs fo Staff. The motivation of these characters is not personal glorification, but loyalty and patriotism. This movie has philosophical weightiness to it but does not beat you over the head with it....more info
  • Classic- Government Conspiracy
    I found this to be a great movie. I had never heard of it before ordering. It is about government conspiracy before conspiracy theories became popular....more info

    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.


    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.


    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.


    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!


    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....more info
  • Seven Days in May
    If you have heard about Blackwater, the mercenary military President Bush bought with our hard earned tax dollars you will appreciate this movie. The acting is outstanding and the story could be written from today's news. Keep in mind that the employed mercenaries of Blackwater get paid better wages to fight then our own legal military and Blackwater has much better equipment. This lovely group of men could actually take over our government, they have enough power to do it. ...more info
    Beautiful cinematography a la Missiles of October and Threads...great suspense/political won't be disappointed. You won't soon forget it....more info
  • It Could Happen.....if
    If it weren't for the checks and balances written out by our Founding Fathers. Wow! A great political thriller that is stunningly so real! Always loved this film and a great job done by Burt. I can't think of no one else but him to portray General Scott....more info