Seven Days in May
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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:

  • Brilliant, subtle, and thought-provoking.
    This is a wonderful movie. The subject is simple: at the height of the Cold War there is a military plot to seize control of the US government. The storyline is complex, but nevertheless does not drag. The movie manages rather to proceed gradually but steadily to its hard-hitting conclusion. The movie keeps the momentum going without much in the way of extraneous material. Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas both turn in fine performances. The supporting cast is of similar caliber.

    The most frightening thing about the movie is that it manages to make a pretty good case that such a thing could actually happen. Let's all hope the military has enough fine officers like Kirk Douglas in this film to prevent it from happening!

    This movie retains a wonderful feeling of authenticity. It is filmed in black and white which possibly adds to that, and also to the 1960s-era theme.

    This one is a keeper. You'll watch it more than once....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
  • 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
  • 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......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
    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
  • 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. The casting for this movie was perfect, with Fredrick March as the frail looking President Lymon, who manages to show the great strength contained within; Burt Lancaster as General Scott, who gives off an commanding aura of strength and purpose; and Kurt Douglas as Colonel Jiggs Casey, who is torn between duty and loyalty. Great supporting cast as well. This movie also makes you think, and at the end you'll be wondering, could something like this really happen?...more info
  • 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 directors. "Seven Days in May" seems to be all but forgotten; at least, I don't know anyone who's seen it or even heard of it. But it's a terrific political intrigue film, its impact lessened only somewhat by the release of "The Manchurian Candidate" two years earlier.

    There's no mistaking the John Frankenheimer style: the sharp black and white cinematography, stark sets and lighting, claustrophobic compositions. Faces are framed in extreme close-up to completely dominate the screen. He uses deep focus effectively; two characters will be having a conversation in the foreground, but a third will be constantly in view in the background, as if to suggest that every whispered secret has the potential to be overheard.

    This style is fabulously on display in "Candidate" and is reprised here in "Seven Days in May." Frankenheimer makes great use in both films of TV screens: a character will be simultaneously in view of the film's camera and projected on a screen within the world of the film, giving the movie viewer different angles of the same scene both literally and figuratively; since media plays a role so frequently in his movies, Frankenheimer constantly draws our attention to its existence and the power it has to manipulate what we perceive to be the truth.

    As for the performances, there is no improving on Fredric March's understated interpretation of an ailing president, stuck in the dilemma of acting in what he thinks is the country's best interests even though the country itself is rejecting his beliefs. Burt Lancaster does his usual steely Burt Lancaster thing as the film's villain and Kirk Douglas meets him line for line as a subordinate who begins to doubt his boss's integrity. Ava Gardner gives a somewhat weird performance as the film's lone female character; she walks through the film as if drugged, but it works. And Edmond O'Brien won an Oscar nomination as a hot-tempered southern senator and friend to the president, somewhat curious since March's performance of all of them seems ripe for Academy consideration.

    "Seven Days in May" isn't as taut a film as "The Manchurian Candidate," and it's more heavy handed in its political agenda (this severely dates the film), but it's still a rousing good time and comes highly recommended.

    Grade: A-...more info

  • 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. They used the DVD and I was not only very impressed with the film itself, but the quality of the DVD's image projected on the big screen as well. This was one of those times where I left the theater saying to myself, "Now THAT'S how movies should be made!" I feel Leonard Maltin's review is sufficient; I will only add that some of the rocket models (intermingled with scale models of real ones) used to decorate Gen. Scott (Burt Lancaster)'s office and the Senate hearing room looked like cheap props out of bad science fiction movies, but that was only a minor distraction for me. Lancaster's character was quite frightening, Fredric March made a believable President of the United States, Edmond O'Brien turns in another great character performance (this time as a Senator from Georgia), and the title sequence (reportedly by Saul Bass) coupled with Jerry Goldsmith's score is quite dramatic. And I found it amusing that Kirk Douglas (Col. Casey) once again crossed swords with George MacReady (Sec'y. Todd) and Richard Anderson (Col. Murdock) as he previously did in "Paths of Glory!"

    My only complaint with the DVD is that it did not have more in the way of supplemental features, especially more complete cast information than was provided in the film itself. I was interested in knowing who other actors in minor roles were since a good many of them are not listed at all (most notably John Houseman as Adm. Barnswell); I ended up having to go to the Internet Movie Database for that. Other than that (and a few other very minor technical nitpicks in the plot), this is indeed a true classic and I'm proud to have it in my collection....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
  • Fabulous Political Thriller
    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....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
    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. He is modeled after Curtis LeMay, although the Lancaster swagger and charisma make him far more appealing. Frederick March is President Jordan Lyman, an ardent liberal who has just signed a peace treaty with the Soviets that presumably dismantles much of our nuclear arsenal. Lancaster does not trust the Soviet will honor their end of the bargain. Therefore he is convinced they will strike and America will be lost. A U.S. Senator is in on Lancaster's plot to take over the Presidency. They make him from California just to make sure he is affiliated with Dick Nixon. Nice touch. The public is solidly against the President, fueled by a right wing radio host in a prescient script device. In the end, the "protector of the great unwashed," Douglas, foils the plot and March's speech to the D.C. press corps is met by a standing ovation. Oh, those evil militarists and Republicans.

    (...)...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
  • A hidden gem
    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....more info

  • 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....more info
  • DVD - Military Take Over
    An excellent review of what Military banch trys to take over executive branch. Black and White Start Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas ---- I worn out 3 rd of copy...... ...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
  • 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. Strangelove, it does an excellent job of showing how screwed up the anti-communist mindset became during those years....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
  • Still works today
    Some of the best actors in Hollywood are in this film, but the best performance, as far as I am concerned is by Burt Lancaster. When I read this book and saw the movie as a teenager, it scared me to death to think how easy it would have been to topple our government. I would highly recommend this movie for any age range, with the caveat that reading the book first would enhance the experience. ...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
  • Underrated Early Frankenheimer
    "The Manchurian Candidate," another John Frankenheimer film which preceded "Seven Days In May" by two years, has drawn more critical praise, and perhaps deservedly so; its insane assassination plot against a Presidential hopeful is carried off brilliantly. Nonetheless, for my money, this film actually works a bit better, partly because of the fascinating behind-the-scenes look it provides at the workings of the Joint Chiefs and the Oval Office, partly because of a superior cast, and partly because the plot here (to overthrow a sitting President) is more plausible and thus more alarming. The love interest involving Ava Gardner is a bit of a throwaway, which is a shame because it wastes a charismatic actress. The rest of the film, however, is gripping and tightly told, and works in much the same suspense mold as "Candidate." Perhaps the best solution is just to buy them both and treat yourself to a double-feature. You'll never trust your government again (not that many of us do now)....more info
  • Seven Days in May
    Classic political science fiction. The book and the movie are favorites of mine. This is a must see. It could happen here....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