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Seven Days in May
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Product Description

The clock ticks on a charismatic generals scheme to overthrow the government of an unpopular president. Special features: original theatrical trailer feature-length audio commentary by director john frankenheimer and subtitles in english and french. Studio: Warner Home Video Release Date: 09/19/2000 Starring: Burt Lancaster Fredric March Run time: 117 minutes Rating: Nr Director: John Frankenheimer

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 overlooked American conspiracy classic!
    Extremely provocative and thought provoking, this movie is diametrically opposed to the political atmosphere of the day. I was totally flabbergasted that a mainstream Hollywood conspiracy thriller, with a large budget and an all-star cast could have been made in 1964 with this kind of plot. (If the film were made in 1974, when the military were being blandly villainised in every movie from "MASH" to "The Andromeda Strain" I would not have been surprised. But in 1964 military men were still being heroised with full cold war propaganda enthusiasm.) "Seven Days in May", together with "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) are in a class all of their own as political commentaries from this era. The fundamental question raised by this movie is `could a military coup d'etat take place in the United States?' I can only conclude that this movie has not gotten the attention that it deserves because too many people have dismissed this question with an all too smug `no.'

    "Seven Days in May" breaks all of the predictable Hollywood formulas by casting in the villains role the handsome and dashing Burt Lancaster (General James Matoon Scott), a heroic General (the chairman of the joint chiefs) who, together with the other chiefs, feels that he must temporarily usurp the democratic government of The United States to protect the American people from a naive and faulty nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets. The weak and unpopular lame-duck President (March) is an unlikely hero (by Hollywood standards), as is his ally, a corrupt Georgian Senator (Edmond O' Brien). An aging Ava Gardner is well cast as the Generals jaded mistress. Kirk Douglas gives an excellent performance as the Generals aide, torn between his loyalty to the General and his belief in the democratic process. The only drawback to the movie is that the acting performances are somewhat dwarfed by the scope of the subject matter (a problem Douglas didn't have in `Spartacus.') There are no emotionally charged scenes, just a lot of deadpan political intrigue. But this intrigue is more than enough to hold the audiences attention!

    I agree with many of the comments made by Eric Paddon (below) about the movie being a watered-down version of the book. However, since this was a mainstream Hollywood movie from the early sixties, it had to be somewhat simplified for the naive movie audiences of the day. (The movie might have become a little bit TOO ambiguous if the producers had shown that General Scott was right in a practical sense, while President Lyman was right in an ABSOLUTE sense.) Nevertheless I am still amazed by the maturity of its content. I particularly love President Layman's closing speech to the nation, since history has proven it to be true! I highly recommend this movie for all audiences....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
  • 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
  • A Bit Pretentious
    Maybe I'm just letting my own political bias color my judgment, but it seems to me that this movie has a bit of a pretentious edge that the novel had less of. You can spot the moments right away where Rod Serling decided to pontificate (President Lyman's rattling about the "nuclear age"). I think what amuses me the most though is what this movie left out from the novel. In the novel, President Lyman is forced to confront the fact that the reason behind General Scott's plot, the fear of the Soviets cheating on a disarmament treaty, is borne out completely. In the end, what makes Lyman's appeals to the rule of law powerful are when he points out to Scott that he will end up reacting to this crisis no differently than Scott would upon illegally siezing power. And that is the one thing that is sadly missing from this movie and it's absence hurts the film completely from my standpoint.

    On the plus side, Kirk Douglas is outstanding as Jiggs Casey, whose character is improved from the novel, and there are other fine performances too (Ava Gardner though looks haggard and aged). It's too bad though that Serling's desire for pontificating mars the film from my standpoint....more info

  • Powerful and Provocative
    With Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas pitted against each other under the direction of John Frankenheimer, this movie could not be less than excellent.

    In the daily friction that often exists between the military and executive branches, this movie is as timeless as the year it was released shortly after JFK's assination. In a military setting, Douglas's character faithfully serves Lancaster's only to find out he is left on the outside of a master coup d'etat of the United States government.

    Fredrick March's portrayal of the President is stellar. The tension and emotion generated between these three characters is quality acting rarely achieved. The final confrontation between Douglas and Lancaster is one of the best lines ever recorded in film....more info

  • My favorite movie in 35 years of being a movie fan
    A spellbinding story of the attempted overthrow of the U.S. Government. See this movie, if for no other reason, than to wax nostalgic for a time when filmakers actually thought storyline was an important part of the movie making process.

    Kirk Douglas has the best single line ever spoken in a movie, in the scene at the end where he is confronted by Burt Lancaster....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
  • Superb Thriller With Some Intelligence
    Seven Days In May is indeed Frankenheimer at his best. The plot is provocative and absorbing, the acting is great ( what else would you expect from Lancaster and Douglas? ), and the script is powerful. The suspense is still great after all these years. This film is indeed a lesson on how to make intelligent thrillers....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
  • one of the great movie and novel
    I saw this film in theater, because this was the first novel I had read in English. Though We japanese have different constitution, this film attracted me very much. Col. Casey's charactor seems somewhat different from novel's one. In novel he was close to ordinary citizen tightly tied to his family, so it was great for him to dare his carreer and betray? his boss to follow constitution. So confrontation between douglas and Lancaster is only in film not in novel. The address of POTUS was well prepared and good performance I'd ever seen....more info
  • Too bad they don't make 'em like this anymore!
    This tense, rivetting drama of a possible military takeover still enthralls even though the Cold War is over. This film is a cautionary tale of what can happen if we forget the basic tennets of the American experiment. Kirk Douglas, Frederic March, Burt Lancaster and an all-star supporting cast give strong performances. Highly recommended....more info
  • A great thriller about power and the men who wield it.
    This is one of the best films ever made about the inner-workings of Washington DC and the fragile state of our democracy. Frederic March gives what is inarguably one of the best interpreations of a US President ever put on film. By the end of the movie you'll swear there once was a President Lyman....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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Great as ever
    I first saw this movie in 1964 at a Drive-In Theater in Lancaster, CA. It was GREAT then as well as now. It never lost its suspense....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
  • 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
    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
  • 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
  • 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