Seven Days in May (1964): John Frankenheimer Terrific Political Thriller

Adapted by Rod Serling from the best-selling novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Waldo Bailey II, “Seven Days in May” was John Frankenheimer’s follow-up to his noirish paranoia tale, “The Manchurian Candidate,” in 1962.

Though inspired by the right tendencies of General Edwin Walker, this fictional tale was successful due to its absorbing and gripping tale, excellent technical execution and all-star cast, including Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Ava Gardner in the leads, and Frederic March, Martin Balsam, and Edmond O’Brien, who was nominated for an Oscar, in the supporting roles.

The movie was released right after the Kennedy assassination and before the escalation of the American involvement in Vietnam.

Burt Lancaster plays General James M. Scott, who plots a military takeover of the United States. He’s convinced that President Jordan Lyman (Fredric March) is too liberal and too soft on the country’s enemies, and that something needs to be down about it.

However, President Lyman’s attempts to find factual evidence of General Scott’s scheme is scuttled by political protocol, error and death. And it’s not clear whether the errors are “human” and the deaths “accidental.”

Who do you trust?

Ultimately, Lyman must rely upon the man who first uncovered the plot, Colonel “Jiggs” Casey (Kirk Douglas).
Frankenheimer’s taut direction and Ellsworth Fredericks’ stark black and white images, and good acting (with the stars submerging their glamorous looks) contribute to the film’s “documentary” feel.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Supporting Actor: Edmond O’Brien
Art Direction-Set Decoration (b/w): Cary Odell; Edward G. Boyle

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context
The winner of the Supporting Actor Oscar was Peter Ustinov for “Topkapi.”

MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 117 Minutes.
Released: February 12, 1964.
DVD: May 16, 2000