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Seven Days In May (John Frankenheimer)

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message 1: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments I've been on a Frankenheimer film kick recently and just watched this for the first time...ominously prescient.

SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (John Frankenheimer, 1964) The opening title sequence begins as a crude black mark, its thick clumsy scrawl nearly obliterating the beautifully cursive language of the United States Constitution. The White House fence becomes a row of missiles: is it shielding our country from total destruction…or leading us to our ultimate doom? These seven days in May will make one weak: can We The People inhale the mushroom cloud’s boiling fumes and exhale a choking ratification of the Fourth Reich? A coup-de-ta threatens to subvert the rock solid foundation of our democracy, the Rule Of Law reduced to vague words, deconstructed to a simple chain of letters…powerless, meaningless, until recreated by a merciful benefactor. The film begins with protestors rioting in front of the White House involving those who support General Scott and oppose President Lyman over the issue of an armistice with the Soviet Union. Director John Frankenheimer films in a close-up, documentary point-of-view style that creates a violent schism: a house divided against itself cannot stand. But one man believes He can unify the country once again, to bring about a prosperous and powerful nation: General Scott is that great American. Frankenheimer painstakingly details their political rhetoric through television monitors as we watch transfixed, like the fictional American audience, moved towards inaction because our Ubermensch will make things right: this is the power of the media. When general Scott pumps his fist and speaks of the Motherland, the ghost of Hitler haunts the Network airwaves. His office is also adorned with a huge globe, a subliminal reminder of Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR. But Colonel Casey confronts his friend and mentor and it’s this frisson that becomes metaphor: they both desire the same goal but only one will uphold a government by the people, for the people, of the people. Rod Serling’s taught script is top-heavy with dialogue and light on action without sacrificing too much suspense. Though the characters tell us what is happening Frankenheimer films these personal interactions in deep focus, giving us reaction shots and exposition in the same frame. He also places the characters in large echoing rooms, empty and devoid of public access…as if the citizens have become invisible and unimportant. Serling’s cinematic dialogue doesn’t pretend to be realistic; he writes like people think, he conveys ideologies in terse venomous phrases. Absolute power corrupts…and you must absolutely see this film. (B)

message 2: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10722 comments sounds fascinating. i've seen this film referred to, but haven't seen it.

thanks so much for all the energy you put into exposing us to great cinema!

message 3: by Manuel (last edited Oct 08, 2008 01:36PM) (new)

Manuel | 469 comments Its been years since I've seen it, but I remembered I greatly enjoyed it.

Burt Lancaster is great as the traitorous General Scott planning a coup d'etat to topple the government.

The confrontation between Lancaster and Kirk Douglas is unforgetable. Douglas is the reluctant hero who has to make a choice between friendship and patirotism.

The one item that seems a little "dated" in our post Monica Lewinski age; is the use of "love letters" used as a possible object of blackmail.

In the movie, the president has gotten a hold of a series of "love letters" between General Scott and his mistress (played by Ava Gardner) With these letters, the president finally has something to hold over Gen Scott and possibly avert the coup.
However the president is too honorable a man to ever use these letters and he gives them back to Ava Gardner. Instead, the president will find another alternative to fight the renegade general and preserve the constitution.

Sitting here in the firt decade of the 21st century; love letters, proving the general had an extramarital affair seem so quaint. Would any modern president hesitate to destroy a potential enemy by having these letters exposed? I can almost see the nation avidly reading these letters on the internet; not to mention the gossip rags and late night TV paraodies.

Likewise; would anyone planning to topple the government really care if he was known to have cheated on his wife? Here he is, about to commit the ultimate betrayal of his country; would anyone care if he also cheated on his wife?

Love letters aside; the movie is still great fun to watch as Kirk Douglas accidentaly discovers his boss is behind the wide conspiracy to bring down the government.

message 4: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10722 comments lancaster, douglass and ava gardner are in it?
damn, the video is closed at this point...

message 5: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 469 comments Supposedly the Pentagon didnt want this film to be made because it portrayed the US military in an unfavorable light. Pres Kennedy gave his blessing to film in the White House while he was away for the weekend at the family compound in Massachusettes.

The exteriors at the Pentagon were filmed without permission.

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