SEVEN DAYS IN MAY
The script for Seven Days in May comes from Rod Serling, best known as the creator/host of The Twilight Zone (1959-63). Rod Serling is one of the genres greatest writers but in his off days had a tendency to write dialogue that came with the crude snub-nosed thrust of a Mickey Spillane. When at his worst as in Night Gallery (1969-72) tv series Serling became a preachy moralist taking potshots at straw figures. In his best pieces of writing such as Planet of the Apes (1968), The Man (1972) and this Serling despaired about the state of the world and made deep and heartfelt humanist pleas for things to change for the better.
Seven Days in May is Rod Serlings political/humanist writing at its very best. Some of the arguments that Burt Lancasters general offers in favour of militarism are almost too disturbingly plausible Theres not a single piece of paper in history thats ever served as a deterrent to a Pearl Harbor. Every twenty years or so we pick ourselves up bleeding off the floor and forget that. Mistakes which are delivered to us COD by peace-loving men and are bought and paid for by peace-loving men men in uniform.
The confrontations between Burt Lancaster and Frederic March are written with a genuine tension, something ably brought out by Frankenheimer who frames each confrontation in stark relief. The climax of the film where Frederic Marchs President stands up and says that the greatness of a nation is built on peace is the sort of stuff that winning political speeches are made of. Frankenheimer shoots the conflict with a starkness that conveys a maximum degree of cold, frightening tension. This is aided immensely by Jerry Goldsmiths score, which consists solely of big, basso snare drumbeats.
Seven Days in May was remade as the disappointing cable tv movie The Enemy Within (1994) with Sam Waterston as The President, Jason Robards as the mutinous general and Forest Whitaker in the Kirk Douglas role.
John Frankenheimers other films of genre interest are The Manchurian Candidate (1962), a black comedy about politics and brainwashed assassins; Seconds (1966), a bleak thriller about a secret syndicate that offers a rejuvenation treatment; Prophecy (1979), an eco-thriller about a rampaging mutant bear; and the H.G. Wells adaptation The Island of Dr Moreau (1996).