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Featuring a powerhouse cast, a first rate director and a precisely constructed screenplay, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY ($25) is one of the best political thrillers to ever hit the silver screen. While clearly a product of the 1960’s, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY is set at some undisclosed time in America’s future. The Soviet Union remains a threat to the United States, yet President Jordan Lyman (Fredric March) has negotiated a treaty with the Soviets that will eliminate both superpowers’ arsenal of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, Lyman’s actions have left the Nation sharply divided between those who favor peace at any price and those who fear that the Soviet Union will attack America with nuclear weapons, the moment the country becomes defenseless.

With Lyman’s presidential approval rating at an all time low, the opposition to the treaty voiced by General James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster), the Chairman of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff, erodes the President’s political standing even further. However, the future of Lyman’s Presidency really becomes a genuine uncertainty, when General Scott’s aid, Colonel Martin "Jiggs" Casey (Kirk Douglas), becomes aware of some deviations from protocol and other irregularities within the General’s office. Several of Colonel Casey’s observations make him suspect that General Scott may be planning a military coup, which would allow him to take over the government before the terms of the treaty with the Soviets can be enacted. With time running out, Colonel Casey must determine if the threat to the Presidency is real, as well as finding a way to stop a possible coup d’etat.

Burt Lancaster and Fredric March both give powerful performances in SEVEN DAYS IN MAY; seeing theses two titans square off is truly worth the price of admission. Director John Frankenheimer continually keeps the viewer on the edge of their seats by maintaining a paranoid level of tension throughout the film. Frankenheimer’s work on SEVEN DAYS IN MAY rivals that of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE- a true paranoid masterpiece of the cinema. Rod Serling’s taut screenplay is like his best work on THE TWILIGHT ZONE, sharp, eloquent and completely unforgettable. The supporting cast of SEVEN DAYS IN MAY features Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien, Martin Balsam, Andrew Duggan, Hugh Marlowe, Whit Bissell, Helen Kleeb, George Macready and Richard Anderson.

Warner Home Video has made SEVEN DAYS IN MAY available in a fine looking black and white wide screen presentation, which has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. SEVEN DAYS IN MAY has been framed at 1.85:1, with the picture always appearing correctly balanced. The film element utilized for the transfer is in very good shape, displaying very few age-related markings. After repeatedly witnessing the bad 16mm prints of SEVEN DAYS IN MAY that turn up on late night television, Warner’s DVD release comes as a revelation. The image is a complete antithesis to what I’ve seen in the past. Everything appears crisp and well detailed, without the overwhelming presence of 16mm film grain. Blacks are a perfect inky black, plus the image displays an excellent range of contrast and subtle shading, all the way up to bright white. There are no signs of digital compression artifacts on this smartly authored dual layer DVD.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack has the frequency limitations one associates with a 1964 release. Still, the dialogue is cleanly reproduced, without any signs of distortion. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is adequately rendered, although this portion of the track is where frequency limitations become most obvious. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English and French. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features. SEVEN DAYS IN MAY also sports a few supplements, including a theatrical trailer and an audio commentary by director John Frankenheimer. Frankenheimer’s talk is filled with details and anecdotes, making it something every fan will enjoy. Filling out the supplements is a cast and crew list, plus some production notes.

As I stated above, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY is one of the best political thrillers ever made. Warner’s fine looking DVD edition certainly does justice to this marvelous film. Accompanied with the John Frankenheimer audio commentary, this DVD is something that fans will definitely want to own.


Seven Days in May (1964)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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