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Seven Days in May

Director John Frankenheimer really knows how to give good audio commentary on DVDs and that's the second best feature of this well-transferred black and white film from 1964. The first good thing about it is the movie itself. Seven Days in May is a taut, if talky, tale of political intrigue in Washington, D.C. Based on a novel by journalists Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, with a script by Rod Serling, the film tells of a Marine Colonel attached to the Pentagon who discovers a dire plot to overthrow the government by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who view the sitting president as soft on communism. The Colonel goes to the President with his suspicions, which sparks a race against time (the "seven days" of the title) to find proof of the plot and thwart it. The Colonel's problem is that the leader of the junta is his revered boss. There are a lot of meaty little parts in Serling's script, and director John Frankenheimer drew upon a long list of associates from his television days and previous movies to fill them. Among the secondary characters are Edmond O'Brien, Martin Balsam, Richard Anderson, and John Houseman in his first film as an actor. Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Fredric March are all superb in the lead parts. In his commentary, Frankenheimer is unduly defensive about the film's slow pace and apparent lack of action. But while a good movie, the cinematic values of Seven Days in May are old fashioned, lacking the pep that modern audiences seem to crave. It's a film about ideas and moral quandaries. Seven Days in May is one of the first paranoia films, and it remains one of the best. Warner's DVD edition of Seven Days in May comprises a rich, clean black-and-white transfer in 1.85:1, with audio in the original mono. In addition to the commentary track, there are cast-and-crew notes, a rather skimpy summary of the political background of the film, and the theatrical trailer.

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