Continuing with catching John Frankenheimer movies, I watched "Seven Days in May." I like this one better than "Manchurian Candidate" too, but probably not as much as "The Train." What a cast this movie has! And everyone in this movie is perfect for their role. And Frederic March as President... he's even more perfect. I think he has officially taken over the number one spot as my favorite screen President. The man is amazing. And Edmund O'Brien! I watched him not too long ago in "D.O.A." and couldn't believe this was the same person. He was awesome here, my favorite character in the movie, and he had my favorite moment in the movie to boot. He plays a Senator you want to discount, because he drinks heavily and seems like he might be slow... but he's not at all. His character is extremely smart under the exterior, and I just dug it. And the script was by Rod Serling. And the score was by Jerry Goldsmith. What, were they making this movie just for me to like?
It was odd, because I knew what the movie was about, and, as a writer, I immediately had the story plotted out the way I thought it would go. Woops. Not even close. I thought it would be more secretive, with Kirk Douglas running around uncovering the plot, when in fact, everything's brought out in the open early on. This is not remotely an action movie, which I'd been sort of anticipating, but it was never boring, never slow, because the people and the dialog and the tension of the way it was filmed kept it moving. Fascinating.
I watched it a second time with the director's commentary, and that was great. Some things I took for granted, seeing if for the first time in 2006, forgetting it came out in 1964. Like not realizing the movie was supposed to be set in the future, and that they sci-fi'd up the technology. They created video-conferencing and several other things, which didn't actually exist at that time. The cars they chose were mostly European vehicles so they wouldn't look familiar to audiences of the time. Now, they just look like 1960's cars, and I couldn't have told you what model and make they were. Never occurred to me I wasn't supposed to recognize them. Kind of spins the movie differently when you switch the context back to when it was made. Not to mention the movie's very premise, which in 1964 with the Cold War going on, would have been all too real for the audience, who would have brought their own tension and fears into the theater.
And he told a fabulous little tale that all writers will appreciate. The movie takes place, as the title says, in seven days. The novel on which it was based started on a Sunday and ended on Saturday. Frankenheimer shifted it a day, so it began on Monday, and would therefore have to end on Sunday. Which gave him a problem. See, the story hinges on the last day coinciding with the Preakness race, which is always run on a Saturday. His last day was now Sunday, and he was completely screwed as far as the horse race was concerned. He spent a couple of sleepless nights, debated how to get around this, was completely stuck.
He played tennis frequently with a writer friend of his (dang it, I've forgotten the name!) and they would bet their time instead of money. So, apparently, his writer friend owed him twelve hours of writing time. So unable to resolve the problem, Frankenheimer called him up to avail himself of the twelve hours. His friend said, so, if it only takes me an hour or two, is the debt clear? Frankenheimer said, absolutely. And the guy promptly said the solution was easy: you simply have a shot or two showing a poster advertising the Preakness and stating clearly "First Sunday Running of the Preakness!" Problem solved, in five minutes. And that's what Frankenheimer ended up doing. And he said no one ever questioned it or critiqued it, they just accepted it. Hee-hee!