I own a razor-sharp HD-streaming version of John Frankenheimer‘s Seven Days in May (’64), and I really don’t see how the Warner Archive Bluray can look much better. It’s a nicely done A-minus film, but it only has one great scene — i.e., when Kirk Douglas (Col. Jiggs Casey) first informs Fredric March (President Jordan Lyman) and Martin Balsam (Paul Girard) that a military plot to overthrow the government may be underway. It’s all dialogue, but the late-night atmosphere and just-right performances throb with tension.
There’s only one big problem. Every scene that features or alludes to Ava Gardner‘s Eleanor Holbrook character, the vaguely alcoholic ex-mistress of Burt Lancaster‘s General Scott, is weak. The movie tells us that a few steamy letters about their affair might compromise Scott’s standing with the public. However prudish or naive American culture might have been 53 years ago, the subplot doesn’t work today. At all. Sexual dalliances can harm the reputation of a politician running for office, but who could care about a little wick-dipping when it comes to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? So what if a Curtis LeMay-like figure has been playing “poke-her”?