(Edward) Rod(man) Serling Philip T. Hartung - Essay

Philip T. Hartung

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

You don't have to believe "Seven Days in May," but, except for the confusing opening scenes showing riots in front of the White House and then introducing far too many characters in a hurry, it proves to be one of the most exciting films in years…. "Seven Days" succeeds in giving its far-fetched story an it-could-happen-here tone. Rod Serling's well-written script … is mainly concerned with a Pentagon plot, under the leadership of Gen. James Scott, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to kidnap the President of the United States and take over the government. The plotters are particularly unhappy now (the time is set in the not-too-distant future) because the cold war has ended with President Lyman's plan for universal nuclear disarmament—a plan agreed to by Russia and ratified by the U.S. Senate. Since Lyman's popularity is at a low point, General Scott decides now is the time to pull the coup.

What happens from then on is thrilling, not only because of the action during the intrigues and counter-intrigues, but also because of the people involved and their behavior…. The script softens the general-as-villain theme a bit when the Georgia Senator explains that the real enemy is a nuclear age that has thrown today's people into despair, "people who look for a leader like Senator McCarthy or General Walker." There's nothing soft about the film itself, however, and it's guaranteed to keep audiences on their chairs right to the rousing finale. (p. 632)

Philip T. Hartung, "What Five-Sided Building?" in Commonweal, Vol. LXXIX, No. 21, February 21, 1964, pp. 632-33.∗