Recently we watched two political thrillers separated by nearly twenty years that resonate with today’s political climate. This “twofer” blog covers “The Dead Zone” (1983) and “Seven Days in May” (1964). Both are engrossing, and both touch on issues and personalities that are part of our lives in 2020.
“Seven Days in May” (available to rent on Amazon Prime and shown this month on TCM) is based on a novel most of us read in the early ‘60s. The all-star cast includes Burt Lancaster (as General Scott, Head of the Joint Chiefs), Kirk Douglas (as Jiggs, Director of his Staff), Fredric March (as the President), Ava Gardner and Martin Balsam. The “seven days” begin with Jiggs learning of a plot by a political/military cabal (led by General Scott) to remove the President and his Cabinet after the President signs a nuclear disarmament treaty with the USSR. The challenge is to uncover evidence of the plot and confront those responsible before they can take over all US communications (radio, television, telephone), overthrow the administration and prevent the Senate from implementing the treaty. The acting is stellar on all fronts, and, while we know the outcome, there is suspense galore as the President and his allies execute their plan to get the evidence and put an end to the attempted coup. Whether you’ve seen this or not, we give this Top Rating/Worth the Price. The divisiveness portrayed in this film is based on fears of nuclear weapons so prevalent in the ‘60s but many of the scenes could have been filmed last week on streets in America.
“The Dead Zone” (available on Amazon Prime) was new to us. Starring Christopher Walken as Johnny, Martin Sheen as Greg and a great supporting cast, this story is about a man (Johnny) who recovers from a five-year coma to find that he has a psychic power – he can learn aspects of the life of those he touches. A series of events follow, some with positive outcomes, some not so positive and word of Johnny’s ability spreads. Johnny moves away and is asked to work with the son of a prominent man. In a vision, Johnny sees this young boy drown, but succeeds in preventing the tragedy. This leads him to understand that he has a kind of “dead zone” in which he can actually change the outcome he had foreseen, While this initially sounded like a kind of “Sixth Sense”, the real power in the movie is the political fervor ignited by a rabble rousing politician he is asked to support. Greg, the politician, is not the “everyman” he appears, which Johnny soon discovers. In watching some of the political rally scenes in which Greg is exhorting his followers, one can easily identify with many stories we see on the news. Won’t give away any spoilers but suffice it to say that Johnny is a hero. This movie was a great surprise (we assumed we wouldn’t think much of it), and we give it Worth the Search.