“Senator, we’re talking about the survival of the United States.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
Freakiest of all is Burt Lancaster’s “sinister portrayal as a rightwing extremist, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who plans a military coup.” The relevance to current politics, albeit through a different lens of concern, couldn’t be starker: when a group of individuals is convinced they’re right and the well-being of their nation is at risk, we know they will stop at nothing.
As Peary writes, this is a “smart, well-acted, suspenseful film”, bolstered by Frankenheimer’s innovative use of camera angles:
… Ellsworth Fredericks’ stark cinematography, and strong performances by the leads and many of the supporting players — including Martin Balsam as a loyal advisor:
… and Edmond O’Brien’s Oscar-nominated role as an alcoholic Southern senator (and one of March’s oldest friends).
Unfortunately, Ava Gardner’s role as a boozy mistress to Lancaster feels gratuitous, though she’s essential to the plot.
Note: Watch for John Houseman in his uncredited screen debut as a key player in O’Brien’s hunt for evidence.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments: