The political thriller based on the 1962 novel by Fletcher Knebel & Charles Bailey with the screenplay by Rod Sterling and directed by John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, 1962). The original book is set in a short time in to the future (early 1970’s) the film does not do this, however there is one indication on a screen that it might be set in 1970. It does however have echoes of the famous John F Kennedy clash with General Edwin Walker – who had to be removed from office given his political statements.
Against this political background a senior aide, Marine Colonel “jiggs” Casey (Kirk Douglas, Paths of Glory, 1957) who works for Airforce James Mattoon Scott, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (Burt Lancaster, (Zulu Dawn, 1975) in the course of events Jiggs starts to uncover certain inconsistencies and transfers and when he starts to ask questions he is calmly told there is nothing and eventually gets sent on leave. Limited in where he can turn, he pulls in favours and goes straight to the President (Fredric Marchand, the Iceman Cometh, 1973) and his Chief of Staff (Martin Balsam, 12 angry men, 1957), after some discussions the President agree to quietly look in to it through back channels, assembling a small group of people he can trust. As they begin to investigate, they come up against stonewall responses with friends like the senator Raymond Clark (Edmond O’Brien, D.O.A. 1950) being detained at the secret military base he “discovered”.
As the tension mounts the President has essentially hours before a believed move by the General and his supporters in the guise of a large scale military exercise which the President was due to attend. The President cancels his attendance and then also the exercise at the last minute. The stage is set for the final showdown and hours before the General is about to make his move on national television the President addresses the nation and publicly requires the resignations of many of his top generals. In the face of such opposition the other all resign leaving Scott to decide his own future.
This is a tense well-constructed thriller which through the use of CCTV, video conferencing etc . subtly gives the futuristic hints owed to the book. I’ve not covered some of the finer point, that would take away from the thriller aspect. Watch it.