Seven Days In May
The 50s and 60s were a favorite time for conspiracy theories and political coups, but as far as I know there was only one film that actually proposed a scarily realistic conspiracy of what would happen in a takeover of the American government. Seven Days in May is a little known film from John Frankenheimer, with a script by The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling, which should give you some idea of the quality.
Burt Lancaster is General James Mattoon Scott, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and virulent anti-Communist. He’s in direct conflict with President Lyman (Frederic March), who has just signed a treaty with the Soviet Union for both countries to begin dismantling their nuclear weapons. Scott believes that this will lead to the U.S. being attacked by the USSR when the Soviets fail to honor the treaty. Scott’s adjunct Colonel Jiggs Casey (Kirk Douglas) soon discovers that Scott is willing to go even further to stop what he views as the “dangerous” President Lyman: the general has been planning a military coup that will remove Lyman from the Presidency and place himself at the head of the country.
Seven Days in May combines arguments against hysterical anti-Communism, then so prevalent in America, while touching on issues of democracy and the dangers of fear mongering. Scott’s speech to the masses just prior to the attempted coup is bone-chilling even now, with rhetoric similar to much of the contemporary fear-mongering rhetoric of the likes of Fox News. Seven Days in May addresses the concept of a military takeover of the United States and it does so with such realism and tension that one begins to wonder if it couldn’t actually happen here.