Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Rider

THE RIDER (****)

I found THE RIDER to be genuine and sincere in ways that are for films these days. It is aided by some fantastic acting (Brady Jandreau's face says so much!) that feels so natural you'd swear you were watching a documentary (the family in the film is portrayed by a real family: Brady, Wayne, and Lilly Blackburn) and some gorgeous cinematography by Joshua James Richards that beautifully captures the wide open spaces of South Dakota. It's not too talky (which would have robbed a lot of the film of its power) and doesn't have conflicts in the traditional sense, but it's such a confident film in how it shows its protagonist Brady coming to terms with his life (as he sees it) stopping before it ever really got started.

There's a real sense of confidence and beauty and care in every aspect of the filmmaking here. It's one of those movies that provides a glimpse into a world that I know nothing about, and I was happy to visit this small reservation ranch in South Dakota and to be around these characters. It has a tremendous sense of place, and I appreciated that the director (Chloe Zhao) didn't feel the need to overstate things. Whether it's in letting a beautiful shot speak for itself, the power in a whistle in one of the film's final moments (that one got to me), or the subtle, understated way she let's us know that Brady--a rodeo pro that suffered a tremendous head injury after being bucked and is advised by doctors to never ride again--is coming to terms with his post-rodeo life (there are no melodramatic moments of exposition where characters yell and cry about dreams not achieved, etc.).

There is also a montage of Brady training a horse, trying to tame it. To describe it here in detail would not do the scene justice (it would sound boring), but it is one of the most intense (I had anxiety every time Brady was around/on a horse) and fascinating scenes of the movie. I watched in awe at Brady's process (this is where it feels like a documentary), at watching a professional do their thing and do it well.

I loved it.

The Nun

THE NUN (***)

Make no mistake, THE NUN is not a good movie. It is quite terrible in certain moments (it has the most generic scare moments and some truly awful dialogue—there is actually an exchange that goes: “The blood of Christ” “Holy shit.” “The holiest.”), but it’s a lot of fun and really quite something to look at. My interest was piqued when friends and other critics I trust had mentioned that the film had a very Italian feel to it, specifically Michele Soavi’s THE CHURCH. There is a bit of Soavi’s THE CHURCH in that there is an evil buried beneath a beautifully creepy old religious building, but that’s just plot stuff. Where THE NUN really gets it right is in the tone, and this is where I could see the Italian connections being made. THE NUN moves along quickly enough (the movie is only 96 minutes, which is a plus in my book) and its ridiculous plot is really just there to just act as a backdrop for the impressive setpieces. And this is where the comparisons to Soavi and Italian horror are apt. Director Corin Hardy (whose previous film THE HALLOW I'm unfamiliar with but am now definitely interested in checking out) has a lot of fun dumping everything on the viewer in the same nonsensical way that Italian horror eschews narrative coherence (there are a lot of scenes of characters just wandering around searching in spooky locations—I had no idea why, but it didn’t matter to me) for tone. THE NUN gets the feel of an Italian horror movie right, and if one approaches the film with the mindset just enjoying the film’s setpieces (whether they be the copious amounts of eerie shots inside the church, fog drenched woods, or the hallucinations of the characters), I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised. Hardy seems to understand that one does not come to a movie called THE NUN thinking there will be new ways in which a film of this ilk will scare you. But THE NUN did surprise me because the tone is perfect (it’s always interesting to look at) and the filmmakers seem to be having fun with this goofy premise.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Predator


Incredibly loud and wonderfully stupid in its first hour, Shane Black’s THE PREDATOR is a stripped down machine in its opening setpieces but gets derailed by Predator backstory that is just plain stupid. I did not come here for Predator mythology; I came for the predictable Shane Black snark and gory fights between a ragtag group of military outcasts and space hunters. The first half of THE PREDATOR delivers on this; the second half loses steam quickly (despite Black keeping his big action film under two hours, which was much appreciated, the film does drag a bit at the end). The acting and the chemistry are perfect for a movie like this, and it’s one of the reasons why despite the soggy second half, THE PREDATOR is a lot of fun. Boyd Holbrook in the lead has charisma and when Olivia Munn is actually given something to do (which is just in the early parts of the movie) she’s quite good, too. The real standouts, though, are Trevante Rhodes (who has “action star” written all over him) and Sterling K. Brown (who takes a thankless role as the evil government agent and sinks his teeth into it). The beats are all here for fans of the original PREDATOR to recognize the winks and nods to the original, but by the end I just didn’t care that much to see this thing become franchise. But it does have predator dogs! 

First Reformed


Paul Schrader wears his Bresson and Bergman influences on his sleeve with this one, and the result is a tone appropriately austere. Filmed in the Academy ratio, every shot is beautiful and compact—from the great opening tracking shot, to scenes of characters just sitting inside and talking, to the harsh, cold Northeastern exteriors that match the harsh, cold interiors of the church. Ethan Hawke’s amazing performance as Reverend Toller might just be the performance of the year (and one of the of his career). The juxtaposition of Toller (a Thomas Merton type who wonders why the church isn’t frontline stewards on issues like climate change) and his boss (a wonderful Cedric the Entertainer, who plays an aspiring Televangelist that wrestlers with the role of the church in an ever-changing, more extreme 21 st century) so were some of my favorite moments because Schrader doesn’t resort to cheap tactics that make Toller seem out of touch or make his boss seem inconsiderate of his conflict. There’s more to FIRST REFORMED than that dynamic, though, as a certain event acts as the catalyst for Toller thinking this way, and Schrader uses the framework of a thriller (there have been many comparisons to Schrader’s own TAXI DRIVER) to tell its story. And it’s a great conceit by Schrader to frame his film this way because from the film’s opening moments, I couldn’t look away. There’s nothing “fun” about this movie in the way that a lot of thrillers are “fun” but FIRST REFORMED—despite its minimalist approach—really moves through its story with a tremendous amount of momentum that filled me with a lot of anxiety as we watch Toller deal with his numerous conflicts (internal and external). I couldn’t take my eyes off of what was happening, and I know I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time. I can’t go full four stars, though, because of that ending (even though I really like the abrupt cut).

Monday, December 10, 2018



I don't mind arty horror. In fact, most of the Euro-horror I love so much eschews narrative for showy aesthetics; it’s one the aspects I find most appealing about that particular subgenre. I like David Cronenberg movies because they get under your skin and scare in a way that isn’t obvious. There are ways to do arty horror and still have your movie be, you know, scary. However, in the last decade or so there has been a handful of horror films whose filmmakers are hyper-focused on differentiating their it’s-not-horror-but-it’s-horror films via narrative. The aspirations of these films show a crop of filmmakers that would rather have their horror film seen as Important and Significant than scary/unnerving, as if their only take away from film school viewings of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD/DAWN OF THE DEAD was that George Romero was inserting social commentary into his horror films.

THE WITCH, THE BABADOOK, even aspects of IT FOLLOWS are just a few modern examples of the Significant horror film that I didn’t hate (THE WITCH, in fact, I liked quite a bit); however, Ari Aster’s very unscary and incredibly banal HEREDITARY with its awful soundtrack that is there to constantly remind you that everything you’re watching is Significant and Creepy is not one of those examples (for an example of the pervasive ambient soundtrack designed to unsettle the viewer that really works, see Rob Zombie’s THE LORDS OF SALEM, which also executes this whole type of Satanic Horror film narrative much better and is much more interesting to look at). I couldn't help but feel worn down by the film's glacial pacing and laughable attempts at overt horror. Scene by languid scene (man there are a lot of slow tracking shots that lead to nothing in this movie) the film trips over itself as it progresses into its more gonzo elements (there are insects on faces and coming out of mouths in this movie, but Fulci it is not). These moments should have elicited a fun, “What the fuck is happening!?”* response but instead each of these moments becomes a slog as over and over we get characters looking at something offscreen (or wandering towards something offscreen), a slow push in from the camera, a THUD THUD from the soundtrack, and lots of tracking shots that are supposed to signal ominous situations but end up being nothing more than tedious foreshadowing.

HEREDITARY works hard at being arty horror, but it also overplays its hand at the worst possible moments when it wants to try and convince the audience that it’s visceral horror. The film’s “shock” moments don’t land because the momentum of those scenes is always being cut short. There’s just way too much focus on plot and not enough attention paid to what makes a horror film fun and scary. For example, there is a cutaway to a severed head covered in ants that is a fine cutaway for a horror film—appropriately gruesome and shocking in concept—but is inserted at the worst possible moment for what the filmmakers I think are striving for that it made me laugh out loud when they cut to it. However, the moment that cutaway interrupts is a piece of overacting by Toni Collette that is so laughable that I didn't mind the awkward editing decision to interrupt that moment, but it seemed out of place for what the film is trying to be. It’s a moment that strains to say, "SEE THIS IS A HORROR MOVIE" because this feels like it was made by people that don't necessarily love horror movies.

I was trying with this one. I really was. A lot of critics I respect love this movie. There are elements of it that I really like (the set design, the sound mixing near the end where despite how ridiculous the clucking noise is as a device, that noise and the sound of the pencil hitting the paper actually startled me as it was isolated on my good-not-great rear speakers), but the overbearing soundtrack and the over-the-top acting and the lack of understanding what makes a horror film scary got on my nerves.

* As I watched the film, I thought, “huh, I think this is a film trying to say something about trauma and moving on and the (literal) ghosts that haunt us, etc.”, but unless I totally misread the film's final 20 minutes, I think the film’s final 20 minutes undercuts that interpretation. Which is too bad because had HEREDITARY been more along the lines of something like Mario Bava’s underappreciated SHOCK with its equally over-the-top performance from Daria Nicolodi (and the equally gonzo things that happen to her in that movie), I could have been on board with it. SHOCK does the kind of “protagonist trying to keep their shit together” ghost story better than most, and I thought that's where HEREDITARY was heading before the banal Satanism angle took over. Anyway, this is all to say people really should see SHOCK

Monday, January 20, 2014

John Frankenheimer: The Train

Growing up with action films in the ‘80s and ‘90s — memorizing every John Woo slow-mo gun battle, every world-weary Bruce Willis character quip, every Ah-nold one-liner, and every single frame of something like Lethal Weapon — I didn’t have to look hard to see the influence that Frankenheimer’s approach to the action film in The Train had on the films that I remember so fondly from my formative years. I love what Matt Zoller Seitz says in his remembrance of The Train, calling it: “A huge, roiling, clanking, screeching, rumbling hulk of mayhem that seizes you from frame one and never lets go, the film takes such visible delight in the image of small, desperate men blowing huge things sky-high that it amounts to the very first Joel Silver picture.”

Indeed, The Train does remind one of those early ‘80s/’90s Joel Silver produced actioners, but it’s also something that those movies so often fail at being: it gets you to care about the characters without spending a whole lot of time on character development. There’s something to be said about the way Frankenheimer keeps his film moving at the clip it does but also makes sure to stop long enough so that the viewer is always able to get their bearing and be sure what the characters’ motivations are. This isn't just a fun action movie because stuff gets blowed-up real good; it’s an impressive technical spectacle because, to be sure, but it's also impressive in how it gets you to care about what's happening despite its economy of dialogue and character development. Again, I’ll invoke the great Matt Zoller Seitz here: The Train “balances intellectualized suspense and primitive violence, so that one quality reinforces the other in a never ending cycle of mechanized frenzy and spooky stillness.”

I’ll get back to that “spooky stillness," first, though, the plot: Set in occupied France during the last days of Nazi control, The Train concerns itself with Paul Labiche (Burt Lancaster), a French railroad engineer and Resistance fighter who must keep a train filled with valuable art from leaving France for Germany. Colonel von Waldheim (Paul Scofield), is the German military officer in charge of the train, and he carries a special affinity for the art collection that he watched over in occupied Paris. His plan is to take art back to his homeland despite orders to the contrary; however, Labiche and his team try to thwart his efforts.
It’s a pretty simple premise, really, and that’s what is so refreshing about it. The motivations for both characters are clear, and we get the classic cat-and-mouse game between Labiche and von Waldheim that would be just as at home in something like (to pick a random ‘90s action movie that I love) Andrew Davis’ Under Siege. And because of The Train’s simplicity, the temptation is there to see the movie as nothing more than impressive setpiece after impressive setpiece.

But Frankenheimer gives us moments that challenges this all-style-no-substance argument like the exchange between our two main characters at the end where von Walheim says, "Those paintings mean as much to you as a string of pearls to an ape!" This statement makes the viewer question Labiche’s motives throughout the film. He may indeed “feel” nothing for the art, so what his motivation then? His sense of duty? Mere revenge? Is it a moral stance (the film does seem to be about the value of life being more important than the value of art). These are questions that most action films don’t ask their audiences to consider, but Frankenheimer does, and he has summed up his reputation as an action director in numerous interviews, calling himself a director of “character-based action movies.”

These deeper character aspects of the film were intended to be more overt during the film’s initial production. Due to the disappointing returns after making Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard, Burt Lancaster was extremely cognizant of his waning stardom. When he signed on to do The Train, the film’s initial director, Arthur Penn, was much more interested in making it a small-scale character study. Nervous that this would only compound his run of bad box office, Lancaster fired the director and called in his favorite for-hire filmmaker Frankenheimer. I have made mention of this before, but their working relationship always makes me laugh. Perhaps Lancaster brought Frankenheimer on because he knew that Frankenheimer would let him do his thing and instead focus on the technical aspects of the film.

And so it was: Frankenheimer asked the studio to shut down production in order to allow him the appropriate amount of time to rewrite the script, turning The Train from small-scale character study to larger, more ambitious action film. But again, that doesn’t the mean the film is without heart, nor does it mean that Frankenheimer’s only imprint on the film is from the technical side of things. The Train’s character's aren’t merely cutouts designed to stand in front of large-scale setpieces where lots of things explode.

In fact, Frankenheimer has said, “Actually, all of my films have the same theme, and that's a definite choice on my part. I take a character and push him to his physical or emotional limit, to see how he reacts. I think that's the only way you can ever really reach the limits of a human personality, and that's what I'm interested in exploring in my films." So instead of making the film a smaller-scale character study, Frankenheimer heightened the action in order to achieve the same goal that Penn was going for.

A quick note about the actors playing those characters: Both Lancaster and Scofield are great as two stubborn men engaged in a battle of wills (there is a small role for Jeanne Moreau, playing an innkeeper , who assists Labiche, but it feels like another shoehorned female role in an all-male movie a la Ava Gardner’s role in Seven Days in May). Once the action starts, and the motivations for both characters becomes more about defeating the other, The Train never lets up, and neither do the characters. Von Waldheim and Labiche both suffer from a case of severe tunnel vision and are willing to go to great lengths (and in some cases even kill) in order to win their cat-and-mouse game, disregarding the effect it has on those around them. I love the way Scofield utters that final line to Lancaster’s Labiche (stated above); it’s his final attempt to differentiate himself as being better/different than Labiche. Lancaster is equal to the task (I’m warming up to him the more and more I see him in these strong, silent type roles) and a real physical presence on the screen (I also love that he doesn’t even attempt to do a French accent). Lancaster’s performance, in fact, gives credence to the notion that The Train is a masculine action film at its very core.

I want to get back, for a moment, to that phrase that Matt Zoller Seitz used in his essay on the film: “spooky stillness.” Yes, the film is masculine (Burt Lancaster being the avatar for such masculinity as it sure seems like he’s doing his own stunts here, and pay attention to the scene where he is panting like a madman as he crawls up a steep hill and then takes a dangerous fall down the hill in, again, what looks like the actor doing his own stunt), but it also slows down for more reverent moments. And this is due in large part to the way Frankenheimer frames his shots or slows down just enough so that we let the power of a scene wash over us while only hearing the mechanical noises of the train.

The framing in the film is classic Frankenheimer — as we’ve discussed numerous times during this retrospective, he frequently uses wide angle lenses and shoots characters in a basic two shot but employs deep focus — and the most effective of these framing devices is when the elderly train engineer, Papa Boule (Michel Simon), is executed. While Labiche pleads with Colonel von Waldheim, we see in the background the three German soldiers shoot their guns, and then from behind a wall we see Boule’s body slump down. It’s a powerful moment — made more so by the way Frankenheimer frames it and then isn’t in a hurry to rush to the next scene. “Spooky stillness,” indeed.

The Train is one of the most brilliantly kinetic action films I’ve ever seen. And even if one chooses to disregard its obvious (or “low hanging,” an annoying term that so many poo-pooers like to say and then pat themselves on the back) existentialist tone and themes, it still has its technical merits to fall back on — it still can be regarded and studied as an important and masterful piece of filmmaking purely based on its technical merits. Every frame of this black-and-white beauty has something interesting to look at: the characters faces (again, often shot close-up and in a two shot with deep focus), the grimy and gray setting that fills the frame, the way the action drives the narrative (the editing is really something). It’s a film with some serious impact — there’s a real tangible quality about the film — as Frankenheimer gives us shots of the giant train barreling towards the camera (we understand early how massive this piece of machinery is), or showing in high angle long shots of the train barely escaping huge explosions and a potentially disastrous derailing (which, as shots go, must have been hell setting up for). It’s truly a piece of filmmaking that holds up — not only does it hold up, but it puts nearly every modern action film to shame — and showcases what Frankenheimer was best at. The Train, like the best actioners from any era, is a film you feel.

Frankenheimer would return to the paranoid thriller with his next film, Seconds (it would conclude his unofficial “paranoid trilogy”), but would close out the decade with more elaborate, setpiece oriented films like Grand Prix and The Gypsy Moths. But neither of those films are quite as good at balancing the character elements with the technical elements, making The Train one of Frankenheimer’s best, most memorable films of his very prolific and successful run during the ‘60s (we’ll talk more about this with his other films, but the ‘60s were an interesting time for Frankenheimer — perhaps the last decade where he was a real “known” filmmaker before the Scorsese’s and Spielberg’s and Friedkin’s and Coppola’s burst onto the scene kind of leaving him in the dust).

Monday, January 6, 2014

John Frankenheimer: Seven Days in May

Based on the best-selling novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Waldo Bailey II, Seven Days in May is sometimes referred to as Frankenheimer resting on his laurels by following up his previous film — the masterful The Manchurian Candidate — with yet another paranoid political thriller. That’s a bit unfair, though. Seven Days in May doesn’t have much in common with The Manchurian Candidate. It takes itself too seriously to be a satire, and it seems that Frankenheimer and his screenwriter, Rod Serling, are too busy emphasizing Big Important Speeches than ensuring that there’s any kind of drama or intrigue in the film. The film has a great cast and a fantastic opening sequence, but it ultimately is just too talky. Some of those talky scenes really work thanks to the acting (especially a scene near the end between Burt Lancaster and Frederic March), but ultimately the film feels a lot like Frankenheimer’s previously flawed films like The Birdman of Alcatraz: a film heavy on exposition with some good acting and good setpiece mixed in — but there isn’t much more to it than that.

The premise of Seven Days in May is as follows: Lancaster plays General James M. Scott, who is convinced that President Jordan Lyman (March) is too soft on America's enemies. He feels so deeply about this that he plots a military takeover of the United States. Every time President Lyman gets close to figuring out the scheme, though, he is derailed by political protocol. Eventually, Lyman seeks the aide of the man who first uncovered the plot: Colonel "Jiggs" Casey (Kirk Douglas), who is more of a reluctant aide as his ties are very strong to the General.

You see, General Scott has formed a secret base in New Mexico, which serves as headquarters for his plan to overthrow the government. But Colonel Casey begins to think things are odd when he hears of this base — which he is unfamiliar with — as well as references to other bases and units and suspicious protocols that he is unfamiliar with. All of this piques his interest, concerning him to the point where he has no choice but to set aside his loyalty to the General and tell the president about his suspicions that General Scott is planning a military coup d’etat under the guise of a military exercise. 

Seven Days in May is one of the first paranoid thrillers, but it’s not one of the better ones. There are parts where the film really moves — especially in a “The West Wing” kind of a way where there isn’t a whole lot happening on screen, but the acting is so good and the delivery of the dialogue so stellar, that it’s hardly noticeable that we’re essentially just watching people sit/stand around and talk.  The film may feel a bit dated (unlike Manchurian) to some since — as Frankenheimer admitted in the DVD commentary — modern audiences would never be able to accept the premise because such a secret plan in the modern technological age could never go by undetected the way it does in this film. He also stated that audiences would never accept the premise because modern opinions of politicians is lower than it has ever been, so audiences would simply roll their eyes at the President’s speech that ends the film.

But I don’t know that I agree with Frankenheimer. Audiences bought Aaron Sorkin’s idealized White House in “The West Wing,” and as I mentioned above, the film’s emphasis on big speeches about honor and duty and other bits of exposition underlining American Pride is something that would be right up Sorkin’s alley — so the film doesn’t feel too dated.

And whether or not the film may or may not be dated isn’t even the film’s biggest flaw — that would be Rod Serling’s (best known for “The Twilight Zone,” obviously) script and the unconvincing deus ex machina ending. A lot was changed from the source material, actually, most notably the ending where General Scott gets into a car and simply drives home—his name disgraced and career over after his plan has been outed—whereas in the novel Scott drives his car head-on into another car, killing himself. There’s also the matter of the totally unconvincing subplot concerning General Scott’s former mistress, which feels like nothing more than a way to shoehorn Ava Gardner into the film (otherwise it would have been all men in the film). In addition to these flaws, the film is just too talky in parts and is a bit of a slog through the middle portions where it becomes a pretty dull procedural, but that soggy middle is bookended by some great moments that make the film worth seeking out (and make it so much more than a mere Manchurian clone). 

The opening of Seven Days in May — a protest outside of the White House (which was legitimately shot outside of the front gate of the White House without problems thanks to Pierre Salinger’s, President Kennedy’s Press Secretary, insistence that President Kennedy wanted the film made) gone awry — is one of Frankenheimer’s standout setpieces. It’s really the primary reason to check out the film. In my previous essay on The Manchurian Candidate, I brought up the quote from Jonathan Rosenbaum where he said that The Manchurian Candidate could “conceivably be the only commercial American film linked to the French New Wave.” Here, that link is more overt than ever. The immediacy Frankenheimer and his DP Ellsworth Fredericks give the scene and the way they free their camera from the tripod is really quite jarring when you consider the small, talky movie that follows.

Here, Frankenheimer once again relies on his experiences with live television as he moves through the crowd of protesters, making it feel like we’re right there in the fight, and at one point even mounts his camera on the back of police motorcycle. The scene is chaotic (and reminds the viewer of the aesthetic choices used in the fantastic ending to Manchurian), and it is no doubt exciting stuff for the time, but, unfortunately, it is also the most exciting and intriguing thing about the film as every scene that follows fails to live up to this great opening.

Frankenheimer's style of direction is perfect for this film. He uses the same framing techniques and deep focus and wide-angle shots as well as low camera angles that he’s used in all of his previous films. He also worries about the filmmaking and lets his actors act. In an interview with Frank Sinatra on the DVD for The Manchurian Candidate, Sinatra noted how impressed he was with Frankenheimer that he trusted his actors to make the right choices when it came to the script. This is probably because Frankenheimer is a director that is more concerned with the technical aspects of the film than with choices the actors make (why else would he continue to work with Burt Lancaster when the two didn’t really see eye-to-eye?) , and even though the opening scene is a great example of Frankenheimer’s gift for memorable setpieces, Seven Days in May is also a great showcase for its actors, showing that Frankenheimer could facilitate some great performances out of a low key character drama.

Douglas is great as Colonel Casey, displaying an array of conflicting emotions as he juggles loyalty to his country and loyalty to the General. He was also more invested than if this were just a normal job, for he was one of the major driving forces in getting the film made. Initially he was to play General Scott; however, he insisted that Burt Lancaster be in the film and take the much juicer role. This was all very much to the chagrin of Frankenheimer, who, as we’ve discussed in other entries of this retrospect, had some major problems with the star. Ironically, Douglas and Frankenheimer would be the ones that would butt-heads on the set, while Lancaster would continue to collaborate with Frankenheimer on two more films (The Train and The Gypsy Moths).

Lancaster and Frederic March have a fantastic verbal confrontation at the end that, in addition to the opening protest sequence, is the other highlight of the film. I loved the was Lancaster just barrels through the President’s arguments because he knows he’s right, and portrays this character as a man obsessed with his righteousness.It’s not just Douglass, Lancaster, and March that are worth watching, though: Seven Days in May also has a couple of nice supporting performances. Character actors Martin Balsam and Edmond O'Brien are great as President Lyman's advisors.

In wrapping this up, I don’t want it to sound like I’m ragging on Seven Days in May too much. There’s a lot to like here, but the film is a bit of let down coming on the heels of The Manchurian Candidate. Still, the opening is fantastic, and the acting is top notch. Ultimately, it feels a bit like a film Frankenheimer needed to get off of his chest and then move on something less political. However, Burt Lancaster would call upon the filmmaker to rescue yet another one of his films (read: let Lancaster do whatever he wanted), this time from Arthur Penn, as Frankenheimer was brought on for a complete overhaul of The Train, taking it from in-depth character study to action film. The results are a finished product that is certainly the opposite of Seven Days in May.