In 1964 this film — about an attempt by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take over the civilian government, after the President has negotiated a disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union — probably seemed hysterical, paranoid, and terrifying. But then of COURSE democracy triumphs in the end. Of COURSE the military’s hubris brings them low. Of COURSE the avuncular President gives a stern lecture to the press about the sanctity of constitution and the press stands up and applauds.
Here in 2006, when the military takeover of the government has been accomplished so completely that we’ve almost forgotten it was ever any other way, the movie doesn’t seem scary at all; on the contrary, it seems now like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington must have seemed in 1964.