Seconds (1966) reviews and overview

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[Total: 11   Average: 3.2/5]

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‘Seconds is not for weak sisters. It may not even be for strong stomachs!’

Seconds is a 1966 American science fiction drama film directed by John Frankenheimer (Prophecy; The Manchurian Candidate) and starring Rock Hudson (Embryo). The screenplay by Lewis John Carlino (Haunted Summer) was based on ‘Seconds, a novel’ by David Ely.

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The black and white cinematography by James Wong Howe (Bell, Book and Candle; Mark of the Vampire) was nominated for an Academy Award. The distinctive helvetica opening titles were designed by Saul Bass (director of Phase IV; title design for Hitchcock’s Psycho). The score was by Jerry Goldsmith (Matinee; Link).

Although poorly received at the time and a box office failure, Seconds has gone on to become a cult classic. In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

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Buy: Amazon.co.uk

  • Gorgeous restoration from a 4K transfer, in 1080p HD on the Blu-ray
  • Two feature-length audio commentaries: one by director John Frankenheimer, and one by film scholar Adrian Martin
  • New video interview with novelist and critic Kim Newman
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing-impaired
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Booklet featuring new essays by critics David Cairns and Mike Sutton

Plot [contains spoilers]:

Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a middle-aged man whose life has lost purpose. He’s achieved success, but finds it unfulfilling. His love for his wife has dwindled and he seldom sees his only child. Through a friend, a man he thought was dead, Hamilton is approached by a secret organization, known simply as the “Company” which offers him a new life.

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Upon arriving for a meeting , Hamilton arrives at a meat packing plant. He is given workman overalls and hat, then exits the facility out a different door where he is next seated inside the back of a truck which proceeds to another building. He disappears into a large complex filled with dark, empty hallways where he awaits his transformation. The Company gives Hamilton the body of a young man (Rock Hudson) through plastic surgery and a new identity. He later discovers this identity has been taken from someone who recently passed on.

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He is resettled into a community filled with people like him who are “reborns”. Eventually, Hamilton decides the new life isn’t what he wants. He contacts the Company, letting them know he wants a different identity and they seem to agree. It turns out to be a lie and Hamilton learns as he is wheeled to the operating room, before being sedated, that he is to be killed…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

” …the film’s uptight view of the hang-loose West Coast feels like a slightly forced argument, until Frankenheimer regroups and the jaws of the narrative shut tight on one of the most chilling endings in all American cinema.” Trevor Johnston, Time Out London

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“To watch Seconds is to enter a special kind of Hell that leaves no one unscathed. It indicts the money-grubbing culture of businessmen and the  burgeoning hippie aesthetic as equally hollow with a simple, sinister premise.” Eric Melin, Scene Stealers

“Within a few years, the capitalist and consumerist critique that Seconds put to such thrilling use would be more commonplace in a film industry desperate for counter-cultural cachet. But unlike many of those rebel statements against the mainstream, Frankenheimer’s film understood that there were no easy answers to Arthur’s kind of despair.” Chris Barsanti, Pop Matters

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“Director John Frankenheimer and Veteran Photographer James Wong Howe manage to give the most improbable doings a look of credible horror. Once Rock appears, though, the spell is shattered, and through no fault of his own … Seconds has moments, and that’s too bad, in a way. But for its soft and flabby midsection, it might have been one of the trimmest shockers of the year.” Time, October 14, 1966

“This has some intriguing aspects on the yearning for youth and a chance to live life over again by many men. But this Faustian theme is barely touched on and the hero’s tie with the past is also somewhat arbitrary. Film [from the novel by David Ely] does not quite come off as a thriller, sci-fi adjunct or philosophical fable.” Variety, December 31, 1965

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Buy: Amazon.com

  • New 4K digital film restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary featuring director John Frankenheimer
  • Actor Alec Baldwin on Frankenheimer and Seconds
  • New program on the making of Seconds
  • Interview with Frankenheimer from 1971
  • New visual essay by film scholars R. Barton Palmer and Murray Pomerance
  • An essay by critic David Sterritt

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Cast and characters:

  • Rock Hudson – Antiochus “Tony” Wilson
  • Salome Jens – Nora Marcus
  • John Randolph – Arthur Hamilton
  • Will Geer – Old Man
  • Jeff Corey – Mr. Ruby
  • Richard Anderson – Doctor Innes
  • Murray Hamilton – Charlie Evans (also in Jaws; Jaws 2 and The Boston Strangler)
  • Karl Swenson – Doctor Morris
  • Khigh Dhiegh – Davalo
  • Frances Reid – Emily Hamilton
  • Wesley Addy – John
  • John Lawrence – Texan
  • Elisabeth Fraser – Plump Blonde
  • Dodie Heath – Sue Bushman (as Dody Heath)
  • Robert Brubaker – Mayberry
  • Barbara Werle – Secretary
  • Tina Scala – Young Girl stomping on the grapes in the party scene

  

One Comment on “Seconds (1966) reviews and overview”

  1. I was never a huge Rock Hudson fan, but this flick tickles my fancy. Why? Because I never saw a sci fi movie with Hudson in it. The storyline seems cool and it’s got me wanting to read the novel to boot.

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