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Eva Marie Saint,
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Middle-aged banker Arthur Hamilton is given the opportunity to start a completely new life when he receives calls from his old friend Charlie. The only problem is that Charlie is supposed to be dead. Hamilton is eventually introduced to a firm that will fake his death and create an entirely new look and life for him. After undergoing physical reconstruction surgery and months of training and psychotherapy, Hamilton returns to the world in the form of artist Tony Wilson. He has a nice house in Malibu and a manservant, a company employee who is there to assist him with his adjustment. He finds that the life he had hoped for isn't quite what he expected and asks the company to go through the process with surprising results. Written by
Director John Frankenheimer wanted to cast Laurence Olivier, then considered the world's greatest actor, as the lead and the actor agreed, but the producers did not want Olivier as he was not a box office draw. Frankenheimer has gone on record as stating it was incredibly embarrassing to go back to Olivier and tell him he couldn't do the film. Rock Hudson was cast instead. Ironically, Olivier won his seventh Oscar nomination for Othello (1965) the year "Seconds" was released. See more »
When Tony Wilson first sees his new home, a shadow of the camera/other equipment is visible on the wall as it pans to follow him leaving the studio. See more »
Man in Station:
[Man in train station hands Hamilton a folded sheet of paper and turns to walk away; Hamilton stares after him, then opens the folded paper to find an address, with no explanation]
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The psychological thriller has been twisted, contorted, and mangled as of late. The main attraction seems to have changed from the thrill aspect to the gross-out and disturb factor. How these movies have strayed is a testament to a new generation of filmmakers and audiences. The thirst for "blood" as it appears on the screen isn't what thrillers used to be. Blood was reserved for the horror movies. It used to consist of all mind games.
John Frankenheimer's premise behind his classic thriller Seconds is just that: a mind game. Seconds is the journey one man takes into a new life. Arthur Hamilton is a depressed, boring, and trapped individual. His life revolves around work. He has become virtually asleep at home, not saying much or doing much. His wife seems bothered by his silence at home and in the bedroom.
While taking the train home from work, Arthur is given an address. What he will find there he doesn't know. That night he receives a strange phone call from his old tennis buddy who was presumed dead. He tells him to go to the address and everything would be alright. Upon arriving at the address, he is told to go to another location. From the new local he is taken by meat truck to a different location. This is where his life would change forever.
Arthur is given the chance millions would kill for: the chance to start a new life, a "rebirth", free of all previous ties and problems. Confused and frightened at first, Arthur is reassured that the procedure is reliable and affective. The recovery process is long and difficult. The operation itself is a full body makeover, using a cadaver for physical transplants, a new voice, and even a new signature. Arthur Hamilton is transformed into Anthony Wilson. Now it is up to Wilson to change his ways and become his new self. This all leads to one of the most dramatic endings in cinema history.
The film's opening sequence of credits is a thrill to watch itself. Using different, almost uncomfortable camera angles on one man's face. Throughout the film there are awkward close-ups and shots, but this is intended. It is almost like a normal person's point of view, fixed on one thing at a time, not just a scene. The lighting too is intended to have an impact on the story, throwing shadows in all directions. The shining quality of the film hands down is the cinematography. James Wong Howe, whose previous work include Hud, Sweet Smell of Success, and Yankee Doodle Dandy, goes above and beyond, making the film exciting to watch and hard to look away from. Howe uses a host of camera angles and techniques to get the emotion of the characters across.
Rock Hudson as Arthur Hamilton post-operation as Wilson gives his best as the confused and altered patient. His character obviously wants to change, but he is held back just out of his sheer nature. He hasn't been capable of living life freely, no strings attached in a very long time. His performance couldn't have been better for the role. Also giving note worthy performances are John Randolph as Arthur pre-operation and Will Greer as the man at the company who convinced Arthur to proceed with the procedure once he was informed of what his intent was.
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Seconds breaks boundaries in film-making and storytelling. Seconds is a trailblazer, setting the mark for thrillers and what they are capable of. It is rare to find a film so moving and at the same time make you think long after the film ends.
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