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You could make a strong case for the late John Frankenheimer being the most unappreciated American film director of all time simply by mentioning his two astonishing 1960s movies 'The Manchurian Candidate' and 'Seconds'. Frankenheimer made many others movies both good and not so good, but these two are amazing pieces of work and rarely get the praise they deserve. 'Seconds' is one of the greatest thrillers ever made. Intelligent, complex, and extremely depressing. It doesn't talk down to its audience and perhaps this is the reason why it was a box office flop and is still all but ignored today. Rock Hudson isn't an actor with much credibility to most film fans but he is brilliant in this film in easily his most powerful and believable performance ever. The rest of the supporting cast are excellent, especially the underrated character actors John Randolph ('Serpico'), Will Geer (TV's 'The Waltons') and Jeff Corey ('Mickey One'). 'Seconds' is a minor masterpiece. A very disturbing story with an unforgettable climax. Highly recommended!
"Seconds" is a fascinating and engrossing realistic fantasy tale that deals with the question of the identity and above all, the exploration of madness symbolized by the search of material happiness and the search of eternal youth which leads to the most claustrophobic fate. "Please be yourself !" can be the warning of this film. The innovative and the post-expressionist cinematography of James Wong Howe (the use of the 9.7 mm fish-eye lens, extreme chiaroscuro, tilted low angle shots, hand-held camera shots) combined with the stylish graphic work of Saul Bass and a cold, taut and harsh music of Jerry Goldsmith makes it like a Faustian tragedy with a Kafkaesque approach. The whole film is about distortion. The twisted vision of the main character trapped in his own nightmarish world, full of "re-borns" and "employees". But the real nightmare is the dreary routine of his existence. For instance, the scene of the train when Arthur Hamilton is reading his newspaper and feels suddenly sick with his life. We see very short shots of the train window and his sad face. The more oppressive scenes are silent just extreme close-ups of faces. Perhaps, the best film directed by John Frankenheimer and the best paranoiac film ever created. "Classic" is a weak word to define this masterpiece of modern terror. "Seconds" is the last film of the John Frankenheimer's paranoiac trilogy, without forgetting : "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Seven days in may".
Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a middle-aged man. He has a nothing
job and feels he has no purpose or direction in life. He can't even
make love to his wife anymore. He is offered a new life by the
Company--a secret organization. They will "kill" off Arthur and give
him a new face, a new body and a new identity. He comes back as Tony
Wilson (Rock Hudson). However, can he be happy in his new life?
Exceptional black and white cinematography by James Wong Howe; great direction by John Frankenheimer (all the extreme closeups and off kilter camera angles keep you uneasy); a perfect score by Jerry Goldsmith (the organ fits perfectly)...but this is almost unwatchable.
It's VERY depressing, very downbeat and (at times) way too slow (the beginning). It's easy to see why this was a box office bomb--it's way too depressing for the average viewer. The things I mentioned above help make the film bearable as does the acting.
Randolph is superb as Hamilton--you feel his pain and misery. Hudson, surprisingly, is pretty good. Sometimes he's not that good but there are certain sequences when he's exceptional--particularly at a wine party, a cocktail party (where he actually got drunk to play it realistically) and he explodes during the harrowing ending. The ending is one of the most horrific sequences I've ever seen. I felt like bolting from the theatre.
A one-of-kind horror thriller. I can't say I enjoyed this, but I'll never forget it. It has a big deserved cult following.
Midlife crisis films are rare beasts, but everybody loves them. Look at the
success of "American Beauty," probably the most stereotypical depiction of
middle-class America that I've ever seen. Quite shallow in its way,
"Beauty" was a hit because of its subject matter - it tackled some taboos
and had the nerve to portray the problems of "ordinary" people. But you
know what - it had been done before, and better, here.
"Seconds" is the story of a middle-aged banker who undergoes surgery to become - this part is really a gas - Rock Hudson! He's given an outlet to escape from his loveless family life and tedious job, and he becomes a swinging painter/playboy with a beautiful house on the coast. Of course, he soon finds that good looks and money are no substitute for what he really wants - some kind of genuine intimacy in his life.
Is this message a bit too predictable? Oh, I dunno - we all seem to agree that the pursuit of wealth is an empty one, yet we indulge in it all the same. The social problems explored in "Seconds" are still very much with us, and our awareness of these problems certainly hasn't solved them. The film ultimately acts as a powerful, sobering reminder that most of us aren't doing what we really want to do.
Plenty of great style on display here from director Frankenheimer. There's a wonderful "wobbly camera" drunk scene that is so realistic, you'll feel as though you've been hitting the bottle yourself. There's also consistent effective use of point-of-view shots and unusual angles. In terms of subject matter and directorial flair, this film is incredibly innovative...it's taken years for us to catch up to this kind of material, and yet we still haven't topped it. Definitely in my top twenty.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The director, the late John Frankenheimer, once commented that the problem with this movie is that it doesn't have a middle act, and he's right.
The beginning and the end are gripping, in a Twilight Zone kind of way. The use of fish-eye lenses, although sometimes excessive, helps lend a surreal quality to the proceedings, which is apt.
Here we have John Randolph, a nonentity, with a face that has all the appeal of a hard-boiled egg. He's converted into Rock Hudson, which is a considerable improvement, in appearance anyway. But both the organization and Hudson have botched it. Under hypnosis Rock has revealed that maybe his true desire is to be a painter, an artist.
He winds up at a very nice beach house in Malibu, with an understanding servant, a studio with all the amenities, and Salome Jens as a woman he picks up on the beach. Not bad, eh? And all this for a mere $30,000. (The house alone would run 30 or 40 times that much now.)
Well, to tell the truth, Rock seems a little unhappy in his new life. He dabs perfunctorily at his canvas. He doesn't smile much. He doesn't seem to be having a good time.
So far, so good, but then we enter the befouled middle act. Salome Jens hustles him off to a Saturnalian bacchanal in the forest. Everybody gets drunk, strips, plays musical instruments, and dances around in a vat full of grapes. Rock is at first repelled but is dragged into the vat anyway and gets drunk and ecstatically happy.
Fine, right? But then later, Rock is urged to give a party for his neighbors, all of whom turn out to be retreads like himself. Rock begins to drink cocktails and gets loaded. But what is the reaction of his guests? This time it's disgust. Jens cautions him to "take it easy" on the booze, but why? It's the only time we see him happy, and what's so worrisome about being drunk at a party where everyone else is drinking too? Disgust turns to a deeper concern when Rock begins making allusions to his previous life. He's a Harvard graduate and you can't keep them down.
Finally he realizes that he's not really made out for this kind of life, for reasons never made entirely clear. Well, not made clear at all. Not even explored in the dialogue. Was his dream of being a painter just a childhood fantasy, like wanting to be an astronaut? What is the source of his dissatisfaction?
There is a good scene in which he visits his wife, who now believes her husband to have died in a fire. He asks about some watercolors he'd done in his previous life and discovers that they were thrown out. No question about his original identity having been dismal.
So he complains to the organization that he wants yet ANOTHER identity. The very sensible and reassuring Will Geer handles him and tells him that everything is fine and they'll re-do him. Geer, in a perfect performance, doesn't tell him that a second renovation involves his death. Rock will provide a cadaver as a substitute for a new guy entering the program.
Nothing is more scary than the doctors, having strapped Rock down, lowering a bone drill onto his skull behind the ear.
How does Rock perform? Pretty well. It's certainly his best dramatic role.
And the supporting cast is flawless. The logic behind the middle of the story is its greatest weakness. The rest is well worth watching.
SECONDS decries the dehumanization of the middle class. The protagonist is
a successful banker, though successful at banking, in late middle age finds
his life devoid of purpose. Given an opportunity to completely start his
life over he jumps at the chance even though it means he must "die" and be
reborn in a new body.
Filmed in black and white SECONDS has that unsettling jumpy-jangly editing and sound track I associate with 50s film noir. It keeps the viewer off balance and out of kilter, like the banker who slides slowly, effortlessly into a more ominous dehumanized existence than the one he left. An oddly (but successfully) cast Rock Hudson gives a great performance as the 'reborn' banker. Recommended when in the mood for something different.
Some movies which failed when they were released became sleepers ,and
in the case of "seconds" quite rightly so.It predates "Abre los ojos"
(and thus "Vanilla Sky" so to speak) by 30 years !"Carnival of souls"
did the same for "Jacob's ladder" and "the sixth sense".Those two works
did more:they invented what we call the "indie cinema" and David
Lynch's first -and best- two works owe them a great deal.
By far Rock Hudson's best performance -with the eventual exception of ,in a diametrically opposite style, "all that Heaven allows"-,"seconds" is what we can call a movie ahead of its time.The weakness some users are complaining of -the lack of psychological depth - is intentional;and if some sequences may seem long,this length inspires their vital nightmarish side -the drunken revel ,the bacchanalian dance are so unexpected that they pack a real wallop.The camera uses disturbing angles and Frankenheimer does not need a ton of special effects to exude pure primal fear.
This movie ,"the Mandchurian candidate" and "Birdman of Alcatraz are enough to make Frankenheimer go down in History of seventh art.
During one's life, there comes a time when the wisdom accumulated during the early years does not serve to make a choice any easier in later life. There are not too many films which offer the viewer a choice to finish watching or not. When one is a youngster and watching a monster film, one can always run screaming from the theater if the scenes get frightening. That will be the reaction when you're watching this film. It starts easy enough when a middle-age man, John Randolph (Arthur Hamilton) decides to accept an offer to 'exchange' his given life, and trade it for a more youthful one. The transition is casual enough, but director John Frankenheimer, adroitly uses the Black and White images to lure not only the audience, but the subject into a false sense of security and tranquility. During the fantastic transformation from old John Randolph to youthful, handsome and attractive Antiochus 'Tony' Wilson, (Rock Hudson) he and the audience is gently beaconed and eased into the new, but alien life by a calm and compassionate guide, called the "Old Man. (Will Geer)" It's his job to ally the fears and reassure suspicions that 'everything is going to be alright.' The fact is the film is so tranquil, one hardly suspects the new life, unless the subject and the audience want to go home. John/Tony choose this option. The way back however is impossible, but only the audience is privy to it. The subject is removed from his 'second' life and given a quiet room, to collect his thoughts. It's here, the subject and the audience are once again joined by the Old Man, who will ease us not to the comfort of a New Life, but to make us aware that escape and the exit doors are twenty feet away. It's time to choose again, but you'd better hurry. The end is terrifying in it's finality. *****
This film is so chilling & depressing to sit thru, because, from the
first frame to the last, it is totally devoid of any life and human
spirit. Anderson is, from the beginning, a walking dead man with no
values, no real love, no meaning to his life, and he takes that with
him into his "rebirth." Only this is no spiritual rebirth. All poor
Anderson can do now is party and get drunk in order to escape from this
new reality, which is even more soulless than his original one.
Character is destiny. That's why the "company" has so many failures.
Even the Old Man can't see this. He thinks the failures are due to
It often gets categorized as a thriller, but to me it's a tragedy and a very profound one at that. It's about the tragic results of life lived without meaning, without real values, without love, without spirit.
Like all real tragedy, SECONDS is cathartic. I had to go for a long walk after I saw this one. Its depiction of spiritual emptiness, though depressing to sit through, is ultimately rewarding.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
but that's not a bad thing. Someone on this board says they are
Will they have the courage to avoid punching up the ending so that all walk out happy? Probably not.
The opening tells us something is wrong; camera angles are unsettled, and as John Randolph walks, the shots from his shoetops give us the feeling that he is moving his upper body, but not his feet. The crowds look so threatening.
Btw, how many films have been set in Grand Central Station?
Randolph finds his way into the office of the chief honcho, but no one appears and he wanders off down the hall, goes through double doors into a room where people sit at tables, with a monitor in the front, as if they were taking their mid-terms. No one listens to his questions. I don't know about you, but I've been there, done that before and it is frightening.
The saddest scene is that of Hudson returning to his former home, to the wife who does not know that Mr. Wilson is her husband, the late Arthur Farrell. As she paints a warts-on picture of her departed hubby, Wilson sees he cannot go back, but that he hasn't changed in his new guise and thus his infatuation that somewhere, in some place, there is the character he wants to be.
A truly chilling story which gives the viewer little hope, but we knew that early on, when we saw the interrogator from Manchurian Candidate serve as Wilson's guidance counselor.
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