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(1966)

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rmax30482314 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
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.
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One of the greatest thrillers ever made, and one of the most overlooked American movies of the 1960s.
Infofreak27 March 2003
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!
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10/10
the best midlife crisis film
dr_foreman16 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
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.
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10/10
Seconds : a realistic tale of suffocating paranoia
urick11 April 1999
"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".
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A downer to watch, but upon reflection, very rewarding...
bernon28 January 2008
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 "mistakes."

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.
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8/10
Depressing as they get
preppy-318 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
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.
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10/10
If You Had A Choice
thinker169119 June 2007
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. *****
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9/10
Abre los ojos,thirty years ago.
dbdumonteil17 April 2003
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"and his other Sirk melodramas-,"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.
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8/10
A real downer
Pamsanalyst10 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
but that's not a bad thing. Someone on this board says they are remaking it.

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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8/10
Unnerving and Claustrophobic
gbheron28 November 1999
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.
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10/10
A Second Chance
moviemanMA31 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
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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8/10
A very disturbing film...
lotus_chief12 August 2003
After just seeing Seconds, I can't fully describe my feelings about it. For its time, it was VERY innovative and its no suprise that it didn't do well at the box office. The camera angles, especially the ones where it was 'pinned' on the actor's shoulders were genius. I'm amazed that movies back then, even in black and white, look better than most movies in color today....the cinematography was excellent. There's something very appealing about black and white films when they're done right. As far as the story, I was very suprised at how the film ended. Its a suitably depressing end to a very depressing and disturbing film. I'm curious as to why the lead character thought he failed at his 'second chance'. But like Mr. Wilson said, maybe he never had a dream to be fulfilled, which is why he ultimately failed.

This is a film that I wish could be exposed to more people. This is very effective and daring filmmaking, something we need more of today. Although, this film is only for people who like to think. Seconds is a wonderful film that I was privileged to experience.

*** out of **** stars.
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10/10
A rare bird -- a science fiction film that comments just as much on the human condition as it does technology.
kingdaevid20 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
...it's difficult to review SECONDS without turning into a spoiler right away, but I'll try. From Saul Bass' opening title sequence through to the next-to-last shot, SECONDS is a perfectly-realised vision of unrelieved discomfort and anxiety. Throughout the picture, the lead character is in one circumstance after another in which he distinctly does not want to be. And yet, every step he takes to extricate himself simply leads into another disagreeable circumstance. Much of the cast certainly knew how to convey that feeling, as three of the most important roles were taken by actors (John Randolph, Jeff Corey and Will Geer) who were blacklisted during the McCarthy Era; indeed, for two of them (Geer and Randolph), this was the first major studio production they'd appeared in for fifteen years*. For many, this is a depressing film, because so much of it can be related to out of our own lives; even the plastic surgery aspect that made it science fiction in '66 is science fact in this day of Michael Jackson. And, to say the least, it's one of the few times Rock Hudson was given truly demanding material, and he rises to the occasion, giving perhaps the finest performance of his entire career...

*Geer had appeared in ADVISE AND CONSENT four years previously, but that film was produced independently and distributed by Columbia.
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8/10
Convincing, noiresque, nightmare of modernity. Superlative camera work and probably Rock Hudson's best performance.
babblon2621 February 2015
Just had to add a note of admiration for this greatly overlooked masterpiece of modern angst. I saw it when a student in Glasgow in 1969. That is probably why it has stayed to haunt me - possibly to the grave. Beyond that, I really don't know.

I'm no film critic but like several of the cinema cognoscenti, I was surprised Rock had a movie like this in him. Probably his best. The camera work takes you right in. You don't remember willingly suspending disbelief. It is as plausible and convincing as a good nightmare. Bleak, black and white, terse like John Boorman's Point Blank. Round about the same time as Blow Up appeared. Also a surprisingly mature performance from David Hemmings, matched the mood of powerlessness and fatalism that pervades Seconds.

A little further off it recalled the Incredible Shrinking Man. The same mood of fatalism pervades but from a different perspective. In the latter, the isolated individual is redeemed by some metaphysical union with the universe. In Seconds the isolated, narcissistic self implodes.

John Frankenheimer's modern Frankenstein. Or another parallel universemight be Dorian Grey. It is a multi layered movie.
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8/10
Word Of Mouth Into A New Life
bkoganbing19 September 2008
In Seconds life's become pretty boring for John Randolph, no interest in the little woman any more, a dead end job, all the money in the world, but no interest in spending it anywhere.

So when he gets a call from an old friend who he's heard has died, the possibilities are intriguing. Start over with a newly reconstructed body and a little more spring in your step so to speak.

As you can gather this is a service that only the people that Robin Leach talks about can afford. It's kind of hush/hush and news of it is passed on by word of mouth. We just don't want any slug out there being able to have something like this. Imagine going in for some heavy duty surgery going in John Randolph and coming out Rock Hudson?

Of course not everyone quite takes to the new life, but The Company that provides this new life and identity has their ways of dealing with unsatisfied customers.

John Randolph/Rock Hudson plays the man seduced by the promise of eternal youth and health and pleasure. It's one of Rock Hudson's most highly rated performances and deservedly so.

Production wise, Seconds does resemble a rather long episode of the Twilight Zone, but that's not a derogatory comment. The Company provides some people to help newbies transition. Two of the best performances are Wesley Addy as a rather creepy factotum assigned to Hudson and Salome Jens as a woman who evinces interest in the new man that is Hudson.

Seconds is not a feel good movie, but it's a great horror story told without any of the usual monsters, blood, and gore associated with the genre. If you see Seconds, it will raise some disturbing questions.
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10/10
A middle-aged man faces vanity
aeshulos119 March 2008
I 've seen umpteen movies and i didn't expect that there are films to shock me anymore. But it is exactly what happened when i sow "seconds". I cannot forgive myself for not having had seen it till now. This film is certainly an experience! How pessimist a movie can be? I think i found the measure! At the beginning of it, i thought that it was nothing more than a longer twilight zone episode. But after the first half of it, i was perfectly sure: that film was going to haunt my dreams. The most vicious guys of the story, talks like an affectionate father. The dizziest scene of all seems to go on forever. The protagonist is a pure Greek Tragedy hero. How could they do it in 1966? Why can't they today? How clearly they could look into human soul! Oh, sixties! Age of art! Give us your lights!...
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9/10
Disturbing and Brilliant, Difficult to Watch
mercuryix200329 June 2014
There are far too many reviews about this film that discuss the plot, acting, and directing in-depth for mine to add anything, so this is more of a comment about how this film affected me when I watched it many years ago.

This is one of the most difficult films I have ever watched. A slasher film marathon with in-your-face gore would be easier to sit through than this, because they don't affect you on a personal level like this film does. You can laugh off the blood and fake violence in a slasher flick, but there is nothing to laugh at in this film. It brings up disturbing feelings, hopelessness, claustrophobia, the feeling that no matter what you do, even if given a second chance at life, you are still trapped by the decisions you made in your first one, or will make the exact same choices you did in your first life, bringing you to the same point again. I hope the message of this film isn't "you're doomed to make the same mistakes and decisions over and over again no matter what you do, so don't even try". If there is a message in this film, or a statement it makes, it's "don't pretend your past didn't happen, and walk away from it, thinking you can start over with a new life and new lessons. Instead, embrace what happened to you, good and bad, and that you learned a lot from it, good and bad. Then go on with the rest of your life with those lessons that your life, including your mistakes, taught you". It's one thing to move to a new place and to a new career and even a new family; it's another to abandon everything you learned up to that point, which is your identity. That's the cautionary moral this movie seems to make.

At least, I hope it does. The movie is so bleak and so stark in its presentation, it leaves it entirely up to the audience whether there's a statement there at all.

I think this is just the kind of movie that Roger Ebert liked and would have recommended. I'd like to know what he thought of it.....
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10/10
"Another key unturned"
ShadeGrenade9 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Welcome to the most chilling science fiction movie you will ever see. 'Seconds' is based on a quite plausible premise, that somewhere out there is an underground organisation known as 'The Company', which specialises in giving people new identities, fresh starts in life.

Arthur Hamilton, a middle-aged businessman, is approached by a Company employee whilst commuting, and gets offered the chance to begin his life again. Trapped in a loveless marriage, and with nothing to look forward to save retirement, he opts to be reborn.

After extensive plastic surgery, he emerges butterfly-like as 'Antiochus ( Tony ) Wilson', professional artist. Wilson is given a lovely home near the sea, a live-in manservant, and strikes up an affair with a beautiful neighbour, Nora Marcus.

But he realises too late that his new life is just as empty, as meaningless as the one he threw away. Returning to The Company, he asks to be given yet another identity. Unable or unwilling to nominate another candidate for rebirth, he unwittingly signs his own death warrant...

'Seconds' was directed by the late John Frankenheimer, then at the peak of his powers as a film-maker, with classics such as 'Birdman Of Alcatraz', 'The Manchurian Candidate', and 'Seven Days In May' to his credit. He brings a Hitchcockian feeling of suspense to the early scenes, while the post-rebirth section could not have been bettered by Kubrick. James Wong Howe's cinematography is breathtaking; the 'Company' scenes are chillingly stark, while the infamous wine festival is soft focus. Speaking of which, the scene is carefully edited so that even though people are running around naked you never see anything explicit ( you do in the European version though! ). Imagine what it might have been like had the film been made five years later.

For Rock Hudson, the film was a welcome change of direction after those romantic comedies with Doris Day. He gives a moody, powerful performance which surely must rank as his best. According to Danny Peary's book 'Cult Movies 3', the party scene where Wilson breaks down and pleads for the right to his identity hit the actor so hard he could not stop crying. Hudson's homosexuality was at that time one of Hollywood's best-kept secrets.

The excellent supporting cast includes Salome Jens, giving a hypnotic performance as the free-spirited Nora, Will Geer as the president of 'The Company', and Murray Hamilton as 'Charlie', who by nominating his old friend Arthur Hamilton as a candidate for rebirth inadvertently sets in motion the wheels of his destruction. The most impressive performance comes from the late John Randolph as 'Arthur'. He is simply brilliant, particularly when he realises he has nothing to live for, and one wonders why he did not bag an Oscar for best supporting actor.

Lewis John Carlino's script is a little talky, but its ideas ( derived from David Ely's novel ) are solid. Who is to say that a story like this could not happen in real life? How do we know there isn't a 'Company' out there right now? The late Jerry Goldsmith surpasses himself with a magnificent score, as bleak and foreboding as the film itself.

'Seconds' also has the most horrifying ending of any film I have ever seen. A guaranteed nightmare inducer.

Not a picture for those who like their science fiction drenched in C.G.I., 'Seconds' ought to be compulsive viewing for young people who think plastic surgery is the key to a better life.
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7/10
Second, but not Third Chance in Life
claudio_carvalho21 November 2010
In Scarsdale, the bored banker Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is contacted by his former friend Charlie Evans that supposedly died several years ago giving information about a secret organization that offers for US$ 30,000.00 a second chance in life to wealthy people. He visits the company and they explain that they use a cadaver with the same characteristics to stage the death of the client and give a new identity after plastic surgeries with new documents.

The reborn Arthur is the painter Antiochus 'Tony' Wilson (Rock Hudson) that lives in California with his butler John (Wesley Addy) that helps him in the transition. Tony meets the lonely Nora Marcus (Salome Jens) on the beach and they have a love affair. But sooner Tony realizes that his fake world does not give satisfaction to him and he returns to the company requesting another life. But the rules are not so easy to be changed.

"Seconds" is a weird film by John Frankenheimer with potential of cult- movie. The creepy and disturbing story is quite absurd, but the screenplay never uses clichés and it is impossible to guess what will happen with the lead character. The conclusion is totally unexpected. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "O Segundo Rosto" ("The Second Face")
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5/10
Intriguing, but dated
Chris-19523 February 2002
Only in the 60s could a movie like this have been made. That's a statement I've used both as a positive and a negative. With "Seconds", I'm somewhere in between.

The beginning is unbearably slow. The audience is expected to deal with this massive concept, but we're saddled with a character who doesn't ask even the most obvious questions. Arthur Hamilton is given the opportunity to fake his own death, undergo plastic surgery, and start a new life. While some attempt is made to convey why he would agree to this, it still feels too easy, as if they just want to get it over with and bring on Rock Hudson as Hamilton's new self. Characters tell Arthur what he's going to do, but we don't dig much deeper into why he's being offered this opportunity.

Things do improve some when Hudson arrives, but it's not really until he begins to question what his life has become that things take off. Hudson does a great job in this film, and the critical and commercial panning he took was unwarranted. There are flaws in this film, but Hudson's performance isn't one of them.

By the end, we see Hudson coming to the realization that too much of his life has been spent chasing material things, a conclusion that just seems trite in view of the larger issues here. In fact, the whole concept seems underthought. Yes, these people get younger-looking bodies, but aren't they still the same age they were before? Perhaps my view's tainted, because for years I had thought this was a movie about group that made people younger, sort of a fountain of youth treatment, an idea I found interesting. After finally watching it tonight, the reality felt like sort of a letdown.

Still, the film does have some genuinely disturbing moments, and the ending is chilling. It's something of an ancestor to films like `The Game', and shows like `The X-Files', with its conspiracies and shadowy concepts. It's definitely worth checking out, but I can't help but feel that there's a better film buried in here somewhere.
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A Modern Faustian Tale in a Little Depth
dougdoepke25 May 2014
I don't think the movie's definition of 'reborn' is exactly what the popular meaning has in mind. Nevertheless, it's a heckuva sci-fi movie from beginning to end. Frankenheimer pulls out all the stops in his camera work. The angles and effects are weird even for the close-ups, while that hectic bacchanal still has me panting for breath. We're kept off balance the whole time by those angles, which is as it should be. The style fits the material perfectly.

Poor Arthur (Randolph). He's a dutiful husband and breadwinner, but he's also terminally bored with his life and wife. It seems he's grown old, even at middle-age. So, now he's ready for the big change the Company provides for a price. Still, he should have known when he signed up that he was in for the wrong kind of rebirth. After all, he first has to go through an infernal steam cloud at the pants presser, then through carcass-strewn meat lockers in a slaughterhouse. It's all this just to get to the Company offices. That should have told him that the price of a new identity would be more hellish than the 30,000 in dollars.

But then, what guy wouldn't trade a 45-year old tired mug for Rock Hudson's handsome features and a new chance at life, especially the swinging kind. Okay, so maybe there's something sinister behind the smiling bureaucrats of The Company, especially when Mr. Ruby (Corey) scarfs down the fleshy edibles. But not to worry, they'll fake his death with some poor soul's cadaver and his unexciting former life will be left behind for good.

So, after a lot of bloody plastic surgery, Arthur gets his new chance with a handsome new face, reborn now as Tony Wilson (Hudson). Plus he gets to move from his boring old house in the suburbs to where else but swinging Malibu, CA. The Company, it seems, fixes up everything. Then there's that adoring young playmate to help (Jens) him settle in. She's sure a long way from the drab wife he's left behind. Okay, maybe there's something odd about John (Addy), the hovering house servant of his beach cottage. Nonetheless, he waits on Tony's every need, and now Tony can live life as a king.

And get a load of those merry- making hippies snaking up the canyon to their wine-soaked retreat that Nora's roped him into. Trouble is you can change a person outwardly, but it's not so easy inwardly. Besides, as Arthur, Tony has a whole lifetime of habits and hang-ups to overcome. So now he just sort of stands there, uptight, amid all the naked wine-stomping bodies. A real party-pooper until playmate Nora strong-arms him into drunken abandon. Now he's got what he thinks he wants, a new swinging life to replace the glum old businessman. At last, life is good, but is it.

I'm not surprised the film has a big cult following. On the whole, it's that good. The cast is superb, even Hudson who I suspect gives a career performance. That's along with the Walton's Will Geer as the kindly old head of The Company, his perpetual smile a mask for what turns out to be a Faustian bargain. To me, the movie's final third lacks the kind of clarity that's gone before. But maybe that's as it should be. That way the sinister undercurrents remain clouded in their exact depths.

It appears the plot pivots at this point on the question of personal choice, certainly a defining feature of personal fulfillment. But without giving away too much, it seems The Company has engineered everything, right down to guaranteed unhappiness. So the Company program perhaps amounts to a recycling of clients through pre-planned stages that Tony too must go through. The movie doesn't spell out what The Company is really up to; instead, we have to piece things together. I guess my only gripe is with the ending. Frankly, the kicking and screaming may raise the viewer's dread-level, but I think the ending should come as a sudden surprise with kindly old Will Geer looking on.

Nonetheless, the movie appears to be an original reworking of the Faustian legend of selling one's soul. But whether taken as a Faustian parable on middle- class discontent or not, it's still a riveting 100-minutes.
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8/10
The question of death selection may be the most important decision in your life.
Spikeopath25 July 2012
Seconds is directed by John Frankenheimer and adapted to screenplay by Lewis John Carlino from the novel of the same name written by David Ely. It stars Rock Hudson, John Randolph and Salome Jens. Music is scored by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by James Wong Howe.

Arthur Hamilton (Randolph) is a middle-aged business man who is tired of his mundane existence, but that is all about to change when he is coerced by a mysterious organisation into faking his own death and letting them create an entirely new look and lifestyle for him. He becomes Tony Wilson (Hudson), a talented artist with a beach front home, things are looking up...

Feverish, haunting and dripping with dread, the quintessential ingredients of the paranoid thriller. Seconds has them all. From the nightmarish opening Saul Bass credit sequence to the stunning denouement, Seconds is a film that slowly crawls under your skin and stays there for days like an insect tick burrowing away. It's the sort of film that has you wondering if somebody slipped some dubious pill into your drink when you wasn't looking, such is the claustrophobic atmosphere, weird imagery and the use of the SnorriCam. Wong Howe's Oscar nominated black and white photography keeps things bordering on the realm of the surreal, while Goldsmith scores it suitably unusual like, with low rumbles and avant-garde tinkerings flitting in and out of proceedings.

Upon release it was met with very mixed reviews and received a critical mauling at Cannes, a shame since it has since become something of a cult classic. It feels very much ahead of its time, or at the least it's a film where the boldness in themes has mistakenly been viewed as moralising. True, it has a message, the parable is clear, while the mixture of sci-fi, horror, neo-noir and borderline psychedelia often is an uneasy fit; though not being able to pigeon hole it keeps it from charges of lacking initiative. There's also a flabby middle section, the pace stops and the film threatens to lose the dread that has been built up to that point. There's a hippie/pagan wine and sex sequence inserted into the plot that isn't (I believe) in the novel, I understand why the makers did it, it's to establish Tony Wilson's "change" into a carefree member of society, but it doesn't sit right and Frankheimer has to work hard for twenty minutes to wrestle back the paranoia ambiance. Thankfully he does get things back on track whilst garnering a terrific lead performance from Hudson. The support cast are great, too.

Think what happens when you mix Welles' The Trial with The Twilight Zone, add in some dashes of film noir visuality and Stepford Wives like literature, and you get something like Seconds. An itchy viewing experience, sweaty and unique, you certainly will not forget it once viewed. I can still now, some three days after having watched it, hear the screams that form part of the deliriously savage finale. 8/10
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6/10
"The Twilight Zone" did this type of thing cheaper, faster and about as mean...
moonspinner558 October 2006
"Seconds" plays like an elongated episode of TV's "The Twilight Zone". While that isn't particularly a bad thing, it does point out the fact the series may have done this story some justice simply by paring down its excesses. Rock Hudson is convincingly benumbed playing a handsome artist in Malibu whose life is a lie, whose friends are a fake, and whose real history haunts him. At first I thought the extended preamble with John Randolph as an elderly banker seemed a little sluggish, but it builds momentum carefully, deliberately. Still, there's no reason for the rest of the picture to be so slow except to prolong the inevitability of the very slim plot. Hudson's performance is good though not great--this due in part to the writing; by the time he arrives on-screen, "Seconds" has already used up most of its resources and has to fall back on filler (such as the grape-stomping bacchanal, which begins as cinematic eye-candy and then goes on forever). It's a handsome piece of work, startlingly photographed and with a haunting ambiance, but eventually the movie drops its own big red ball. **1/2 from ****
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8/10
Deeply Disturbing Thriller, Honest, Compelling!!
dane-3116 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In the late fifties, Rock Hudson was seen through the eyes of middle-aged women and teenage girls as the all-American Alpha male, the hero, a luminary of the melodrama genre. While Hudson's performances were exceptional in nearly all of his films, his performance in Frankenheimer's frenetic psychological thriller "Seconds," is nothing short of amazing. Another notable, albeit overlooked performance was that of Francis Reed as Emily, Tony's original wife. Reed's final scenes of the film were beautifully and eloquently articulated, and her emotions, while restrained, were catching, you could feel her sense of loss and confusion. The film's commencing images of Authur's distorted/warping face, accompanied by Goldsmith's dark, piercing score gives the viewer a sense of confusion, of not knowing exactly just what is happening, and a lingering air of dread and disgust. The film in an elemental analysis is rather uneven, some scenes are over-drawn, lengthy. Take for example the duration of the wine stomping festival. While this sequence is significantly important to the understanding of the main characters, their thoughts, their ideas, and their behavior (a spiritual and personal releasing of the central character's concealed emotions and inner tensions) it's simply far too long, and at times confusing, due to the jerky camera movements (hand-held?), making the scene almost laughable. Another example of a needlessly linty scene is the party episode at Wilson's new Ocean-front domicile. Once again, the camera movements are highly unstable, and the scene, overall, far too long. The scene comes across as an over lit, neurotic parody, rather than a significant watershed in the narrative. Other than these few weaker elements of "Seconds," the film as a whole is surprisingly powerful. Once again, Hudson's performance was very authentic, and while his character was not the most reasonable man, Hudson's heartfelt performance makes him very sympathetic. Overall, Frankenheimer's unconventional foray into the Paranoid Thriller Genre is very memorable, and one of the more honest, deeply compelling films of it's time. The final 20 minutes are harrowing, and the ambient orchestrations by Goldsmith access at perfectly calculated moments. Unconventional in it's approach, moving in it's deeply felt themes, and haunting for it's difficult questions toward's a perhaps superficial, covetous modern society.
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