Rock Hudson stars in this unsettling look at second chances. Banker Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) lives a comfortable, stifling life until he is contacted by a mysterious caller offering "what every middle-aged man wants... more »: complete freedom." Hamilton, with the help of an enigmatic corporation, fakes his own death and starts over in his new swinging-bachelor persona (now played by Rock Hudson). A change of life, though, is not just a change of scenery, and Seconds, for all its thriller aspects, contains some sad and disturbing meditations on the way we make our own prisons. Director John Frankenheimer uses skewed angles, bizarre close-ups, and fisheye lenses to underscore the film's off-kilter tension, and Rock Hudson gives a performance that is light-years removed from Pillow Talk. Well worth watching twice. --Ali Davis« less
An overlooked masterpiece of American cinema. From -- quite literally -- first frame to last, SECONDS is brilliant. Think of it as "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit" writen by Sartre, produced by de Sade, directed by Satan. Allow it the mood of the decade in which it was made -- it had the awful luck of being released at the time of the Kennedy assassination, when the last thing any American could bear was a bone-deep exploration of the meaning of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- and it will affect you resoundingly. Rock Hudson's brief, shining moment of greatness. If you appreciate films like "The Manchurian Candidate" you owe yourself this one. Deserves a place on every 20th-century best list.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
reelworld | Wilmington, MA | 01/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"We've all had days where we wished we could escape our ourselves and our lives, to be someone else somewhere else. But even if it were possible, could we really start over? Seconds asks and answers that question - some might argue quite cynically - through some of the most searing and surreal images and dialogue on film, in a story both jarring and emotionally resonant because it tells truths about humanity. Without giving up too much of the plot, it is difficult to convey just how profoundly disturbing and haunting this film is, even after multiple viewings. From the pipe-organ score by Jerry Goldsmith that breathes with an eerie, heretic fervor; to the distorted faces in the titles by Saul Bass; to the stunning wide-angle black-and-white photography by James Wong Howe; to the peerless direction by John Frankenheimer; and of course, to the career-topping performance of Rock Hudson as the protagonist striking the faustian bargain to trade in his humdrum, middle-age existence for a new beginning, this film is simply one of the most overlooked and underrated gems of '60s cinema. That it was made nearly 40 years ago is evident because of the film's many on-location shots, but the movie transcends its era and its genre (science fiction?) because it deals with timeless themes and a premise that in today's world of cloning and biotechnology seems increasingly plausible (at least physically). Seconds also remains more chilling than Frankenheimer's more popular masterpiece, The Manchurian Candidate, because it speaks poignantly about something we can all identify with: identity. The new DVD is very much worth the price of admission: the picture transfer is really superb, and the sound isn't bad relative to most films of its time period. The disc also contains a trailer and a commentary by Frankenheimer. While Frankenheimer's thoughts are informative, I was disappointed that he focused mostly on technical aspects of the movie (e.g., "here's James Wong using the wide-angle lens again . . . ). I wish he had provided more insights about plot and thematic elements; maybe he thought these were better off left to the viewer to figure out. You likely won't be able to rent this one at Blockbuster, because unfortunately it remains a cult classic only. Seconds is director John Frankenheimer and lead actor Rock Hudson's finest hour, and I can't recommend it more highly. This is one movie that will make you think differently about yourself, your life, and your loved ones."
A Time Capsule of Terror
Robert Morris | Dallas, Texas | 07/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The core concept of this film has special relevance almost 40 years after its initial release, given recent developments in genetic engineering: Recycling of human beings, whole or in parts. As I again watched it, I thought about several themes which have intrigued man throughout history, such as eternal youth (e.g. the fountain of youth) and unholy pacts (e.g. in the Garden of Eden and, later, Dr. Faust). Dissatisfied with his life, Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) presents himself to The Company and agrees (for a substantial fee) to become a different person and have a lifestyle about which he has obviously fantasized for many years. After extensive surgery, he becomes Antiochus ("Tony") Wilson (Rock Hudson), twenty years younger, strikingly handsome, physically fit, and living what is for many males an idealized bachelor's life. He seems to have everything Hamilton once desired and yet....This is among the subtlest but also one of the most frightening of films. To say more about its plot would be a disservice to those who have not as yet seen it. Suffice to say that, under the brilliant direction of John Frankenheimer, the cast plays out what becomes a horror story of almost unbearable impact. My opinion is that Hudson's performance is his strongest throughout a lengthy film career. Will Geer appears briefly but memorably, as do others in a diverse cast which includes Murray Hamilton, Jeff Corey, Richard Anderson, and Salome Jens. Also noteworthy is James Wong Howe's cinematography which nourishes, indeed intensifies the gradually-increasing sense of terror as Wilson attempts without success to re-negotiate the terms and conditions of his surgically-enhanced life. Whenever I recall the final scene, I shudder despite the fact that I have seen this film several times and know that it is "only a movie.""
A forgotten American masterpiece
J. Remington | Adams, Oregon USA | 02/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Every man has, inside him, a key left unturned."
SECONDS, directed by John Frankenheimer, may be perhaps one of the greatest American movies that no one has ever seen or heard of. It's obscurity is a real crime considering that the inferior (but still very good) AMERICAN BEAUTY and the absolutely wretched EYES WIDE SHUT (not to mention the bloated LAST TANGO IN PARIS) have enjoyed greater notoriety while dealing with exactly the same material.
In fact a great festival would be to show all four films together. Although one may want to shoot themselves afterword.
SECONDS, like all the great tragedies, truly is a pessimistic and depressing film on one hand, and yet, on the other hand, manages to elate the viewer in terms of the incredible mastery of storytelling craft that the filmakers John Frankenheimer and James Wong Howe so expertly display. The acting, script, direction and cinemaphotography all blend perfectly together to create a shattering and unforgettable experience.
The narrative, dealing with a middle aged suburbanite getting a chance at a new start via a shadowy company with real Satanic overtones, is filled with haunting, frightening and utterly truthfull revelations about the fragile human condition. Arthur Hamilton/Tony, the sad protagonist (expertly played by both John Randolph and Rock Hudson(!)) finds all too late that there is no place like home, and once you're gone, you're gone. This is a lesson that Hamilton/Tony doesn't learn until it is too late.
The film proposes this as a fact of our existance that ultimately we all must come to face and accept. Our choices will then lead us to either making our present state better or diving off into changing what cannot be changed: the past.
Watching this film is not escapist entertainment. It is challenging, disturbing and creepy. It is however, a work of art. Don't miss this. A 10 out of 10."
A completely disturbing portrait of middle age loss.
""There is an unturned key inside everybody." So says one of this amazing films' souless and mournful characters. I saw this film right before viewing Kubricks Eyes Wide Shut and the two films share immense similarities. Using the guise of science fiction, Director Frankenheimer and Cinematograper James Wong Howe along with actors Rock Hudson and John Randolph work to create a terrifying and heartbreaking portrait of life lost. This is not an uplifting film in the slightest, of course that is like saying the same thing about King Lear. Classic American character actor Will Geer is the ultimate in gentile evil as the mephestopholian CEO of a mysterious company that gives middle aged men new identities. One cannot ever go home again is one of the many profound messages this film slams home. Devistating and disturbing. Don't miss this!"
Destroying the American dream
J. Remington | 06/26/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Seconds is one of those Hollywood films which which challenges the dominant ideology of the American dream. A truly shocking and disturbing expose of a frustrated middle class businessman, bored with is life, who is offered a new identity by a mysterious organisation. The ending is frightening and chilling and can compared to Sam Fullers Shock Coridoor. Camerawork and music add to the atmosphere and we are left in a state of terror atfer watching the film. Rock Hudson has never been better and is probably Frankenheimers best picture."