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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frankenheimer's Trippy Twilight-Zonish Masterpiece
Seconds is probably the trippiest film you're likely to see. It stars Rock Hudson as Tony, a "reborn" of John Randolph (one of the actors blacklisted under McCarthy). It's ostensibly about this guy in a midlife crisis who is forced into this super secret organization that creates second lives for people by giving them new identities. This film hit so close to...
Published on Dec 25 2003 by Adam Bernstein

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3.0 out of 5 stars Out of tune
"Seconds" is one of those films that is both too long and too short. Conceived as a half-hour episode of the original "Twilight Zone" series, it might be a compelling nightmare, a kind of Borgesian sick joke shot by Fritz Lang on speed. We'd accept the story's heavy-handed sententiousness as a necessity of the short format and revel in the snap with which it was...
Published on April 22 2002 by Charles S. Tashiro


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frankenheimer's Trippy Twilight-Zonish Masterpiece, Dec 25 2003
By 
Adam Bernstein "sixtiesuniverse" (Northwest, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seconds (VHS Tape)
Seconds is probably the trippiest film you're likely to see. It stars Rock Hudson as Tony, a "reborn" of John Randolph (one of the actors blacklisted under McCarthy). It's ostensibly about this guy in a midlife crisis who is forced into this super secret organization that creates second lives for people by giving them new identities. This film hit so close to home for Rock he nearly broke down during filming.
At first glance the second chance at life looks great. A new identity, a house on the beach, and a beautiful new girlfriend in the seemingly hippyish Nora (Salome Jens). Then things go downhill and into a nightmarish realm. Really the whole film is a surreal nightmare, from the meat packing district to Randolph being drugged to out-of-proportion camera lenses and strange angles. And especially inside the reborn offices; what happens there is utterly otherworldly. Filmed in black and white this captures an experiment in surrealism that a major director wouldn't dare attempt today. And like all great '60s films this has a '60s feel and atmosphere to it. Especially when Nora and Tony go to a hippy festival, though Tony feels out of place there; after all he was formerly a square banker.
When Beach Boy Brian Wilson saw this film when it was released in 1966 he literally went insane. He believed Phil Spector was beaming him secret messages through the film to sabotage his career (the main character's last name was Wilson which may have added to his paranoia). But for a relatively healthy viewer it won't drive you insane...but it'll definitely have an effect on you.
If one had to pin down what this film is a metaphor for, it would have to be the old alienation of modern society theme, but here with an intense sci-fi-like twist. A must for all Frankenheimer fans, Rock Hudson fans, and/or '60s afficionados.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seconds, Feb. 8 2004
By 
B. Brown "Terminally Art Hip" (Atlanta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seconds (DVD)
Perhaps the most unknown and under appreciated American film of all time. John Frankenheimer at his edgiest and most paranoid. Rock Hudson is brilliantly cast as the young reincarnation of a middle-aged man who under goes surgery to regain his youth. A film truly ahead of its time and an inspiration to filmmakers everywhere. Story is told brilliantly with some of the most inventive camera work ever!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Disturbing Mid-Life Crisis, Aug. 20 2003
By 
Echo "Echo" (Western Hemisphere) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Seconds (DVD)
Without question, "Seconds" is a disturbing and unique film. It's odd, unclassifiable, and not easily forgettable. It is also one of the few films that will upset you with each subsequent viewing. The passing of John Hamilton gives me pause to reflect on this underrated films - one of the best dramas of the mid-1960s, and one of the best psychological thrillers ever put to film.
John Randolph is Arthur Hamilton, a man haunted by the thought of life passing him by. Arthur is brought to a strange agency, and is given a unique opportunity: the agency will erase Arthur's old persona via a convenient faked death, perform plastic surgery, and give him a new life as a "second". Rock Hudson plays Tony Wilson, his post-surgery "second" persona. In his new "second" identity, Tony learns that a new body and new identity don't address his need for individuality. Tony never lets go of his supreme self-centeredness, which eventually leads to his downfall.
The film settles in the pit of your stomach with several strange and unsettling scenes. At the agency, he meets a friend who has something on his mind...he seems very intent that Arthur adopts a "second" identity. When Tony awakes from surgery he is bandaged, and is told not to talk because his teeth have been removed. As he recovers, he is given a strange personality and occupational aptitude battery (I have never trusted these after seeing this movie!) Eventually After having too much to drink, he realizes all of his friends are fellow "seconds". Tony visits his wife, who think's he's dead. The gravity of Arthur/Tony's choice is clear; he can never go back. Eventually Tony returns to the agency, and is asked to suggest fellow clients...he never realizes the danger of not ponying up a new candidate. And the final scene...I won't spoil it, but you'll feel cold afterwards.
Hudson is brilliantly and presciently cast, as it was made before his sexuality was common knowledge. It's little wonder that "Seconds" is recognized as Hudson's best work. John Randolph as the gray, depressed Arthur Hamilton is overshadowed by Hudson, but his understated performance is critical to the Hudson's portrayal as Hamilton's "second" chance. Never a great actor, Murray Hamilton is at his best as a frightened agency client - we know why he's nervous, but wonder why Arthur can't see it. Will Geer is eerie and unforgettable as the agency's patriarch, who waxes philosophical with his failed clients. Frankenheimer's work is brilliant. "Seconds" takes a toll on it's viewers, and I find that I have to steel myself to watch this great film again. Strongly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Time Capsule of Terror, July 23 2003
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seconds (DVD)
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."
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4.0 out of 5 stars A cult classic deserving of more attention, April 29 2003
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This review is from: Seconds (VHS Tape)
Director John Frankenheimer, cinematographer James Wong Howe, and composer Jerry Goldsmith have each produced a body of outstanding work. Likewise the terrific supporting cast (Will Geer, Jeff Corey, John Randolph) have given many impressive performances over many years. So it is no surprise that, when they come together with SECONDS, they create something special. What is a surprise is the powerful performance by the much-maligned Rock Hudson. It is searingly effective in its focused intensity-- certainly among his finest work.
Interestingly, at the time he was too popular a "star", with a recent spate of successful if insubstantial romantic comedies to his credit. No one felt it believable that John Randolph could be transformed into this familiar celebrity. Now, with Hudson's face and figure much less familiar to new generations of filmgoers, this concern is somewhat alleviated, and his performance can be valued on its substance.
At the same time, with our fuller knowledge of Hudson's personal life and tragic death, his ability to portray a man leading what is essentially a double life is far less surprising. He brings to the role a scorching insight and personal perspective that is both pointed and poignant, and in the end degenerates convincingly into desperate fear and rage.
As the adjectives used above would indicate, this is not a "nice" film. There is no happy ending to this story that transcends genre to speak to the dark places in all of our souls.
SECONDS has become something of a cult classic. While this is understandable, it is deserving of more attention than that. It has its flaws, but its impact goes beyond nit-picking. If you have not seen it and you can handle something far more intense than the usual fluff, check it out.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth Buying, Dec 11 2002
By 
Harvey Pekar (Rocky River, Ohio United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Seconds (DVD)
For anyone who's fascinated by overlooked gems, this is the film for you. Disturbing and eery from the opening credits montage to the final ambiguous scene. This is worth picking up to see that Rock Hudson was more than a face and that Frankenheimer was years ahead of his time and one of the truly great directors of the 1960's. This was such a fantastic marriage of bizarre camera work, sterile settings, and a sense of something slightly "off" about the everyday world. It succeeds where countless films and TV shows have failed. Much like what you would expect from one of today's Indy directors taking on an old Rod Serling story. It has a very deliberate pace and is recommended for those that have the patience to appreciate every scene. The director commentary from Frankenheimer is insightful and honest all the way through, giving much credit to cinematographer James Wong How. Highly recommended for anyone that wants to see one of the only examples of good "Sci-Fi" post 50's schlock and pre-70's popcorn-flicks.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting chiller, Nov. 15 2002
This review is from: Seconds (DVD)
This haunting chiller qualifies as director John Frankenheimer's best film. John Randolph plays a middle aged businessman who is given the chance to start is life all over again. He looks 20 years younger, sounds like he's 20 years younger because now he is. He's given a new face and identity. The catch is that he can't contact his widowed spouse or their children ever again.
Sucked into this surreal world, Rock Hudson gives one of his sharpest and most impassioned performances. Perhaps that's because, despite his matinee idol looks and heterosexual swagger, Hudson was gay. In many repsects he had to project one image while hiding another and those around him couldn't be clued in because it would destroy his career. It's something Hudson might be able to identify with (ironic then that the gay actor Will Geer most famous for playing grandpa on The Waltons is the head of the company that "renews" people).
Frankenheimer's direction is imaginative. The cinematography, editing and overall look of the film could be a textbook on surreal cinema by itself. Frankenheimer uses a variety of short, long and wide fisheyed lenses to convey the frightening world that Hudson's character has fallen into. Despite the fact that it was released in 1966, Seconds could be a modern fable about identity and discovering who we really are vs. who we pretend to be.
The DVD has a running commentary by the later Frankenheimer and a widescreen transfer (the first time this film has been available in ages in that format). The black and white photographer is beautifully rendered with the rich shadowy world rendered in crisp, sharp images.
Arguably Frankenheimer's finest film (the other films that belong in the same category are his films of The Manchurian Candidate and The French Connection 2), Seconds captures one of Hudson's best film performances. This DVD release is a deluxe edition that has many of the unusual bells and whistles we've come to expect from Criterion and other quality DVD/Video companies. Be warned, though, that Second is not a film everyone will enjoy. The film comes with a decidedly downbeat ending (somewhat unusual even in American cinema in the mid-60's, Frankenheimer was clearly influenced by the French New Wave movement that was going on at the same time)but is powerful and leavea a lasting impression.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Unexamined Life, Nov. 8 2002
By 
P. Miller "crestview306" (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seconds (DVD)
About 5 years ago, at my health club, a bunch of us got to talking about movies, and some guy I barely knew grabbed me by both collars of my shirt and said, "You HAVE to see this movie!!! You just HAVE to!!" So OK. So I did. So it's truly brilliant, and on my list of fave flics. This film is one of those "fatal decision" stories, where the character, without due consideration, unwittingly makes that irrevocable and irretrievable committment to alter the course of his life, and in doing so, comes to the horrid realization that the choice made was, in fact, the wrong one, and maybe life before the decision to change wasn't that bad after all. Too late! Frankenheimer does a brilliant job of powerfully conveying that moment of gut-wrenching realization that the character can't go back, can't change his mind. Camera angles are used very effectively to impart a sense of skewed reality that the main character experiences. In all, a gem of a film. Definitely worth a watch. Would pair well as a double feature with Terry Gilliam's "Brazil", or "Me, Myself, and I", starring Rachael Griffis.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Paranoids...beware; film fans...rejoice!!, July 25 2002
By 
R. Gawlitta "Coolmoan" (Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Seconds (DVD)
Either you like this film or you hate it. I saw it in its initial release back in 1966, and it had a momentous impact. One must realize that in the '60's, everyone was attempting new approaches toward everything; shock value was essential and surrealism was in a neo-phase. "Seconds" is profound, if nothing else. Mr. Frankenheimer is somewhat known for his "trilogy" ("Manchurian Candidate" and "Seven Days in May", along with this, all films about mistrust and alienation.) The fact that, in 1966, he also made "Grand Prix" is somewhat of a mystery; it won an Oscar for it's editing (action scenes) but the narrative itself was a trite and silly soap opera. I liked "Seconds" on many levels. The Oscar nominated photography of James Wong Howe is a bit artsy but creates quite an amount of tension and insecurity. (Note: this was the last year the Academy separated categories for Color or B&W; it lost to "Virginia Woolf?"). I understand this was orignally designed to be a TV episode, but I can't imagine it being stream-lined to a 52 minute show and remain coherent. Also, commercials would've damaged the flow. The screenplay by Lewis John Carlino (a fine and intuitive playwright) was tightly and carefully designed. The incredible intricacies of the plot demanded time to "soak in". The acting is first rate. I've always liked John Randolph, a fine character actor; Will Geer (pre-Grandpa Walton) and Jeff Corey (respected acting coach) have small but pivotal roles. Salome Jens, always great and never used often enough to good advantage, truly shines here. There's only one lead character, and the other half of Randolph's character is covered by Rock Hudson, in a career-turning performance. Many thought he'd get an Oscar. He was truly centered and in control. The final responsibility goes to the late, great John Frankenheimer who wove this bizarre series of events into a believable and very frightening narrative. Jerry Goldsmith was a great film composer in many ways, but I thought he sounded a lot like Les Baxter (the Roger Corman/Poe films). If you watch this film, make sure there are no distractions; keep your mind open and absorb. It's quite a remarkable film.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Out of tune, April 22 2002
By 
Charles S. Tashiro (Rochester, NY, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seconds (DVD)
"Seconds" is one of those films that is both too long and too short. Conceived as a half-hour episode of the original "Twilight Zone" series, it might be a compelling nightmare, a kind of Borgesian sick joke shot by Fritz Lang on speed. We'd accept the story's heavy-handed sententiousness as a necessity of the short format and revel in the snap with which it was made.
As a feature film, though, it's schematic, a series of sub-philosophical postures enlivened by filmmaking a little too clever for its own good. Not that the idea couldn't work as a feature. The problem is that instead of focusing on the main character's realization that his humdrum life results from a bankruptcy that can be blamed on no one but himself, Frankenheimer and company seem more interested in hanging a phantasmagoric swirl on their skeletal idea.
Why do filmmakers believe the best way to present the paranoid is to dump a lot of "style" in our laps? Master fabulists like Kafka and Borges achieve their effects through language so precise it is *itself* surreal. An arty fable like "Seconds," all tense technique slammed in our faces, ultimately falls flat because the film has not been *structured* visually. When a man can't get on a commuter train without the camera doing whirligigs, jumping around from one bizarre angle to another, there's nothing left for the kicker moments, no real horror when we need it. It's a failure of discrimination, an inability to recognize when the fantastic is appropriate, or better, how the fantastic is best revealed through the utterly mundane.
With the main character's transformation more stated than demonstrated, the action feels dragged out, the technique pasted on to distract from the empty subject. It's a pity, because the story could provide a compelling portrait of a grey man's realization of his mediocrity if the filmmakers had the perspicacity to develop the logic of the situation. Brilliant in stretches, rather frustrating because of the obvious talent involved, watching "Seconds" is a lot like listening to a drunken opera star sing out of tune.
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Seconds
Seconds by John Frankenheimer (DVD - 2002)
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