02 September 2014

Seconds (1966)
100 min.
Directed by John Frankenheimer.
With Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, John Randolph, Will Geer, Jeff Corey, Richard Anderson, Murray Hamilton, Karl Swenson, Khigh Dhiegh, Frances Reid.
Based on a novel by David Ely, director John Frankenheimer's Seconds is a first rate character study full of chilling overtones.

Somewhere along the way, middle aged banker Arthur Hamilton (Randolph) lost his passion for life. Successful but dispassionate, Arthur can find no pleasure in his buttoned down, suburban life. Even Arthur's exceedingly amiable wife Emily (Reid) fails to stir his enthusiasm.

So when he's approached by a mysterious organization called the "Company" which offers to give him a completely second chance at a new life, Arthur is intrigued to say the least.

Turns out they ain't foolin' around. For Arthur, this "second chance" will mean a new identity on every level: a new face, a new body, a new voice, new experiences.

Too tempting to pass up, Arthur accepts the covenant with the Company, and begins his second life. Now he's handsome Tony Wilson (Hudson), a dashing bachelor who's almost immediately befriended by willful hedonist Nora (Marcus).

Can Tony handle the psychological strain of living two lives?

Arthur - and all the memories and impressions that made him who he was - still lives inside the new husk that is Tony. Can they both exist somehow side by side? Or will one combust before the other?

First and foremost, Seconds is a fascinating essay on the modern world's obsession with eternal youth and beauty objectification.

But it's also an expert horror-thriller, a palpable story of psychological deterioration given life almost entirely by a terrifically nuanced performance from Rock Hudson.

That's not to say John Frankenheimer's expressionistic-tinged direction doesn't help immensely. Odd camera angles, creepy tracking shots, psychedelic party sequences, and an ominous score from Jerry Goldsmith all serve to heighten the mounting tension inherent in the thoughtful, but depressing, screenplay.

Ahead of its time when it was released in 1966, Seconds is a progressive masterpiece that continues to retain its power to shock. Certainly, it will leave you wondering if that second beginning you've been craving will be the answer to your prayers...or the start of new nightmares.

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