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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.Read more ›
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."
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's Rock Hudson's best performance. And Frankenheimer and Howe are masters of B&W photography. The script is very chilling, thoughtful and quite horrifying. Read morePublished 2 hours ago by Amazon Customer
First saw this movie in early 1990's on the great Turner Classic Movies (the only tv channel worth a damn). Read morePublished 4 days ago by Yeah Right
Creepy and weird in the best possible way. It got zero notice upon its release and ultimately became a cult classic.Published 1 month ago by Eric Biedermann
Rock Hudson deserved better for his work in this movie. A fascinating movie of the inner struggles of an unhappy man!! Read morePublished 2 months ago by Murphynmax
Seconds (1966) is the third and final episode of Frankenheimer’s “Paranoia Trilogy,” a sequence of films that include political thrillers The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Seven... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Josh Downham
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