Seconds (1966) – John Frankenheimer

The 101 Sci-Fi movies brought an interesting if downer of a film for me to watch…

John Frankenheimer the director of the original Manchurian Candidate and Ronin directs this black and white film based on David Ely’s novel.

Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a middle-aged man, his wife (Frances Reid) and he are less than affectionate, and he just seems unhappy with life, and where he is. Things get weird when he receives a call from his friend Charlie, except Charlie is supposed to be dead, and strange men seem to be following him, one of them passes on a note with an address on it.

Almost against his better judgement, but what else is he going to do… he goes to the address and eventually ends up in the center of a very unique business. For a fee, and a bit of blackmailing (so you won’t back out) they’ll perform plastic surgery, reshaping your face, and then setting you up with an entirely new life, younger (in appearance), happier and free to try a second time around with life.

A life that is watched over by the company to make sure you acclimate properly, and that you don’t say anything you aren’t supposed.

seconds1Arthur now Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson) is set up as a famous painter in California, has a personal company aide, and begins seeing a young woman, but even as he tries to settle into his new life, happiness continues to elude him.

After a rather heart-breaking visit home to his wife, who believes he is dead, the Company takes care of all those details, Tony demands to be taken back so he can under go the process again, and try it once more.

The film, which is pretty much a downer the whole way through, ends up giving the viewer a completely dark and depressing ending.

Shot in black and white, the film looks great, and there’s a scene early in the film where Arthur is drugged, as the Company arranges to create a tape to blackmail him with, and the sets take on an almost Salvador Dali presentation, it plays with the eyes, and is almost nausea-inducing to watch.

seconds2It’s hard to recommend this film, because it is such a downer of a movie. Neither of his existences in the film are happy, not the one he’s lived with his wife for the past countless years, nor his new life, which has been crafted to allow him to indulge one of his favorite hobbies, painting.

Even though the ending is such a downer, I love how it happens, as Tony slowly starts to realize what is going on. It’s frightening and heartbreaking.

Hudson turns in a standout performance here, completely unlike anything he had played to that point. The film is also filled with a lot of familiar faces…Richard Anderson from the Six Million Dollar Man, Murray Hamilton from Jaws, Will Geer from The Waltons, and Jeff Corey from Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.

Amazingly now, this film would be seen more of a drama than a sci-fi film, as it’s not unbelievable that something like this could actually take place in this day and time. Still we are drawing to the end of the 60s and then we start hitting films I know really well and looking forward to revisiting!

Did you see this one? What did you think?

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Dave Enkosky says:

    This is definitely one of my five favorite movies of the sixties.

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