Movie Review: Seconds (1966)


Seen: On our projector set-up, rented from the Tufts library.

So I read Andreas’s post on Seconds over at Movie Mezzanine and was instantly curious. A psychological sci-fi thriller from the 60’s starring Rock Hudson and directed by John Frankenheimer? I believe “intriguing” was the first word that came to mind! The story begins with sweaty, middle-aged bank employee Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph), who on the recommendation of a friend he thought dead finds himself in the offices of the shadowy “Company” offering to release him from his humdrum life. You see, he’s got a grown daughter who’s happily married, a well-paying job, and a friendly wife who doesn’t sleep with him anymore, so OBVIOUSLY his life is pretty shitty and he needs a new one. Which is just what this business offers: new face, new name, new house, new profession, and hopefully a new outlook. Arthur wakes up as Rock Hudson and tries to cut it as a painter in California, but finds himself completely unraveling after a few months of identity crisis.

Rife with uncomfortable close-ups and fish-eye effects, the camerawork aptly conveys an alienating and unsettling feeling throughout the whole of Seconds, transforming suburban domestic spaces and innocuous men in business suits into unfamiliar monsters. It’s a dark tale with almost no likable characters (except the “Old Man” played by Will Geer, whom I kind of adored), and it’s clear early on that there can be no happy resolution. The focus is more on the journey, the realizations of the main character that his old life was worth more than he thought, and that his rash decision with the Company comes with harsh consequences. This isn’t a story about a man’s road to transformation, but rather about a man coming to terms with change he thought he wanted, but can’t actually cope with. It’s billed as a horror movie and I guess its concepts and trippy visuals could make that an appropriate designation, I just found it more of a twisted character study of the privileged white “Everyman” going through a warped mid-life crisis.

Seconds is strange and fascinating, complete with an unexpected surrealistic drug sequence and strong performance from Rock Hudson (oddly enough this is the first movie I’ve seen him in). It’s eye-catching and imaginative without being sensationalistic, and works as both a criticism of and compassionate insight into the type of man it takes as its focus. Really it’s like an extended Twilight Zone episode, which is cool. It’s the kind of movie I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of before, as it seems easy enough to fit it in with other great forward-thinking psychological thrillers of any decade. It’s the kind of movie I’m surprised hasn’t been remade yet, but now that I’ve said it I’m sure it’ll happen.


Pair This Movie With: Thematically it reminded me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I haven’t seen in quite a while I’m realizing. Alternatively, some of the visuals and general feelings of anxiety and confusion made me think of Brazil.

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