[box cover]

Seconds

Seconds (1966) isn't exactly second-rate Frankenheimer, but it doesn't match the depth and breadth of his earlier, more gripping Cinema of Paranoia films Seven Days in May (1964) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Seconds instead has the cloistered feeling of a '50s TV play, which is where John Frankenheimer happened to get his start. Also, unlike the heroes of the other two paranoia films, the character played first by John Randolph and then by Rock Hudson is passive. Things happen to him, as in a Rod Serling tale. When finally he acts, it is too late, which is the point of the story but makes for an oddly airless feeling — it's intentional, but it requires a special appetite in the viewer for Orwellian pessimism. Randolph-Hudson play Art Hamilton, who becomes Tony Wilson after the bored and anxiety-ridden bank executive is approached by the Seconds Corporation, which — via a faked death, plastic surgery, and physical therapy — offers its clients renewal as younger and happier men. But Hudson-as-Wilson doesn't take well to his new life of '60s Malibu hedonism and starts to break a few of the rules second-chancers must live under. Though the screenplay (credited to Lewis John Carlino from David Ely's novel) is tight and precise, and though Saul Bass's credit sequence and Jerry Goldsmith's music provide an appropriately creepy tone from the start, in the end Seconds feels lifeless and predetermined. Hamilton-Wilson is ultimately an impenetrable character — we're never really sure why nothing makes him happy. Paramount has done a fine job with the DVD however, releasing the export version of the movie, which Frankenheimer prefers for its better-edited "orgy" scene. The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is solid and the source print is essentially flawless after some initial markings and scratches at the beginning. Audio is in monaural Dolby Digital 2.0 in English and French, and English subtitles are included. Extras consist of the eerie theatrical trailer, plus an audio commentary track by Frankenheimer. In the past the director has delivered excellent commentaries, but in this case he spends most of his time reiterating his praise for cinematographer James Wong Howe for the distinctive, indeed rather extreme, look he gave to the black-and-white film. There's really only a couple of funny anecdotes: One at the beginning has Frankenheimer explaining how he distracted actual travelers in Grand Central Station in order to film John Randolph and another actor clandestinely; a later story concerns events around footage from an actual rhinoplasty operation incorporated into the film. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm



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