Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 21st, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: USA, October 5th, 1966
Director: John Frankenheimer
Writer: Lewis John Carlino
Cast: Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, John Randolph, Will Geer, Jeff Corey, Richard Anderson, Murray Hamilton, Karl Swenson, Khigh Dhiegh, Frances Reid
BluRay released: August 13th, 2013
Approximate running time: 107 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Criterion Collection
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $39.95
Synopsis: A middle age man bored with his life is given a second chance at to live the life he always wanted. In order to obtain this new life he must give up everything and everyone he once new by faking his own death. Shortly after making the transition into his new life he becomes dissatisfied with the arrangement. Longing for the life that he abandon he makes one last desperate attempt at reclaiming his former life.
Seconds was directed by John Frankenheimer who is most remembered for directing political thrillers (The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May)and action films (Grand Prix, French Connection II, Ronin). Seconds is based on the novel of the same written by David Ely. The plot is not to derivative from its originals source David Ely’s novel. The plot centers around a man named Arthur Hamilton who is given the chance to reborn as a much younger painter named Tony Wilson. At the core of the film is his longing for the youth he wasted away and the life he always wanted instead of the life he settled into. All reborn’s are given helpers to assist them into their new lives. Obviously not everyone is going to adjust or take to their new lives. The question that begs to be asked is what then happens to them since they are unable to return to their former lives.
Visually is where Seconds elevates the core story and the various performances in the film. The look of the film owes a great debt to cinematographer James Wong Howe who through wide angle, fish eyed lens and naturalistic lighting creates a claustrophobic nightmare world rooted deep in paranoia. Many of the films stylistic choices like hand held camera and tilted or low angle shots add a sense of realism that would otherwise be missing if the film had been approached like most thrillers from this era. One most not overlook Saul Bass’s opening credits which featured deformed looking images of faces that look like they are being reflected by a fun house mirror. These opening credits immediately grab you attention and help set the tone for what is to follow. The atmospheric score for Seconds was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, whose long and varied career includes scores for Planet of the Apes (1968), Patton, The Omen (1976) and Alien.
Two actors are used in the films lead role. John Randolph portrays Arthur Hamilton the tired old man who is dissatisfied with his life while Rock Hudson plays Randolph’s after her is reborn as Tony Wilson. John Randolph had been blacklisted by Hollywood and Seconds would mark his return to feature films after a nearly twenty year absence. Overall his performance adds a lot of weight to the character and he plays him in such a way that we are able to still feel for the character even once Rock Hudson has taken over the role.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about this production is casting of Rock Hudson in the role of Tony Wilson. It is startling seeing Hudson’s disfigured face after his operation to change his identity. Up tell this point of his and even following this film Rock Hudson is matinée idol who was most known for his rugged good looks. Performance wise Rock Hudson stretches himself unlike any other performance that I have seen from him. Two scenes that really showcase his performance include a scene where he gets drunk at a party and nearly reveals his secret. The other one comes near the end of the film were his character is strapped down to a gurney and Hudson thrashes around like animal as he tries to break free. The desperation in his eyes and limbs is mesmerizing.
The two main female cast members are played by Salome Jens and Frances Reid. Salome Jens plays Tony Wilson’s love interest Nora Marcus. Overall Salome Jens does a solid job playing a seductress who real motives for being with Tony are more out of obligation then love. In the role of Arthur Hamilton’s wife is an actress named Frances Reid who most daytime soaps fans will recognize her from Days of our Lives which she has been part of for over forty years. Frances Reid gives a warm loving performance that perfectly plays offs John Randolph’s cold distant portrayal as her husband Arthur Hamilton. The cast as a whole are all very good with no one performance standing out as weaker than the rest. Ultimately Seconds is provocative film about the choices one makes and the consequences of these choices.
Seconds comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. This transfer is a brand new 4k master that improves upon the previous releases in every way and then some. It is safe to say that this film has never looked as good as it does no on home video.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD Mono mix in English and removable English SDH subtitles have been included with this release. Just like the transfer there has been additional work done with the audio track which is included with this release. Dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. Also the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented and the film’s score appropriately robust when it needs too.
Extras for this release include a vintage interview with director John Frankenheimer (10 minutes 26 seconds – 4:3 full frame), a excerpt from vintage interview with actor Rock Hudson (4 minutes 19 seconds – 4:3 full frame), audio essay with film scholars R. Barton Palmer and Murray Pomerance about the film (12 minutes 38 seconds), a segment with actor Alec Baldwin who discusses Seconds and John Frankenheimer and a featurette titled ‘A Second Look’ (18 minutes 37 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) with comments about the film from John Frankenheimer’s widow, Evans Frankenheimer and actress Salome Jens.
Other extras include a detailed audio commentary director John Frankenheimer who is always forthcoming and generous while discussing the making of Seconds. The audio commentary is one of the more insightfully technical based audio commentaries’ that I have ever had the pleasure to hear. Rounding out the extras is a twenty page booklet with a essay about the film titled ‘Reborn Again’ written by film critic David Sterritt. Content wise this release comes with a wide array of extra content that give a well rounded overview of every area of this production. A few topics discussed in the interviews include how John Frankenheimer, the visual look of the film and working with cinematographer James Wong Howe and casting. Overall Seconds gets an exceptional release from the Criterion Collection, highly recommended.
Note: Criterion Collection are also releasing Seconds on DVD.