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Seconds


By Bret McCabe | Posted 1/2/2008

Director John Frankenheimer is more synonymous with workmanlike Hollywood dramas sharply honed by his early TV career (see: Birdman of Alcatraz, Black Sunday, The Fixer), but for a brief period in the mid-1960s he put out three movies that wickedly presaged the paranoid young mavericks soon to take over in the 1970s. The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May tautly explore Cold War political fears, while 1966's Seconds taps into a far more eerie--and sinister--mood. Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a successful businessman, with a wife, grown daughter, and an all-around comfortable life. That's just the problem--something's missing, but he's not sure what. He stumbles upon a second chance when he gets a call from a supposedly dead friend who introduces Randolph to a company that can get middle-aged men "reborn"--offering them an opportunity to chase a perhaps more leisurely, hedonistic life. So, yeah, it involves faking your own death and leaving your wife and family behind, but when balding, paunchy Randolph can be reborn as beach-living painter Tony Wilson (played by Rock Hudson), why say no? Frankenheimer's almost imperceptibly constrictive direction, Hudson's spot-on performance as a man uncomfortable in his own skin, and cinematographer James Wong Howe's stellar black-and-white photography and compositions shape Seconds into one of the more unsettling, and caustic, experiences of the soon-to-be freewheeling late '60s.

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