A relatively obscure movie recommendation for you this week. John Frankenheimer‘s SECONDS is a bizarre and chilling film which crashed and burned spectacularly at the box office when it was released in 1966. Watching it now, you can see why. It’s an intelligent and thought-provoking movie which was one of star Rock Hudson‘s personal favourites. He delivers a great performance as an old man with a new face – a role far removed from the easy-going romantic comedies he was well known for at the time. Synopsis and trailer follows, with a few thoughts after the cut:
Banker Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) gets a call one day from a friend he thought was dead. It turns out that the friend is not a ghost, but was simply faking all along, and was placed into a new existence by a company who can give you a completely new face and life. Hamilton decides to undergo the procedure himself and becomes Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson), an artist who lives in Malibu. He is given a manservant to help him adjust but soon finds that adjusting will be the least of his worries.
Based on a novel by David Ely, SECONDS feels ahead of its time, and maybe that’s one of the reasons why it didn’t find much of an audience on first release. It has the air and mystery of a TWILIGHT ZONE episode, but its feature length allows its themes and characters to be explored with greater depth. Frankenheimer’s direction is masterful, with a freely moving camera which adds to the sense of disorientation the audience feels. It’s little surprise that the movie’s cinematographer, James Wong Howe, was nominated for an Academy Award for his work here.
The real revelation here, though, is Rock Hudson. Fighting against type, he delivers a superb performance as the man with a new face who’s forced to consider his past, present and future from a unique perspective.
This post is short and sweet, but I really don’t want to say too much more about SECONDS for fear of spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it. The movie was hard to find for many years, but was re-released on bluray and DVD by the Criterion Collection in 2013. It’s fair to say that, after a superb opening segment, the film sags a little during the middle act, but it soon picks up speed again towards the end. The final startling scenes, once watched, will stay in your memory for a long time after viewing.
SECONDS is highly recommended.