Seconds (1966)

Seconds (1966), directed by John Frankenheimer.

First review:

I saw fragments of this long ago, probably chopped up for network TV. I remembered nothing about it apart from the shocking final moment.

The film is vastly better than I recall. And very wise in its way. If you could have whatever you wanted: a fresh start, renewed youth, wealth, total freedom: would you be happy? Why do you think so? Did you earn it? Did you walk the miles needed to get there? Does the situation make you a different person?

Edgy, experimental camera work, with strange lenses and angles, extreme close ups and early shaky-cam. Jerry Goldsmith score.

Rock Hudson is fine at projecting the sadness of the reborn man.

The bacchantic wine-making festival looks like fun but I don't suppose they drank any of the resulting product. I wouldn't.

Second review:

A dull, gray, middle-aged banker has been given an interesting proposition. You can see him mulling it over on the train and at his desk. You can see the terror in his eyes when he realizes he no longer has any desire for his wife, and the dread that he might be expected to make love to her.

Jerry Goldsmith's score provides hints of escape from his claustrophobic existence, intimations of a world elsewhere, a fresh start and a new life, for which we all subconsciously yearn.

A mysterious, secret organization -- actually a business venture -- will fake his death, rework and rejuvenate his body, and set him up as a young man in his dream life.

What could go wrong? Well, look at the clues: how can such a dull, bureaucratic entity get him out into a meaningful life? That they need to blackmail him into going through with it: doesn't that seem suspicious?

And what do they promise him: a life of absolute selfishness, with nothing to accomplish or prove to anyone. Does that sound like paradise?

On the other hand: is the organization entirely soulless? The Old Man founder is living his passion and the surgeon sees himself as an artist, admiring his own creations.

It has darkly funny moments, as in the waiting room to Hell where the failed "reborns" sit around doing nothing, maybe plotting how to pull in someone else. Like a scene written by Kafka, who could be a funny guy. If you don't mind the punchline.

Cinematographer James Wong Howe provides a startling vision for the whole project with ultra-closeups and weird, titled angles crowding the actors with early hand-held shakey-cam.


Criterion Blu-ray with a commentary by the director, where he says: