You may not be familiar with John Frankenheimer’s SECONDS as it was critically drubbed upon it’s original release and lost into obscurity for many years ultimately becoming a cult hit years later. Released this year on Blu-Ray by Criterion with a brand new 4K transfer (and loaded with fascinating extras), it is a MUST SEE MOVIE for fans of sci-fi paranoid thrillers.
Adapted from the David Ely book of the same name, SECONDS concerns Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) a middle-aged banker dissatisfied with his life. He’s fallen into a rut. He has a job that he’s good at but gives him no pleasure, a wife who he loves but there’s no passion left in their marriage and no discernable dreams to strive for: A life of quiet desperation.
Things change when he is literally given the chance of a lifetime; He can be remade as a new person. His death will be faked and he will re-emerge into the world with a new name and face. That being Tony Wilson (ROCK HUDSON). With Tony, he has a chance to start over again. A second try at life.
This seems exactly what he needs and though it takes some convincing, he signs up. Of course you can change your outward appearance, but inside you are still the same person and that’s the cautionary tale that SECONDS weaves to devastating results.
Filmed in glorious black & white, Frankenheimer creates an eerie atmosphere right from the get go with a haunting score by Jerry Goldsmith and a hypnotic, acid trip-like opening title sequence designed by Saul Bass. He also uses a variety of unusually camera techniques designed to put the audience slightly off-kilter throughout.
SECONDS is a high point in Frankenheimer’s incredible decade spanning career marked by other such classics at THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962), SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964) and more recently RONIN (1998) and PATH TO WAR (2002). Check it out on Criterion, which preserves the film as it should be seen to be believed.