Theatrical release poster for Seconds
|Directed by||John Frankenheimer|
|Produced by||John Frankenheimer
|Written by||David Ely (novel)
Lewis John Carlino
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Cinematography||James Wong Howe|
|Editing by||Ferris Webster|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||October 5, 1966 (U.S. release)|
|Running time||100 min / USA:107 min (re-release: 1996)|
Seconds is a 1966 American film starring Rock Hudson. Characterized sometimes as a science fiction thriller, but with elements of horror, neo-noir, psychedelia, and drama, it was directed by John Frankenheimer with a screenplay by Lewis John Carlino. The script was based on a novel by David Ely. The film was released by Paramount Pictures and was entered into the 1966 Cannes Film Festival.
Arthur Hamilton is a middle-aged man whose life has lost purpose. He is disengaged at his job as a banker, while the love with his wife has dwindled. Through a friend whom he thought had died years earlier, Hamilton is approached by a secret organization, known simply as the "Company," which offers wealthy people a second chance at life. The Company, in the person of Mr. Ruby, interviews Hamilton, then shows him a film of him attacking a girl after he'd unknowingly consumed drugged food & drink offered him by the Company. They threaten to blackmail Hamilton forcing him to sign on, foreshadowing the unfortunate consequences of accepting the Company's assistance.
Hamilton's death is staged to make it look as if he perished in a hotel fire with a corpse left disguised as him. Through extensive plastic surgery and psychoanalysis, Hamilton is transformed into Tony Wilson. He is provided with a new home, a new identity (as Wilson), new friends and a devoted manservant. The details of his new existence suggest that there was once a real Tony Wilson, but what became of him is a mystery.
Wilson copes with his new world. Relocated to a fancy home in Malibu, California, where he is an already established artist, he commences a relationship with a young woman named Nora Marcus and for a time he is happy but soon becomes troubled by the emotional confusion of his new identity, as well as by the exuberance of renewing his youth.
At a dinner party he hosts for neighbors, Wilson drinks himself into a stupor and begins to babble about his former life as Hamilton. It turns out that his neighbors are "reborns" like himself, sent to keep an eye on his adjustment. Nora is actually an agent of the Company and her attentions to Wilson are designed merely to ensure his cooperation.
In violation of Company policy, Wilson, posing as an old friend of her husband's, visits his former wife in his new persona. He learns that his marriage had failed because he was distracted by the pursuit of career and material possessions, the very things in life that others made him believe were important.
Wilson returns to the Company and announces a desire to start again with yet another identity. The Company offers to accommodate him, but asks if he would first provide the names of some past acquaintances who might like to be "reborn." He refuses since he now knows of the drawbacks to being "reborn" and also doesn't want to delay the Company's procedure for a new identity for himself.
While awaiting his reassignment, Wilson encounters Charlie Evans, the friend who had originally recruited him into the Company. Evans was also "reborn" and likewise could not make a go of his new life. Together, they speculate on the reason for their failure to adjust, attributing it to the fact that they allowed others, including the Company, to make life choices for them.
This realization comes too late. Wilson/Hamilton is suddenly strapped to a gurney and wheeled into a small room where he learns to his horror that failed reborns are not actually provided with new identities but instead become the cadavers used to fake new clients' deaths.
John Frankenheimer directed Seconds just after the period he worked on his most noted films, Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and Seven Days in May (1964). These last two films together with Seconds are sometimes known as Frankenheimer's paranoia trilogy.
The "reborns" of the plot are ironically paralleled in a different context -- three of the principal actors were proscribed from Hollywood films during the "Blacklist" years of the '50s.
Seconds was first released October 5, 1966. It did poorly on its initial release, but later developed a strong cult following.
The director of photography for Seconds was the legendary James Wong Howe, who is well known for pioneering novel techniques in black-and-white cinematography, and whose prolific career spanned nearly five decades.
Rock Hudson was five inches taller than his movie counterpart, John Randolph; the difference in their heights was worked around with carefully-chosen camera angles. Hudson and Randolph also spent a good deal of time together before production began, allowing Hudson to model Randolph's mannerisms, to resemble him more closely.
In Frankenheimer's commentary on the DVD he notes:
Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson saw the movie during its initial release, between sessions for Smile. Under the influence of drugs, the early stages of schizophrenia, and pressure to complete Smile, Wilson found Seconds an especially intense experience, that affected him personally (beginning with his arriving late; the first dialogue he heard onscreen was "Come in, Mr. Wilson", taking him by surprise). His state of mind shifted over the next months, between fantasies of escaping his own life in a similar way, and thoughts that perhaps rival producer Phil Spector had somehow convinced Columbia Pictures (sic) to make the movie "to mess with my mind". Wilson later abandoned the Smile sessions, and did not see another movie in a theater until E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. His experience was later recounted in The Beach Boys by Byron Preiss, Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! by Domenic Priore, and Wilson's own Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story (written with Todd Gold).