Last week Criterion released a Blu-ray for 'Seconds,' an obscure 1966 thriller directed by John Frankenheimer ('The Manchurian Candidate'.) This will certainly appease its small cult following, but this movie is much deserving of a larger audience.
'Seconds' plays out like a feature-length 'Twilight Zone' episode; moody black and white cinematography (by the great James Wong Howe) and a mix of sci-fi, horror and suspense that creates a disorienting disturbing tale of the dangers of man's wish for eternal youth.
The plot concerns Roger Hamilton (John Randolph), a middle-aged man who feels drained of life. His marriage suffers from neglect, and he yearns for change. He receives a mysterious call from an old friend, presumed dead. But he tells Hamilton that he's been reborn, with a new younger identity and gives Hamilton the address for a mysterious company that can do the same for him.
Hamilton is promised a new life, younger body and a second chance at happiness. But he must undergo painful surgery, and fake his death to do so, leaving his wife and child behind.
When Hamilton emerges from the surgery, he's played by the much younger Rock Hudson. He's relocated to an idyllic beach-house and has been forged a new identity as a painter, with a new name; Tony Wilson.
But Hamilton finds he can't acclimate to this new identity in an era of free love and experimentation. His foundation crumbles, which threatens an entire community of transplants (named 'Seconds' hence the title). It's this moral dilemma that the film centers on, bringing up endless uneasy questions about what would happen if humans were given a 'second chance.' For all the cosmetic change, the inner soul remains the same. It proves a cautionary tale in our era of rampant plastic surgery, and endless pills and tonics to halt the aging process.
Hudson was deemed a lightweight actor for years, but his anguished performance is simply masterful. And Frankenheimer's direction, Howe's cinematography, and Jerry Goldsmith's haunting score all add up to a very special, dark gem, that truly deserves a 'second' chance to be appreciated. And the Criterion Blu-ray is a wonderful chance to rediscover this cinematic treasure.
Click here for more information on the Blu-ray details and special features.