Seconds Screen 12 articles

Seconds

1966

Seconds Poster
  • While this 1966 SF thriller is detailing the transformation, it's genuinely creepy and suspenseful, thanks largely to the black-and-white cinematography of James Wong Howe, which blends expressionist lighting with the realist overtones of handheld shooting. But the screenplay (by Lewis John Carlino, of The Great Santini) collapses into musty moralizing in the second half, and director John Frankenheimer throws in the towel.

  • Begins and ends so unforgettably that the comparatively flaccid midsection, in which Tony Wilson butts heads with the incipient counterculture... tends to fade from memory. As Scott Tobias observes, it's essentially a bloatedTwilight Zone episode, though a good deal of the padding is welcome—Frankenheimer and Carlino tease out the scenario's details with delectable deliberation, even though that requires withholding Hudson for nearly half the movie in a sort of reverse-Psycho stunt.

  • Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966) is a disturbing film to watch. With its unresolved, horrific ending, it’s possibly one of the most depressing films ever made... Perhaps Frankeheimer’s most important directional decision with Seconds was his request that James Wong Howe act as director of photography. Howe was the ideal choice to visually realize Frankenhiemer’s ambitious and surreal vision in Seconds.

  • Hudson is brilliantly befuddled, unable to ever relax in his own, second skin. In his newfound creative persona, he’s the picture of unadaptability, and it seems only a matter of time before his world crumbles around him. This is all photographed in entrancing, kinetically framed, and often wide-angled black-and-white by the legendary James Wong Howe, who gives nearly every scene an omniscient quality, as though the characters—and us—are under constant surveillance.

  • It was groundbreaking for a lot of reasons, but there still isn't much that looks or feels anything like it... It's achieves exactly what Mad Men hopes to. The AMC series has spent six seasons trying to sell us the idea that our pursuit of material happiness is a crap deal, but in under two hours, Seconds tells you that even if it were possible to start fresh and have anything you want, you'd still be fked. That's terrifying.

  • The transcendently ominous final chapter in Frankeheimer's paranoia trilogy (following "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Seven Days in May") is also a refined, downbeat entertainment that could be shelved under sci-fi, horror, thriller, psychological drama and, undeniably, classics... Timelessly creepy and surreal, this one will get under your skin... with or without the surgeon's drill.

  • The final chapter in Frankenheimer’s informal “Paranoia Trilogy,” (the other installments being “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Seven Days in May”), “Seconds” is the best and certainly the most enduringly resonant of the three, in part because it’s less of a political thriller than it is a resoundingly human one, less concerned with power than it is hope, regret and resignation.

  • ...If Seconds never again casts quite the same spell, it's partly because the tour de force of its opening act is driven by the spectacular black-and-white cinematography of James Wong Howe, utilizing fish-eye lenses, canted camera angles, and a variety of Manhattan locations and studio interiors that run the visual gamut from documentary-like spontaneity to claustrophobic andagoraphobic effects, evoking The Trial and the work of Orson Welles in general.

  • For this admirer, the movie’s fascination lies not in its predictable liberal critique of the soullessness of tony suburbs and evil corporations but in the tension between text and (perhaps) unwitting subtext, in teasing out who bears the greater authorial stamp: Frankenheimer or Rock Hudson, the film’s lead.

  • The summit of Frankenheimer’s Sixties unease, dreams of freedom laid bare as links in corporate chains, all pivoting on a magnificently self-reflexive performance from a synthetic superstar [Rock Hudson] who understood secret lives. ("My beard itches under my mask," says Vanished Man in Teshigahara’s concurrent The Face of Another.)

  • ++

    Sight & Sound: Kate Stables
    November 27, 2015 | January 2016 Issue (p. 102)

    Pricklingly original from Saul Bass's face-contortion credit sequence onwards, the film owes much of its impact to James Wong Howe's expressive deep-focused camerawork and optical distortions, which bend and fracture key scenes in an impermeably unsettling fashion.

  • Saul Bass’s opening-credit sequence establishes the thematic implications of Seconds’s sci-fi premise, with images of parts of the human face stretched in and out visually suggesting the elasticity of identity Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) experiences when he undergoes a daring operation that turns him into Antiochus Wilson (Rock Hudson). But it’s the psychological details that give Frankenheimer’s masterpiece its devastating power.

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