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Seconds: A review

Updated on January 7, 2012

Seconds is a 1966 movie based on the book of the same name written by David Ely, and directed by John Frankenheimer. Seconds, The Manchurian Candidate, and Seven Days In May is his paranoia trilogy.

Seconds stars Rock Hudson as Tony Wilson, in what some consider his best role. He said the part unsettled him. The movie has reached cult status, and those who have seen it will remember it. It is a story told in The Twilight Zone manner.

The Plot

Arthur Hamilton, played by John Randolph, receives calls from a friend killed in a car accident. The man convinces Hamilton to listen to his story. The man tells Hamilton of a company caters to wealthy men who aren’t satisified with their lives, and can afford to finance their midlife crisis. They stage the persons death; give them plastic surgery to change their appearance and a new identity afterwards. They provide credentials for Hamilton, now Wilson, to be a modestly successful artist. The company advises Hamilton how to juggle his accounts to provide a secure retirement for his wife, and with enough left to pay for the company services and for him to live on.

He is relocated to a community in Malibu, California with a manservant to help him through the transition. Residents of this community is people the company has changed. As one can imagine, the transition isn’t easy and doesn’t go smoothly.

This film is an examination of a common subject. When a person reaches middle age they start to examine their life. What they could have done, what they should have done, and the path not taken. The company offers a path examine the path not taken.

Seconds is photographed in black and white that adds an eerie feeling. The opening scenes are bent, twisted and distorted. The scenes of the plastic surgery are real, and Frankenheimer photographed them himself during a real surgery after his Seconds cameraman, James Wong Howe fainted.

The Film

Howe photographed Seconds with black and white in a surreal mind bending manner. The plot is believable in the modern era as plastic surgery techniques are capable of massive reconstruction which could allow a person to be reborn. It can be an uncomfortable film to watch.

Seconds was nominated in 1966 for Palm d’Or at Cannes Film Festival and for an Oscar in 1967 for best cinematography. Seconds has reached cult status, and on some viewers best film lists. I recommend it.


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    • heanders profile image

      heanders 6 years ago from USA


      I think it's a movie that deserves more attention. Hope you you enjoy it.

    • Laura Schneider profile image

      Laura Schneider 6 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

      Wow, how did I miss seeing this one? It's on my list now! Thanks for your review and commentary!