Seconds

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

It’s the sixties and some films still choose to live the black and white lifestyle in a decade full of color. One such filmmaker had good luck with that approach through the majority of thrillers he made in this decade such as The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days In May. This particular filmmaker is the late John Frankenheimer and in this instance of the sixties, he introduces a tale of change, consequence and results and this is all done in a matter of Seconds.

Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is going through his normal daily travel routine when a mysterious man hands him a slip of paper with an address and a name. But why? He lives a modest lifestyle, he’s married, and he has a decent job at a bank. Around this time, his wife has been hearing the phone ring in the middle of the night for the last few days. Where does it lead to? It leads Arthur to a secret pathway to another life. For a chance to look young, fit and handsome and a new name. But when the result leads to a bit of homesickness, Arthur, renamed Tony,(Rock Hudson) in his youthful state wants to piece together the life he once had, but trying to do so carries it’s own stipulations.

It had been a task in itself to try to describe this unique film. Nevertheless, it is another intriguing chapter in the directorial career of John Frankenheimer. With the help of DP James Wong Howe, Seconds carries a style that is all it’s own that is thrilling, patient and at times creepy.

Rock Hudson had been quoted as saying that of all the films he had done, this was one of the few he was the proudest. And why not? He gives an amazing performance as Arthur/Tony, a man who has made a choice and lives to see the consequences and the advantages of that choice. He’s taken into many paths but the one he cannot forget is the one he may never return to.

This is another example of a film that did next to nothing at the box office when the picture was released and that played today is a much better film than when received then. It’s great to see the variety of character actors in this film whether it’s John Randolph as the older Arthur or Will Geer from the Waltons or Jeff Corey or even Murray Hamilton who some of you might remember as the mayor in Jaws and from one of the first Twilight Zone episodes.

Special note should be taken of both the creepy score of Jerry Goldsmith which was a great warmup for his journey to the Planet of the Apes as well as Saul Bass who gives another great title sequence all it’s own. (Outtakes of this sequence were used for the title sequence of a thriller 25 years later, Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear)

With the great look, the outstanding performances and the somewhat casual pace, the moral is be careful what choices you make, because the choices may make you in Seconds.

Video: How does it look?

Seconds is given the 1.85:1 anamorphic treatment with the results being slightly better than expected. Some print flaws are evident in this transfer like little specks or minor debris, but for a film that is over 35 years old the print of this film never looked as good or as clear as the one retained on this DVD. The night moments have a slight glow that gives the film a little more of a Twilight Zone-esque look that is remarkable when shown on motion picture film and it’s little things and that look that give Seconds a good transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital is a good track with the dialogue and most of the audio activity coming from the middle channels with the occasional touch of Jerry Goldsmith’s score on the outer channels. The dialogue comes out crisp and not too booming so the volume doesn’t have to be raised to it’s highest level to get the overall effect of this track. The sound from the sixties comes off normally a bit muted but in this case the track presented here has been preserved well.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Paramount gives Seconds a nice treatment complete with an ambiguous theatrical trailer and a holdover from the laserdisc but a treat in itself, a commentary from director John Frankenheimer.

Here his comments rely on the technical aspects of the film as well as some of the casting and the filming combined in Frankenheimer’s entertaining conversational way while the film is playing.

With a manner that can go on for hours and hours and remain interesting, from hearing this commentary it is a wonderful extra without being too gappy and also heartbreaking that, as a result of his passing a few years ago, some of his other great titles will never get the same treatment that this DVD was fortunate enough to get.

With a premise almost directly from the Twilight Zone and given a much darker treatment, Seconds is a most interesting visceral experience that will stick with a viewer both as a motion picture and as a DVD.

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