Seconds (1966) John Frankenheimer

The biggest problem John Frankenheimer’s 1966 movie “Seconds” had at the time of its original release was having Rock Hudson in the lead role. Hudson was still a huge star (he was one of the top 10 most popular stars from 1957 to 1964), however his fans were not interested in seeing him in such a dark science fiction/psychological film, and fans of this type of film were not going to see a “Rock Hudson movie.” The results? “Seconds” died a quick death at the box office. In retrospect, while Hudson was no Robert DeNiro he does gives one of the best performances of his career in a film unlike anything he ever did before or after. Frankenheimer had been on a roll since the beginning of the 1960’s. In the previous five years, he made “The Young Savages,” “All Fall Down,” “Birdman of Alcatraz,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Seven Days in May” and “The Train” followed by “Seconds,” though he would soon embark on a more erratic course from which he would not recuperate from until the 1990’s with a series of excellent TV movies.

 Man is never satisfied with who he is or what he has in his life. What if your family life has lost its purpose, your job had lost all meaning, and your entire life was one big disappointment. What if you were given the chance to change your life, erase it all and start all over again?  What if you could live the life you have only dreamed about?  For Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) this chance happens when he meets an old friend, presumed to have died year’s earlier, who arranges a meeting that puts Arthur in contact with a secret group only known as “The Company.” The Company offers wealthy bored individuals a chance at a completely new life. They will fake Arthur’s death, provide extreme plastic surgery and give him a totally new identity, in Arthur’s case, as an artist known as Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson).


“Reborn,” Tony is relocated to Malibu where he has been set up as a successful artist. He meets a young, beautiful, exciting woman named Nora (Salome Jens) and they become a couple. One day, they go to out to the countryside where they discover a group of young free spirited people are having a celebration, singing and drinking. There is a large vat filled with grapes on the grounds and in the spirit of wild uninhibited youth, they jump into the vat naked stomping the grapes and partying. The scene is not orgiastic but more of a celebration of freedom and joy. Tony though is clearly uncomfortable with all the nudity, he even zips up his jacket. He may be Tony Wilson, a bohemian artist on the outside, but he is still the conservative uptight Arthur on the inside and he finds the whole scene unsettling, even more so when Nora strips and jumps into the vat. Soon some of the group grab Tony and toss him, unwillingly, into the vat. At first, he is upset, an odd man out, among the festivities and joy. However, he soon starts to loosen up and begins to enjoy himself finding a sense of freedom and excitement that he never experienced.

 On another occasion, Tony is encouraged to host a dinner party where he gets drunk and begins to unexpectedly rant on about his old life as Arthur Hamilton. Nora tries to calm him down but to no avail. Some of the guests drag him into a bedroom to sleep it off, but it is during this incident he discovers that many of his “friends” are just like him, “reborns” who are keeping an eye on him. It also turns out the Nora works for “The Company” and their relationship was just a set up so they can keep watch on his progress.

 Against the orders of “The Company,” Tony visits his wife from his earlier life, telling her he was an acquaintance of Arthur that they met not too long before he died.  He discovers she was aware of Arthur’s discontent, that success had not brought him the peace and happiness he was seeking. Tony also begins to realize his new life has not made him any happier. He decides to tell “The Company” he wants to be “reborn” again. They seem agreeable to this however, what Tony discovers is there are no second chances. Unsuccessful reborns become the next corpse for future clients of “The Company.” 

Seconds” is an amazing film that was way ahead of its time. It is based on a novel by David Ely and adapted for the screen by John Lewis Carlino. Next to “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Seconds” is arguably John Frankenheimer’s best film, though Frankenheimer himself did not think the film worked (see “A Conversation with John Frankenheimer with Charles Champlin” Pg 95). “Seconds” is an intricate, intelligent, downbeat work of paranoia, part thriller, part science fiction and part a depressing examination of the failure of the American dream. Consider what we are constantly bombarded with today, an out of control obsession with extreme makeovers, plastic surgery, botox, hair transplants, and liposuction. Imagine the success a firm like “The Company” would have today. Tony was not alone in wanting another makeover; they had quite a few failures. However, the failure of their process was not in the physical makeover but in the psychological alteration. They could not make you forget your past. You may be a new person physically on the outside but on the inside, you are still you. 

“Seconds” remains revolutionary in its cinematic technique with its use of the camera and sets. James Wong Howe’s cinematography is remarkable; his use of wide angles lens, fish eye lens and handheld camera shots were innovative, disturbing and today still way ahead of much of what we see on screen. Howe was nominated for an Academy Award for his work in this film. According to Frankenheimer’s commentary on the DVD, the entire film was redubbed. This was due to the use of the Arriflex hand held camera for many scenes, which was relatively new at the time and noisy. Frankenheimer handled the Ariflex himself in the grape stomping scene. None of the camera operators were willing to jump into the vat with the nude cast, so Frankenheimer dressed only in a swimsuit with his Ariflex in hand got in and shot the scenes. As he notes in the commentary on the DVD some of the women in the vat quickly relieved him of his swimsuit.   

The version that has been released on DVD has the nudity during the grape stomping scenes intact. When originally released in 1966 the production code though starting to breakdown still had enough influence to forbid nudity. Frankenheimer and Editors David Newhouse and Ferris Webster had to edit bits and pieces of usable film together so while there was the appearance of nudity, nothing sensitive was seen. In its edited form, Frankenheimer felt it looked more like an orgy, which was not the intent. In it full length uncut version the scene reflects more the celebration of free spirit he intended.  “Seconds” is the third of a loosely connected paranoia trilogy made by Frankenheimer, the others being “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Seven Days in May.”  Though not perfect, it is never really explained why Tony was unhappy in his new life, “Seconds” is an excellent film, a Kafka like dream and one of the most sophisticated films you will see.  

Note: A couple of years ago I did a series of reviews for Halo-17, an Australian music and arts website, which from what I can tell is no longer out there in cyber space. In the past I linked these reviews back here to Twenty Four Frames. Now it seems all the links lead to an internet void; subsequently I have occasionally been posting these reviews here in updated versions. “Seconds” appearz here now in its entirety for the first time.

43 comments on “Seconds (1966) John Frankenheimer

  1. ziegfeldman says:


    I have been recommending this gem for years, and you really got the essence of it. By the way, David Ely’s book is even more devastating and disturbing. Here’s the problem, I think, that “Seconds” illuminates, as this was told to me by a very wise man when I was sixteen (now I’m sixty): The real challenge in lfe is not getting what you want (although that does take effort), it’s KNOWING what you want (that takes a lifetime).

    Arthur Hamilton really has it all, or so it seems, the high end job in the bank, the big house in the suburbs…and I’m sure every material thing that exists. Yet he is a miserable, tragic figure.

    The scene in bed was his wife of so many years is brilliant. This film is a masterpiece and should be required viewing for everyone who thinks he knows what happiness is.

    I recently saw, again, Elaine May’s “The Heartbreak Kid,” which in another way is really about the same thing–Charles Grodin gets the golden haired girl at the end, but that last expression on his face before the credits roll says it all.




    • John Greco says:

      Hi Gary and welcome!

      That wise man was correct. many people go through life not knowing what they want, only that they are not happy with what they have no matter how much they have. Arthur Hamilton is one of those people and as you say, he is a tragic figure.

      The HEARTBREAK KID is a good film and yes Grodin’s character is another who sees that the grass is always greener on someone elses lawn.The thing is I had no sympathy for Grodin’s character who I found sleazy. while Hamilton is probably a more likable guy, at least in comparsion ot Grodin’s character. Thanks again!


  2. DorianTB says:

    John, I first saw SECONDS on TV when I was 12 or so. Some parts of it went over my head, while others unnerved the hell out of me; I couldn’t sleep that night! Heck, I still can’t think about it without shivering! SECONDS was scarier and far more haunting than any blood-soaked gore-fest horror film, because it truly spoke to my gut. Your comparison to today’s makeover madness hits the bull’s-eye, big time! In fact, I recently read a review of SECONDS over at Korova Theatre Presents which quoted one of Team Bartilucci’s favorite films, BUCKAROO BANZAI: “No matter where you go, there you are.” That’s for sure! No matter how young and gorgeous you’ve made yourself appear on the outside, you’re still the same old you with the same old quirks, emotional problems, and issues on the inside. That’s where The Company stumbled; not enough psychological counseling before the big makeover; heck, maybe what Arthur/Tony really needed was brainwashing a la another great Frankenheimer film, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE! 🙂 There’s a part of me that watches Arthur/Tony’s travails and thinks, “Why don’t you stop feeling sorry for yourself and use your money and resources and other good things in your life to good use? Mentor a kid or help out in a soup kitchen or something productive, instead of wasting time on plastic surgery and superficial things that aren’t making you happy anyway!” 🙂

    All kidding aside, John, your review is really spot-on!. SECONDS is not only a classic (if grim) thriller, but it’s also a chilling cautionary tale about the dangers of thinking superficial changes will be enough to make you happy and at peace with yourself. As Rock Hudson shows in his searing performance (one of his best, in my opinion), you ignore your true self at your peril.

    I was especially impressed with John Lewis Carlino’s eerie, thought-provoking script and the superb performances, and of course the wonderful James Wong Howe’s gorgeously sinister black-and-white cinematography. The opening scenes where it seems like John Randolph is almost being rushed through the train station on a dolly sets the right uneasy, suspenseful tone. John Frankenheimer’s direction is virtually flawless. Wow! I don’t think anyone would ever mistake SECONDS for a feel-good movie, but I doubt that anyone who’s seen it could ever forget it. Great post. John, as always!


    • John Greco says:


      I totally agree about Arthur/Tony trying to put his good fortune to better use helping the less fortunate. There are plenty of folks worst off in life than he was so it’s hard to feel sorry for him in that respect. I actually like your idea of combining this film’s physical’s makeover with the brainwashing of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, that would make for a total makeover!
      I was never a fan o Rock Hudson and generally found him lacking but here he does seem to have captured the character and does a credible job. James Wong Howe was one of the best cinematographers of his time, a master of black and white. Thanks very much for the kind words.


  3. I actually taught this film on a course last year. It’s one of the hidden gems of 60’s cinema and absolutely deserving of a retrospective rediscovery. Rock Hudson’s performance is almost heartbreakingly poignant, whilst the credit sequence and James Wong Howe’s stunningly inventive cinematography is, as you’ve pointed out, well ahead of its times. Glad to know that other people out there love this film.


    • John Greco says:


      Yeah, this film really got lost in time. As you say it really needs to be rediscovered and recognized for the excellent work that it is. As i mentioned to Dorian above, Hudson is not an actor I admire but this is probably his finest performance. Thanks again!!!


  4. R. D. Finch says:

    John, I’d heard a lot about this film before I saw its in its entirety a year or so ago. When I finally did see it, I was quite impressed. I always think of Rock Hudson as a light romantic leading man, but when he did essay more serious roles he usually did good work as long as he kept his emoting low-key, as he does here. I certainly agree that James Wong Howe’s camerawork is extraordinary–showy but in a way that contributes so much to the movie that he probably should be considered almost a co-director, like Toland in “Citizen Kane.” One reason the film didn’t do well at the box-office may be that its style is a youthful one, but the subject is the dissatisfaction that many men feel in middle age and that was probably more common in the highly conformist culture of the time than it is even today. So while its style might have appealed to a younger audience, its subject might have been outside their experience. Anyway, a great post which shows that serious American filmmakers were testing the boundaries of movies even before “Bonnie and Clyde,” “The Graduate,” and “Easy Rider,” films that appealed more directly to the concerns youthful audiences.


    • John Greco says:


      Great to here you are an admirer of this film. Good point about how James Wong Howe should have been been considered as almost a co-director, though I don’t know whose decision it was to use the fish eye/wide angle lens that add so much. If I remember correctly, Frankenheimer was proficent in his knowledge of lens, like Sidney Lumet. It would be interesting to find out if Howe made the suggestions or Frankenheimer said, “let try this or that lens.” Either way, it was great work by both and Howe deserves much credit.

      This is definitely one of those films that led to the new era on American filmmaking, and gets no credit for it. Another film is Lumet’s THE PAWNBROKER from 1965.


      • Diandra says:

        “Good point about how James Wong Howe should have been been considered as almost a co-director, though I don’t know whose decision it was to use the fish eye/wide angle lens that add so much. If I remember correctly, Frankenheimer was proficent in his knowledge of lens, like Sidney Lumet. It would be interesting to find out if Howe made the suggestions or Frankenheimer said, “let try this or that lens.” Either way, it was great work by both and Howe deserves much credit. ”
        That’s good to know! I really admired how the visuals of this film are integral to the movie, especially given the theme of looking and feeling young.


      • John Greco says:

        Thanks Diandra,

        Glad you are on board with this.


  5. The Lady Eve says:

    I agree with you that Rock Hudson’s was a really fine performance here. He was no Brando but was, by 1966, capable of more than heroic hunk roles and romantic comedy. I’ve always thought “Seconds” is his best work and that it probably took some courage for him to make such a departure from type.

    I first saw this film in a theater years after its release and remembered the grape-stomping episode as a kind of orgy. I saw “Seconds” again not too long ago and this time around the sequence seemed to me an allusion to the then-about-to-emerge youth movement to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” Something about it doesn’t quite work for me, but all in all “Seconds” does hold up. It also fits well with Frankenheimer’s other two ’60s paranoia classics, the (revered) “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Seven Days in May,” though “Seconds” explores themes more social than political. I love all three of these films…

    Thanks for a thoughtful look at a truly underrated film, John.


    • John Greco says:

      Yes, I too think this was his best work. He was limited but he held his own in this role. I always thought Frankenheimer was at his bes during these years, though I am not keen of GRAND PRIX. Most of his films from this period still stand up and work well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the kind words.


  6. ClassicBecky says:

    Excellent assessment of this hidden gem, John. I was stunned when I finally got to see it. Who would think that Hudson could be so good in such a disturbing part? I mean, I had seen him in dramas, but nothing like this. It is a marvelous movie, Hudson is fantastic, and I’m glad to see you give it such a good review. It should be better known.


    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Becky,

      For Hudson it was a role like no other he ever had. For me one of the weakest things about GIANT was his performance. As a dramatic actor he usually left something to be desired. I always like him better, to some extent, in comedies. But here he goes beyond what I ever thought he was capable of. Thanks Beck!


  7. J.D. says:

    Excellent review of this underrated gem of a film. I caught this for the first time when Turner Classic Movies last showed it and was blown away by it. What an incredible film and the cinematography is something else. Also love the nightmarish, disorienting opening credits sequence.


  8. Dave Crosby says:

    Dear John, thanks for your defense of a remarkable film, a revolutionary film. It is difficult today for anyone to realize how far beyond standard filmmaking “Seconds” went, not only in technique but in theme as well. In a very subtle fashion this film points to an essential emptiness in American culture. In the previous comments here we notice several mentions of “wanting.” In the second half of the 20th century, after two world wars, a depression and major foreign revolutions, we began a culture of acquisition, leading to a wanting of things for their own sake. It’s difficult to explain this briefly, but in essence we were adrift (Tennessee Williams’s characters; Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” wanderers), empty. This is not to say that any previous time in America held answers to philosophical questions about purpose or even about existential uncertainty, but it seems evident that “Seconds” is critical of our cultural identity by showing that the purposelessness of the main character’s acquisitive life is answered with the other side of acquisitiveness, the sales job. The character is sold a bill of goods. An extremely shallow bill of goods. Meaning in life can be purchased. And sold as a commodity. This is what underlies the critical analysis in “Seconds.” And this is why the film becomes so unsettling.


    • John Greco says:


      Thanks for these thoughtful comments which I could not agree with more. The emptiness of our culture, the lack of self satisfaction with who you are, the need for instant self gratification is too prevalent in our society. The whole industry of cosmetic surgery, Botox, etc. is an attempt at a surface cure that does not change the inner self. Beauty and liking oneself must come from within. Hudson’s character realizes that his “rebirth” did not buy the happiness he was missing in his old life.

      BTW – Your mention of VERTIGO reminds me that coming this January THE LADY EVE’S REEL LIFE blog will be hosting a month of “Vertigo” with articles, interviews, etc. by bloggers, authors including a short interview I am contributing with Patrick McGilligan, author of “Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light.” As an admirers of AH I thought you would be interested. More details will follow.


  9. ziegfeldman says:

    Hi John:

    I am adding another comment because I am truly amazed at the multitude of comments on “Seconds.” Another wise man once told me that if you are looking at something and saying to yourself “WOW” at least 10,000 other people will have the same experience. So maybe I shouldn’t be amazed–the film really grabs you at at a basic emotional core. I once read that David Ely got the idea by reading an article about a large number of people, every year, who just disappear. They don’t really, but they simply walk away from their lives. What happens to them? Do they become happier people? Is it possible? Is the grass greener? EVERYBODY muses about this. “Seconds” has the guts to supply an answer.

    It reminds me of when “Make Way for Tomorrow” was released by Criterion. I had been waiting years for this. Nobody would touch it…and ironically Criterion went on to report that it was one of its biggest sellers.

    Now, if Warners would finally get around to “Last Summer”………




    • John Greco says:


      I’m glad you were happily amazed by the response here for SECONDS.It’s good to see this film get that kind of recognition. As you know, I am with you on the DVD release of LAST SUMMER, a film, as we both realize has sadly been neglected. Thanks!!!


  10. Rick29 says:

    John, love your description of SECONDS as “an intricate, intelligent, downbeat work of paranoia, part thriller, part science fiction and part a depressing examination of the failure of the American dream.” That’s awesome! And I couldn’t agree more. Personally, I don’t rank it with MANCHURIAN or SEVEN DAYS in the Frankenheimer oeuvre, but it is indeed a fascinating film–not only for its ultimately downbeat tone and theme, but also for the time it was made (as you pointed out). Rock still had other offbeat movies awaitinG him, such as Vadim’s PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW.


    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Rick for the very kind words. I have to rank MANCHURIAN as his best work. It’s been a few years since I watched SEVEN DAYS (remember liking it a lot) so I have to reserve my opinion how I would rank it against SECONDS.

      PRETTY MAIDS, wow! there is a film I have not thought of in many years.


  11. Tony Lyndell Wiliams says:

    In his commentary, Frankenheimer mentions that a scene with Wilson’s daughter and son-in-law (played by Frankenheimer’s daughter and Leonard Nimoy) were cut from the film.

    He commented that the scene apparently is lost forever and said he wished he could have included it in the director’s cut DVD. Before final editing, after visiting his wife, apparently Wilson (Hudson) visited his daughter and her husband. It would be quite interesting to read the script, if it is available, since the filmed scene is not. Frankenheimer indicates that visit would have given additional insight into why Wilson was so unhappy in his new life.

    My guess, in retrospect, after seeing the film probably 10 times, Wilson had second thoughts about leaving his family in what most would say were selfish reasons. Confused, Wilson thought another new life would be the answer.

    Respectfully, I disagree that movie goers rejected the film because of the casting of Hudson in the lead. He was excellent. I have read that conclusion many times, and I think it is unfair to Hudson. It’s been regarded as truth simply because it has been repeated so many times. In his commentary, Frankenheimer never indicates that Hudson was the reason for the failure of “Seconds”. In fact, he states that originally he wanted Hudson to play both roles — Arthur Hamilton and Tony Wilson — but Hudson did not think he could play the Hamilton part convincingly.

    Opinion: The film was simply ahead of its time in so many ways.

    Tony Lyndell Williams


  12. John Greco says:

    I did not remember that part of the interview with Frankeheimer on the DVD, so I appreciate you bringing it up. That additional scene, with the daughter, would most likely have shed additional light on Wilson’s motives for his wanting a change in life.

    I do think Hudson was very good in the role, arguably his finest performance. I still believe that his fan base at the time found him most enjoyable in lightweight comedies. I realize he made other kinds of films, (The Spiral Road, The Last Sunset, A Gathering of Eagles), still “Seconds” was a big departure, science fiction, and definitely a film that was more thought provoking than most. For me, and this is just my thoughts, Hudson was a limited actor, who was more effective in dramatic roles than comedy. I totally agree with you that the film was way ahead of its time. It has more the feel of a film from the early 1970’s, and probably would have had a better chance at financial success if done at that time.

    BTW – and this is just a coincident, this Friday I am writing about another film with Hudson, “Man’s Favorite Sport?” Without giving too much away I compare him unfavorably to Cary Grant who was Howard Hawks first choice for the role. Like I mentioned, I don’t think much of Hudson as a comedic actor but his co-star in the film, Paula Prentiss is fantastic.

    Hope to hear from you again and thanks for your thoughtful comments.


  13. Tony Williams says:

    Certainly Hudson was a limited actor, and thus, he is used more effectively in this role since Hudson appears in only about 40 percent of the film.

    Early in “Seconds”, the Hamilton character talks to his wife about their daughter and her husband who is a doctor, and Hamilton expresses the opinion that his son-in-law should specialize in medicine. So it is obvious that those two characters were going to be introduced even if only briefly. The chill between Hamilton and his wife is like ice.

    As I mentioned, Leonard Nimoy and Frankenheimer’s duaughter were going to play the couple. As I recall from the commentary, Frankenheimer’s indicated that the scene with Wilson and the young couple was cut because of time. He also expresses his regret in cutting it.

    Once it occurred to me that “Seconds” is like a feature-length episode of “The Twilight Zone”. I agree that the film would have been more successful in the early 1970’s with other films of a paranoid nature such as “Parallax View”.

    It’s popularity today is obvious. Check, and you will pay a premium price for the DVD.


  14. Tony Williams says:

    Oh, and thanks John for a great discussion of “Seconds”.

    As a Texan, I agree that Rock was not at his best as Dirk Benedict in “Giant” although I enjoyed the fight scene in the diner where he stands up for the Hispanic family.

    Someone mentioned David Ely’s novel which is the basis of “Seconds”. If you enjoyed the film, you will enjoy the book.



    • John Greco says:

      Good point about “Seconds” being like a feature length “Twilight Zone.” It would have been perfect for the series. I just looked Ely up on Google and interesting enough he did contribute a short story called, “The Academy” to a book of short stories called “Rod Sterling’s Night Gallery Reader.” The short story was turned into an episode of the series.

      I wiIl have to tty and find a copy of the book, possibly at a local library.

      Thanks again, Tony and please stop by again.


  15. “Seconds ” Remains at the top of my hit list for many years.. I first saw the movie in a small theatre in downtown New York . Must had been a revival, or an attempt at one ..

    To say Rock Hudson was incapable of such an in depth performance is extremely cruel. An artist works with the material he is allowed to .
    Are we not lucky that the director had the good judgement to cast him in this role. Sure many more notable actors could have done a great job with this script, but none could have done it better , Hudson is riveting in the role of Tony and a huge asset to this production.. Thank you Mr. Frankenheimer for the foresight to cast him . It still remains a pleasure to watch and critique.…


    • John Greco says:

      Dominic, Welcome to 24frames! I am pleased to have you stop by.

      “To say Rock Hudson was incapable of such an in depth performance is extremely cruel.”

      I do not see where I say anything near this statement. What I say in the article and I quote, “while Hudson was no Robert DeNiro he does gives one of the best performances of his career in a film unlike anything he ever did before or after.” I believe this to be an accurate statement. Hudson was an actor of limited range, unlike DeNiro, Brando, Tracy or Fonda. Nothing wrong with that, there are plenty of actors with a limited range and do well within that range. I applaud both Frankenheimer and Hudson for taking the chance on him. It was an unusual role for him and he handled it well.

      I am in agreement with you on the quality of the film itself. I rank it as one of Frankenheimer’s best, along with THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. I also agree with you on your statement that “an artist works with the material he is allowed to.” Hudson for years was under contract with Universal and probably at times had little say in what film roles he would play.


  16. njg says:

    I am surprised that nobody seems to have explained the commitment in Rock Hudson’s performance in ‘Seconds’ as possibly being explained by his very personal experience as a gay man having to feign heterosexuality for the sake of his career and income. This story of someone yearning to live their life over again surely must have had deep autobiographical truth to it for Hudson? The final scenes seem especially dramatic and I can’t help thinking that he was indeed very close to choking…and did Frankenheimer set him up on that trolley to achieve the desired effect by actually choking him?


  17. njg says:

    Has anyone also commented on the impact this film had on Martin Scorsese – probably somewhere I guess? But the various shots and edit sequences seem to me to pre-date much of MS’s best work. The subject static in frame whilst walking…the quick-fire, impressionistic aggregation of images in certain high-tension, violent episodes…and the hallucinogenic use of fish-eye lenses.


    • John Greco says:

      NJG – This was all pretty innovative stuff at the time by cinematographer James Wong Howe. Vincent LoBrutto in his biography on Scorsese writes that Marty begin a ‘human encyclopedia of moving images” was certainly aware of this film and its innovative techniques during the making of “Who’s That Knocking at my Door” which he incorporated using ‘that landmark grammar for his own devices.”


  18. Steve says:

    With regard to the question of why Wilson was dissatisfied with his new life, I took him to be saying that the new choices had been made for him just as the choices he made in his old life were not his but rather those of the society who he had internalised and mistaken as being himself as an individual.

    The hypnotic regression he underwent during his transformation ostensibly served to uncover his innermost or truest desires. The psychoanalyst made simplistic assumptions without discussing the matter with Wilson. At the end of the film, Wilson is desparate to discuss how he wants his new rebirth to be, perhaps to better understand what he really wants.

    There is an interesting parallel with a trailer I saw for the current release The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology where Zizek says something like: when we dream of escape from ideology we do not escape from ideology but instead escape into more ideology. Wilson escapes from a mainstream conformity that has been designed by a certain ideology of how one should live, but only into the conformity of a counter culture whose ideology is similarly constructed and is merely the other side of the coin.

    Perhaps the deeply held desires uncovered by the analyst were not true desires but another layer of imposed or false desires. What Wilson seeks at the end of the film is true self-determination and freedom of choice.


    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Steve for adding this insightful addition. He basically found himself with another set of rules and laws to live by or up to still without his ability to be himself. One of the reasons I love this film is because the viewer can read many interpretations into its storyline. Thanks again.


      • Steve says:

        Hi John

        Thanks for that. It’s nice to have the chance to read about and discuss a movie in a bit more depth than on the big review sites.

        Best wishes Steve


      • John Greco says:

        Steve, you welcome here to drop by anytime!



    • George says:

      I think the hypnotic regression scene is one of the key moments in the film. Wilson, while undergoing this regression, makes a comment about wanting a big red ball. When this is played back to him, the tape is speeded forward while his interviewer irritably remarks that this wish was obviously infantile. This shows up the hypocrisy of the regression technique i.e. the interviewer claims to be uncovering Wilson’s true desires but still sifts through the answers to find one that is “suitable”. Thus Wilson is still being shaped by others around him. For me, the final moral to this film is that if you don’t know what you want then no-one else can decide for you – even if they have the best of intentions.


  19. Tony Williams says:


    One correction from my previous posts from four years ago:

    Frankenheimer’s wife, not his daughter, played the Arthur Hamilton’s daughter, and Leonard Nimoy portrayed her husband, a physician, in the scenes which were cut from the film.

    In the Criterion Collection, a photograph of one scene is included in the supplemental material and shows Hudson’s character, Hamilton’s daughter and her husband standing near a crib looking at Arthur Hamilton’s granddaughter.

    As mentioned before, Frankenheimer cut those scenes, perhaps because of time, he said in his commentary. Frankenheimer also said he regretted cutting that scene, not only because his wife was in it, but also because he thought it would help explain further the Wilson/Hamilton character.

    Frankenheimer said he searched for the negative of those scenes but could never find them. Before those scenes were cut from “Seconds”, the visit to the daughter and son-in-law would have occurred before Tony Wilson visits his former wife (Francis Reid, who also was a vital part of the film.)

    Tony Williams


    • John Greco says:


      Thanks for this update! I have been meaning to pick up a copy of the Criterion DVD, but have been delinquent in doing so. Good t hear from you.


  20. Tony Williams says:

    Next time, I promise to edit before … I post.

    Second sentence in my post above should read: Frankenheimer’s wife, not the director’s daughter, played Arthur Hamilton’s daughter …

    Is that confusing enough?

    Frankenheimer’s wife was Evans Evans (no typo) who appeared in a number of TV shows and films from the early 1960’s to the mid 1990’s. Since Frankenheimer was only about 35 at the time “Seconds” was being filmed, his wife was the perfect age to play Arthur Hamilton’s daughter.

    I still hold out hope that those scenes may be found someday even in a rough cut perhaps.

    From what I gather from the film, Hamilton and his daughter were not close probably because Hamilton was a distant father just as he was a distant husband. Also, Wilson/Hamilton may have been overcome with regret when he sees his granddaughter whom he likely would not see again. In addition, the reaction of Leonard Nimoy’s character to Tony Wilson would have been fascinating to see. Those scenes with his daughter may have been the reason Wilson decided to visit his former wife. .

    On the Criterion release, Ms. Evans and Salome Jens share their recollections of the making of “Seconds”. Both have quite interesting comments including why they think the film may have failed when it was first released and how Jens was cast.

    The last sentence in my above post should read: Frances Reid, not Francis. She was best known for her years on the daytime soap opera, “Days of Our Lives”, from its debut in 1965 to 2007 — 42 years. Reid died in 2010. She was 95.

    Opinion: I thought Reid’s performance was on the money in a small, but important part. When I first saw “Seconds” years ago, I thought to myself, “I know who that is.” My wife wanted me to watch “Days of Our Lives” with her in the early 1970s.

    One last comment: When the bandages were removed, and we first see the transformation in the mirror with all the scars, bruises, etc., did anyone think, “This is Frankenheimer’s … Frankenstein?”


    • John Greco says:

      Tony, great stuff! I was aware of Evans Evans. Frankenheimer was actually one of the first directors along with Hitchcock, Wilder and Blake Edwards whose names I began to recognize and look for when watching a movie.

      Frankenheimer’s Frankenstein? Could be. LOL


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