Seconds (1966)

seconds poster 1966 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking, interesting sci-fi film


Movie Info

Movie Name:  Seconds

Studio:  Joel Production

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  October 5, 1966

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

seconds rock hudson frances reid

So…the good news is I’m Rock Hudson…the bad news is all my internal organs are still an old man

Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) has been approached with a strange offer…a new start.  The middle-aged married man learns that through science, he can give up his past and begin again with a new face and a new name.  Reborn Antiochus Wilson (Rock Hudson), Arthur goes about his new life, meets new people, and experiences new things…but a new future isn’t always something good, and second chances aren’t always free.

Directed by John Frankenheimer, Seconds is a sci-fi drama based on the 1963 novel by David Ely.  Initially a failure at the box office, the film received positive reviews and an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography—Black-and-White.  The film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2015.  A remastered version of Seconds was released by the Criterion Collection (Criterion #667).

seconds bacchanalia rock hudson

Yeah for orgies!!!

I think I randomly ran into Seconds at the library when I first saw it.  It was a video and proclaimed to be a sci-fi film despite starring the king of the early romcoms with Doris Day.  If I recall I picked it up because of the novelty it provided…and I was really impressed.

The story for Seconds is good, but it is also rather standard Twilight Zone fodder on the surface.  What would you do if you got a second chance at life?  Could you change your ways and be free?  Under this surface (which is valid for exploration) is a second story which is almost a horror story about how the “Company” works.  It is dark and you wonder who runs it and who makes the calls.

As mentioned, Rock Hudson is really strange choice for the lead (Frankenheimer wanted Lawrence Olivier or Kirk Douglas).  Rock Hudson was an American ideal at the time of Seconds and if you could be a “reborn”, I’d suppose you try to look like someone like him.  There is also a lot of attention to Hudson’s alter ego played by John Randolph, Jeff Corey, and Neidrick Young because all three were blacklisted by Hollywood and their appearance in the film is sometimes considered a “rebirth” itself.

seconds ending rock hudson surgery

Wait…where are you taking me?

Seconds also looks great.  From the opening with nice Saul Bass credits to the whole surgery and bacchanalia, Seconds is just unusual.  The decision to make it black-and-white also makes it darker and more dangerous.  He’s in sunny California, but there is a darkness hanging over the whole shadowy movie.

The weirdest thing about Seconds is that Seconds exists.  It isn’t a revolutionary story or plot but the coming together of Rock Hudson and a very edgy, stylish sci-fi film doesn’t seem like a natural mix.  What is good about Seconds is that it somehow works.  The movie is credited for influencing Brian Wilson during his creation of Smile and the movie he said added to his paranoia.  Seconds is criminally under-seen and deserves a wider audience.  I’m glad that Criterion recognized that.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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