John Frankenheimer’s 1996 film, Seconds is a wonderfully oblique paranoia thriller with a career best performance from Rock Hudson. Dark and thought-provoking, this is the type of movie that led to Hollywood’s hard-edged cinematic output of the 1970s.
John Rudolph plays Arthur Hamilton, a middle-aged man unhappy with his existence. He’s contacted by a friend he believed to be long dead, only to discover that he was given a new life by ‘The Company’. Hamilton is offered the same opportunity and through the miracle of surgery he’s given a brand new body. He becomes Tony Wison (Hudson) a successful and good-looking young artist, with a whole new life. However, ennui and dissatisfaction soon begin to creep in again…
In 1966 Rock Hudson was an odd choice to portray a man unhappy with his existence. After all, he was at the height of his fame and success, and adored by women across the globe. However, like the character he plays in Frankenheimer’s film, he had a dark secret and the film takes on a new meaning thirty years after his death from AIDS. Hudson lived his life in the closet, hiding his homosexuality from the world until his death at the age of 59. You could argue that this was the closest he ever came to playing himself and he delivers a layered and raw performance, one which can only now be fully appreciated.
Filmed in stark black and white by James Wong Howe, this 1966 film doesn’t lay-out its concept to the viewer. Frankenheimer makes the audience work for their entertainment, delivering the final part of his loose paranoia trilogy (along with The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days In May). The director delivers a skilful piece of avant-garde piece of filmmaking. He keeps the tone off-kilter, merging horror, thriller and science fiction together in a an intriguing and unexpected way.
A flop on its release, Seconds was a film far ahead of its time. The filmmaking and performances are all first rate and audences can now look at it as an important film in the careers of director John Frakenheimer and star Rock Husdon.