Theatrical release poster for Seconds
|Directed by||John Frankenheimer|
|Produced by||John Frankenheimer
|Written by||David Ely (novel)
Lewis John Carlino
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Cinematography||James Wong Howe|
|Editing by||Ferris Webster|
|Studio||Gibraltar Productions, Joel Productions, John Frankenheimer Productions Inc.|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||October 5, 1966|
|Running time||100 min / USA:107 min (re-release: 1996)|
|Box office||$1.75 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)|
Seconds is a 1966 American film starring Rock Hudson. Characterized sometimes as a science fiction thriller, but with elements of horror, neo-noir, psychedelia, and drama, it was directed by John Frankenheimer with a screenplay by Lewis John Carlino. The script was based on a novel by David Ely. The film was released by Paramount Pictures and was entered into the 1966 Cannes Film Festival.
John Frankenheimer directed Seconds just after the period he worked on his most noted films, Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and Seven Days in May (1964). These last two films together with Seconds are sometimes known as Frankenheimer's paranoia trilogy. The "reborns" of the plot are ironically paralleled in a different context—three of the principal actors (Jeff Corey, Will Geer, and John Randolph) were proscribed from Hollywood films during the "Blacklist" years of the 1950s.
Seconds is also known for its connection to the Beach Boys' chief composer Brian Wilson, who was strongly affected by the film during legendary sessions for the aborted album Smile. The movie reportedly frightened him so much that it wouldn't be until 1982's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial that he'd ever visit a movie theater again.
Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a middle-aged man whose life has lost purpose. He has achieved success in his career, but finds it unfulfilling. His love for his wife of many years has dwindled. His only child is married and he seldom sees her. Through a friend, a man he thought was dead, Hamilton is approached by a secret organization, known simply as the "Company." The Company's business is helping wealthy people who are unhappy with their lives to disappear and create new lives.
When Hamilton agrees to talk to the Company, he is spirited away to a secret location. While waiting for his interview he is offered a cup of tea and then falls asleep. When he wakes, Hamilton is interviewed by Mr. Ruby (Jeff Corey), who shows him a film in which he appears to have raped a girl. The film, made while he was unconscious, is intended to persuade Hamilton that it is now too late for him to return to his old life. Hamilton feels compelled to accept the Company's services—but fears that this coercive scheme foreshadows the unfortunate consequences of doing business with the Company.
Hamilton's death is staged to make it look as if he perished in a hotel fire; a corpse is left at the scene that can be identified as his. Through extensive plastic surgery and mental and physical conditioning, Hamilton is transformed into Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson), a man who looks and acts much younger. He is provided with a new home, a new identity, new friends and a devoted manservant. The details of his new existence, including diplomas and other evidence of professional accomplishment that appear genuine, suggest that there was once a real Tony Wilson, but what became of him is a mystery.
Hamilton tries to adapt to his new life. As Tony Wilson, he lives in a beach house in Malibu, California and enjoys the reputation of a successful artist. He begins a relationship with a young woman named Nora Marcus (Salome Jens) and for a time he is happy. He then finds that the pleasures he denied himself in his "first" life are not exactly what he expected (or wanted).
At a dinner party he hosts for neighbors, Wilson drinks himself into a stupor and begins to babble about his former life as Hamilton. It turns out that his neighbors are "reborns" like himself, sent to keep an eye on his adjustment. Nora is actually an agent of the Company and her attentions to Wilson are designed merely to ensure his cooperation with the Company's program.
In violation of Company policy, Wilson, posing as an old friend of her husband's, visits his former wife (Frances Reid) in his new persona. He learns that his marriage had failed because he was distracted by the pursuit of career and material possessions, the very things in life that others made him believe were important.
Wilson returns to the Company and announces a desire to start again with yet another identity. The Company offers to accommodate him, but asks if he would first provide the names of some past acquaintances who might like to be "reborn." He refuses since he now knows of the drawbacks to being "reborn" and also doesn't want to delay the Company's process for giving him a new identity.
While awaiting his reassignment, Wilson encounters Charlie Evans (Murray Hamilton), the friend who had originally recruited him into the Company. Evans was also "reborn" and likewise could not make a go of his new life. Together, they speculate on the reason for their failure to adjust, attributing it to the fact that they allowed others, including the Company, to make life choices for them.
This understanding comes too late. Wilson/Hamilton is suddenly informed that he is to be taken to surgery to be given his new identity, but as he is wheeled down the hallway a priest reads him the last rites and he realizes he is going to his death. He is wheeled into an operating room where he learns that failed reborns are not actually provided with new identities but instead become the cadavers used to fake new clients' deaths.
- Rock Hudson – Antiochus "Tony" Wilson
- Salome Jens – Nora Marcus
- John Randolph – Arthur Hamilton
- Will Geer – Old Man
- Jeff Corey – Mr. Ruby
- Richard Anderson – Dr. Innes
- Murray Hamilton – Charlie Evans
- Karl Swenson – Dr. Morris
- Khigh Dhiegh – Davalo
- Frances Reid – Emily Hamilton
- Wesley Addy – John
- John Lawrence – Texan
- Elisabeth Fraser – Plump Blonde
- Dodie Heath – Sue Bushman (as Dody Heath)
- Robert Brubaker – Mayberry
- Barbara Werle - Secretary
Production Information 
Seconds was first released October 5, 1966. It did poorly on its initial release, but later developed a strong cult following.
The director of photography for Seconds was the legendary James Wong Howe, who is well known for pioneering novel techniques in black-and-white cinematography, and whose prolific career spanned nearly five decades. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the film. Seconds was Frankenheimer and Howe's last film in black-and-white.
Rock Hudson was five inches taller than his movie counterpart, John Randolph; the difference in their heights was worked around with carefully chosen camera angles. Hudson and Randolph also spent a good deal of time together before production began, allowing Hudson to model Randolph's mannerisms, to resemble him more closely.
In Frankenheimer's commentary on the DVD he notes:
- The depiction of Hamilton's plastic surgery includes several shots of an actual rhinoplasty operation. Director John Frankenheimer made several of these shots himself after the cameraman fainted.
- The DVD includes footage deleted from the American theatrical version depicting nude revelers at a wine festival. Frankenheimer had also intended to restore a scene in which the transformed Hamilton visits his daughter, but the footage could not be found.
- The scenes in Tony Wilson's Malibu beach house were shot in Frankenheimer's own home.
Time said "Director John Frankenheimer and Veteran Photographer James Wong Howe manage to give the most improbable doings a look of credible horror. Once Rock appears, though, the spell is shattered, and through no fault of his own. Instead of honestly exploring the ordeal of assuming a second identity, the script subsides for nearly an hour into conventional Hollywood fantasy. [...] Seconds has moments, and that's too bad, in a way. But for its soft and flabby midsection, it might have been one of the trimmest shockers of the year." 
Home Video 
- "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967 p 8
- "Festival de Cannes: Seconds". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
- The Beach Boys by Byron Preiss, Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! by Domenic Priore, and Wilson's own Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story (written with Todd Gold).
- per American Movie Classics when it presented Seconds during the 1990s.
- "Cinema: Identity Crisis", October 14, 1966, Time
- "Seconds". criterion.com. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
- Seconds at the Internet Movie Database
- Seconds at AllRovi
- Seconds at the TCM Movie Database
- Seconds at Rotten Tomatoes
- Movies You May Have Missed – Ep 13: Seconds