Friday, 17 August 2012

Friday Night Film: Seconds

'Seconds' is the film which famously facilitated Beach Boy Brian Wilson's mental breakdown though, in truth, Brian was already ninety five percent there, and, contrary to Brian’s paranoid fantasies, the film was not specifically created by Phil Spector simply to fuck with him. In truth, it was specifically created by John Frankenheimer to fuck with all of us.

A master piece of strange angles, odd camera movements and sweaty close ups, 'Seconds' is, at heart, a science fiction story, although it is set firmly in post JFK America, an altered, world where sinister things are bubbling just below the surface and mysterious corporations are doing awful things in the name of progress.

Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a fifty one year old banker. He has a daughter he never sees, and a wife he ‘gets along’ with. After he gets a call from a friend he thought was dead, he is summoned by ‘The Company’ and he reluctantly embarks on a strange journey which will end in the death of Arthur Hamilton - and his rebirth into a second life free from ties and restrictions and the dull angst of his old existence.

Rock Carving.

Stage 1.

Stage 2.

Work in Progress.

'Hellooo, Handsome!'

After extensive plastic surgery, new teeth, new fingerprints and, apparently, becoming about six inches taller, Hamilton becomes Tony Wilson, in the far more handsome form of Rock Hudson (very serious, rather good). Wilson is a successful artist, with a studio in Malibu and all the necessary credentials from European universities - The Company even supply him with new paintings, as well as a servant / social worker and (unbeknownst to Wilson) a girlfriend.

Loose Lips...

Grim Looks...

Mounting Horror...

Doesn't Granpa Walton look evil without his big 'tache?

But Wilson ultimately finds that his second life is no less stifling than the first – full of things, but no fulfilment – a plastic, unearned existence without goals or challenge – and the dream come true slowly becomes a nightmare, especially when Wilson starts to drink too much, and talk too much, and his indiscretion threatens the company and the second lives of those around him who prefer to keep their rebirths secret…

Full of paranoia and conspiracy and the visual verve of a director at the top of his game, ‘Seconds’ ends appropriately with a full five minutes of Rock Hudson screaming, an emotionally draining and disturbing experience. No flipping wonder flipping Brian flipped out.


  1. Just discovered this recently. FANTASTIC stuff....more or less a Twilight Zone episode, with a touch of Kafka or Philip K Dick, but so brilliantly executed. Really went off the radar, though - nobody seems to have heard of it.

  2. Only know of this due to my Beach Boys obsession but haven't seen it - looks amazing. Thanks for the tip off, will have to check it out.

  3. I loved this film. I caught on Turner Classic Movies here in the US sometime last year, but I've yet to track down a physical copy. You've just reminded me to make another go of it. I wanted to specifically mention Salome Jens, who plays Nora, the (seemingly) free-spirited girlfriend. I wasn't familiar with her previous to seeing this, but she's become one of my favorite lesser-known actresses of the era.