“Don’t think, Tony — I came here to feel, to be!”
Response to Peary’s Review:
In Peary’s Cult Movies 3, he includes an extended essay on Seconds written by Henry Blinder, who interviewed Randolph, screenwriter John Carlino, composer Jerry Goldsmith, and producer Edward Lewis. Blinder writes unequivocally that “Seconds is quite possibly the most depressing film ever made — it is a film of unrelieved despair”, and (citing Carlino) “almost too painful to watch”. Blinder refers to Seconds as “the living nightmare of a man who acts to fill his emptiness without having an idea of what to fill it with”, culminating in “one of the most harrowing murders ever filmed”. In his analysis, Blinder references other key cinematic works — noting, for instance, that the final shot in Seconds is akin to “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane (1941), and that Ely’s original novel was a precursor of sorts to Ira Levin’s novel-turned-movie The Stepford Wives (1975): “In Ely’s work, the men pay a great deal of money to alter/replace themselves; in Levin’s the men pay a great deal of money to alter/replace their wives”.
Indeed, Seconds is very clearly about males in crisis, given that the two key females — Reid as Randolph’s wife, and Jens as Hudson’s free-spirited new lover — are ultimately supporting players in his story, and the nefarious “company” is run by (white, middle-aged) men. Blinder writes that Ely’s novel “was inspired by a startling statistic: At the time, 80,000 middle-aged American men left their wives and children each year, never to return”, causing Ely to hypothesize “that big business might want to capitalize on the legion of wealthy men”. The somewhat opaque workings of “The Company” provide a chilling example of fatal coercion in marketing, given that new members are not-so-subtly “encouraged” to name another potential client for the expensive underground procedure before they’re allowed to move on to another “level”. Hudson’s ultimate refusal to “name names” is a poignant tribute to the blacklisted actors brought out of obscurity to play either supporting (Jeff Corey, Will Geer) or central (John Randolph) roles. There is much more to say and discuss about Seconds, but simply put, it remains must-see viewing: steel yourself.
Note: Seconds is often referred to as the third of Frankenheimer’s “paranoia trilogy”, following The Manchurian Candidate (1964) and Seven Days in May (1964).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)