Get PJ Media on your Apple

Ed Driscoll

Second Chance for John Frankenheimer’s Seconds on Blu-Ray

August 25th, 2013 - 7:36 pm

frankenheimer_seconds_movie_poster_8-25-13-1

Last week, the mailman delivered an Amazon box containing the Criterion Blu-Ray edition of the 1966 John Frankenheimer movie Seconds, starring Rock Hudson. Its arrival meant I could finally retire my 1997 laser disc edition of the film, one of the last 12-inch silver discs I purchased before switching to DVDs. But first, it meant a late night viewing of one of the strangest and most unsettling movies produced by mid-‘60s Hollywood.

Forget Dr. Strangelove’s obsession with fluoridation — something strange had gotten in the water in the mid-1960s. Maybe it was a collective premonition that the overreach of the Johnson Administration’s Great Society would very likely cause it to fail, as it attempted to fight the war on poverty, the war on racism, the space race, the Cold War, and the hot war in Vietnam, all simultaneously.

Perhaps it was the cognitive dissonance of the left, unable to process the fact that Johnson was only in office because President Kennedy was shot by “some silly little Communist,” as newly-widowed Jackie Kennedy muttered upon hearing the news about the motivations of the man who shot her husband. Instead of understanding that the Cold War had claimed her husband, Jackie, like most of the American left couldn’t make the connection. The ideology of Kennedy’s assassin “robs his death of any meaning,” she added.

But giving meaning to life didn’t really interest the American left at the height of the Cold War. In the early days of the 20th century, pioneering, self-described “Progressives” championed better working conditions for the common man. Now that America’s postwar economic boom meant that many men had them, and were moving to the suburbs as a result, after World War II, the left decided this was a bad thing. Hence, the 1956 film, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, (which both Seconds and today’s Mad Men each owes much to), and by time of the Kennedy era, Malvina Reynolds and Pete Seeger’s “Little Boxes,” with its references to suburban houses “all made out of ticky-tacky,” dubbed “the most sanctimonious song ever written” by fellow leftwing songwriter Tom Leher.

But this trend went into overdrive by the mid-‘60s, a hatred of all things suburbia that burns to this day, one of many poisoned leftwing wells from which our current president has drunk from deeply. In 1966, director Frank Perry shot the film version of the 1964 short story written by the New Yorker’s John Cheever, The Swimmer, which starred a buff-looking Burt Lancaster, trapped in an 95-minute-long metaphor of a movie. As the title implies, Lancaster swam from pool to pool, chatting wistfully with his neighbors in their wealthy Connecticut suburb about missed opportunities, middle age, and social conformity.

The Swimmer, which is available in high def streaming video from Amazon, wasn’t released by Columbia Pictures until 1968, perhaps because another, much darker film with a somewhat similar theme had bombed badly at the box office. In the early to mid-1960s, director John Frankenheimer had a made a career of Cold War paranoid thrillers, releasing first The Manchurian Candidate in 1962, starring Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey. In 1964, Frankenheimer next helmed Seven Days in May, with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster starring in a film about American generals attempting a coup against a dovish liberal president. In 1966, Frankenheimer directed Seconds.

SPOILER ALERT: DON’T READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YET, BUT MIGHT WANT TO. I’M ABOUT TO GIVE AWAY WIDE SWATCHES OF THE PLOT. YOU WERE WARNED.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Thanks for a great article. I saw Seconds years ago and don't recall much but my tepid response to Hudson in a "serious" role. Now I'd like to see it again.

Your observations on the conformity of the non-conformists touch on something that is always in the forefront of my mind when watching and attempting to understand the left. How have they been able to maintain, for decades, the fantasy that to be one of them is to be a true individual fighting against the system? They ARE the system, at least culturally, and to become one of them is to lose autonomy, to become an interchangeable cog in a machine whose only true goal is power. This is why art has become so insufferably vapid, superficial and meaningless. It's hard to make art when one's scope is so narrow and where reaching out of yourself to create something worthwhile is, to use Jesse Jackson's words, frowned upon.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Ive got On the Beach and now Seconds and a few others on my Watch List thanks to you Ed. Keep em coming.

If you would be so kind as to recommend some sites for conservative film reviews and commentary, that would be swell.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Once upon time Hollywood produced entertainment. And sometimes that entertainment spoke about human nature or moral values or the impact of technology.

Then the Marxist poseurs took control of Hollywood and everything needed to serve the end goal of the subversion of Western Civilization and the advancement of the New Man, the Socialist Man, The Marxist man, the Committed Communist man. It's been downhill ever since.

And none of those people recognizes their part in the destruction they've visited upon so many lives.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The movie is basically a two-hour "Twilight Zone" episode, weirdness throughout, followed by a disturbing twist ending."

I saw the film for the first time about 18 months ago, and this was exactly my reaction. It is a high quality production, but has something of a small screen feel to it. And has a highly disturbing ending.

I kind of wanted Rod Serling to appear at the end, to help transition back to -- this reality.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Saw "Seconds" when it first came out with my 20-year-old cousin at the RKO 23rd Street theater in Manhattan. Not exactly the movie you'd want to take your 9-year-old to, but I don't think he was all that thrilled about having to babysit me, either. And while I did get the general theme of the movie, beginning and the denouncement, I really didn't remember all that much about the middle part, and the 9-year-old me really didn't grasp what the point was of killing Hudson's character.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mister Buddwing starring James Garner was also made in 1966. It could be called a very anti-abortion movie.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Seconds" bombed when it was released. But I always consider it a hidden gem.

The movie is basically a two-hour "Twilight Zone" episode, weirdness throughout, followed by a disturbing twist ending.

There are other productions that had similar premises though very different treatments.

In the musical "Damn Yankees," a guy makes a deal with the devil to leave his wife and get a new identity to play championship baseball instead.

And in the movie "Oh, God! Book 2," a failing songwriter makes a deal with the devil (played by George Burns) to get a new identity as a rock star.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Have you any thoughts on comparing “Secords” to the TV show, “Now and Again” (1999), whose protagonist wishes he could return to his wife and child?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks for a great article. I saw Seconds years ago and don't recall much but my tepid response to Hudson in a "serious" role. Now I'd like to see it again.

Your observations on the conformity of the non-conformists touch on something that is always in the forefront of my mind when watching and attempting to understand the left. How have they been able to maintain, for decades, the fantasy that to be one of them is to be a true individual fighting against the system? They ARE the system, at least culturally, and to become one of them is to lose autonomy, to become an interchangeable cog in a machine whose only true goal is power. This is why art has become so insufferably vapid, superficial and meaningless. It's hard to make art when one's scope is so narrow and where reaching out of yourself to create something worthwhile is, to use Jesse Jackson's words, frowned upon.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"They ARE the system"

Well, yes. But it requires a certain amount of double-think when your only mode of expression is "shock the bourgeois," when you *are* the bourgeois.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
View All