August 18, 2019

SECONDS: Kathy Shaidle looks back at the brilliant and terrifying 1966 John Frankenheimer film starring Rock Hudson.

Much has been written about the multiple subtexts of Seconds — the Hollywood “blacklist,” as well as Hudson’s then-secret (more or less) gay identity; the crazy “Brian Wilson connection”; the extraordinary lengths to which Wong Howe and Frankenheimer went to realize their vision: For one thing, to thin out a section of Grand Central Station to capture their opening shots, they hired a woman in a bikini to create a crowd-forming spectacle at the other side of the terminal.

And all these factors do indeed add invisible yet palpable depth to a film that is in and of itself a stunning feat of storytelling, acting and technical prowess.

Liberal fans of Seconds praise it as — you guessed it — a chilling condemnation of shallow materialistic American consumerism and conformity. Yet few of them mention that when Hamilton gets his twice in a lifetime opportunity to savor the idealized progressive lifestyle instead, he’s miserable then too. Actually more so.

In fact, coming out as it did in that pivotal year between the early Sixties New Frontier/Mad Men era, and the late Sixties of Woodstock and Manson, Seconds could just as easily be read as a critique of the then-nascent youth “drop out” counterculture.

Read the whole thing, though as James Lileks once wrote, “The hero wakes up to find himself looking like Rock Hudson. He does not adapt well.  The viewer thinks: you moron. Cheer up! You look like Rock Hudson! Get to work! Enjoy!”

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