Thursday, April 13, 2017

Seconds (1966) A Rat Race Reboot

Daliesque title sequence

Bizarre Noir, directed by John Frankenheimer (The Young Savages (1961), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Seven Days in May (1964), The Train (1964)), written by Lewis John Carlino (The Mechanic (1972)) based on the novel by  David Ely. The excellent cinematography was by James Wong Howe (Nora Prentiss (1947), Body and Soul (1947). He Ran All the Way (1951), Sweet Smell of Success (1957)) and the music was by Jerry Goldsmith (Seven Days in May (1964), The Satan Bug (1965)).

The film stars Rock Hudson (Undertow (1949), One Way Street (1950), ) as Antiochus "Tony" Wilson, Salome Jens (Angel Baby (1961)) as Nora Marcus, John Randolph (The Naked City (1948), Fourteen Hours (1951), Serpico (1973), ) as Arthur Hamilton, Will Geer (The Tall Target (1951), In Cold Blood (1967)) as Old Man, Jeff Corey (The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947), The Gangster (1947), Fourteen Hours (1951), In Cold Blood (1967), ) as Mr. Ruby,
Richard Anderson (The People Against O'Hara (1951), Forbidden Planet (1956)) as Dr. Innes, Frances Reid as Emily Hamilton, Khigh Dhiegh (The Manchurian Candidate (1962)) as Davalo, and Murray Hamilton (The Twilight Zone TV Series (1959–1964), Naked City TV Series (1958–1963). The Untouchables TV Series (1959–1963), The Graduate (1967), The Drowning Pool (1975)) as Charlie Evans.

Arthur Hamilton (Randolph)
Second Chance Inc. Candidate Arthur Hamilton (Randolph). Banker burnout. Suburban somnambulist. Rolex rat racer. Wife, Emily (Reid). Empty nesters. Lovelife on low. New York Central commuter. Scarsdale - Manhattan - Scarsdale. Day in day out. Over and over.


Emily (Reid)

Dead inside
Late night call. Charlie Evans (Hamilton). Who? Charlie, best friend, tennis buddie, a voice from the dead. Artie can't wrap his head around this. He thinks it's a prank. He's sweating. He can't sleep. Day two. Artie heading home. Grand Central Terminal. He picks up a tail. The tail follows him across the main concourse and down a ramp to track 24. Just as Artie gets on his train the tail calls out his name and hands him a piece of paper with an address 34 Lafayette Street.

Grand Central Terminal concourse

the tail

tailing Hamilton


That night Charlie calls again, he describes Artie's fireplace mantel, their tennis picture, the tennis trophy with the crude inscription they scratched in its base "fidelis eternis". Charlie tells Artie to show up it's a new chance at life and he's to tell them his name is Wilson.

34 Lafayette St.

I'm Wilson

The address is a rat hole dry cleaner. They send Artie to a meat packer. They put him in the back of a truck and take him to loading dock at the back of a nondescript building.


 "The Company." It's a warren of bleak corridors that finally lead to a secretary who then gives him a drink and leaves him in an empty office, sitting on a sofa. In a surreal sequence, Artie stumbles into a room and approaches a girl on a bed, he falls on her and she screams. He wakes up and he's back on the sofa. It was a dream.

A Mr. Ruby (Corey) enters, gives him the details of the contract. $30,000 will get him a fake death and a new life with a new identity a second life. They tell him that his wife will be generously provided for. When Artie seems hesitant Ruby asks him what does he have now? To force the issue and coerce Artie, Ruby shows him a movie of Artie's assault on the woman, it wasn't a dream. Artie signs. Artie next meets "The Old Man" (Geer) who comes off as the folksie "Colonel Sanders" of re-birth. They tell him that they'll arrange his death in a hotel fire, they have a "fresh" corpse ready to take his place.

Mr. Ruby (Corey)

The Old Man (Geer) and Artie

Artie transformed into Tony (Hudson)

Davalo (Dhiegh)
They give Artie, through plastic surgery, a new face, new teeth, new fingerprints, a new body with the identity of Antiochus "Tony" Wilson (Hudson) and they eventually drop him off in a "Peace Love Dove" schtick, bacchanalian, hedonist, cliché, left coast community in, where else? Malibu, California.

new digs new life


Tony/Artie and Nora (Jens)


East meets West, meets Crazy. He's now an rich artist, with a manservant. He meets Nora (Jens) and they begin a relationship. They changed him on the outside but not on the inside. Things are a bit too "Far Out" for Tony/Artie in the Age of Aquarius.

<spoilers ahead>

The community he's in, he realizes too late, is full of "reborns." At a cocktail party Tony/Artie gets smashed and begins to talk too much, revealing who he actually is. This was a big no, no. He also finds out that Nora and his manservant where employees of the company.

Tony/Artie spills the beans

Tony/Artie heads back to New York accompanied by his manservant, he wants a different rebirth, but he firsts goes to visit Emily as a painting acquaintance of Artie.

reunion with Emily

Emily Hamilton: You see, Arthur had been dead a long, long time before they found him in that hotel room.

After the reunion with Emily he goes back to the company and told that he must recommend a new client for them. He tells Ruby that he can't think of anyone. Ruby then tells him to wait until they can provide a new identity. In the "waiting" room he meets his old friend Charlie.

Charlie (Hamilton )
Tony/Artie: I couldn't help it, Charlie. I had to find out where I went wrong. The years I've spent trying to get all the things I was told were important - that I was supposed to want! Things! Not people... or meaning. Just things. And California was the same. They made the decisions for me all over again and they were the same things, really. It's going to be different from now on. A new face and a name. I'll do the rest. I know it's going to be different. I suppose you do too.

Tony/Artie doesn't have long to wait for his trip to Noirsville.



Both John Randolph and Rock Hudson are excellent. The rest of the cast, some with Classic Film Noir creds, provide some cinematic memory to the film.

The film does an excellent job right from the get go in the Daliesque title sequence of providing the Surrealistic tone for the whole film. Experimental POV camera shots disorient the viewer and draw you fully into the bizarre riff on Murder Incorporated. Paned at the time of release the film was just too ahead of it's time. A new Criterion release is available. 8/10

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