Blu-ray Review: Criterion Updates Paranoia Classic ‘Seconds’

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

CHICAGO – John Frankenheimer’s “Seconds” with Rock Hudson was considered an unusual choice for The Criterion Collection when it was announced earlier this year. Never before available on Blu-ray and discontinued on DVD, the 4K restoration on this edition is the real draw, especially given that the film’s strength lies in its stunning visual compositions. With its canted angles and fish bowl aesthetic, Frankenheimer enhances what is actually a relatively weak script. “Seconds” is a film that I want to adore given my love for the filmmaker’s other works (especially “The Manchurian Candidate,” another ode to ’60s paranoia) and how I love well-written “Twilight Zone”-esque tales, but repeat viewing of this release reveals the film to be thematically thinner than it should be. There are some great ideas here about personality, success, and apathy but they’re not explored and the final twist is one that modern audiences will see coming an hour before the protagonist. Blu-ray rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

I’m being harsh because of how many great Criterion releases there have been lately (pick up “Things to Come,” “The Devil’s Backbone” or even “Shoah” if you need to add a new one to your collection). “Seconds” is a good film. We’ve just come to expect great from Criterion. Hudson stars as a man…well, as a “second” man. In this piece of sci-fi paranoia, rich men who are unsatisfied with their lives fake their deaths, get plastic surgery, and wake up as new people. Hudson stars as a man who lives to regret his decision.

The Criterion release contains a beautiful transfer along with some interesting special features like an interview with Alec Baldwin about the director with whom he worked on “Path to War.”

Seconds was released on Blu-ray and DVD on August 13, 2013
Seconds was released on Blu-ray and DVD on August 13, 2013
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

Rock Hudson is a revelation in this sinister, science-fiction-inflected dispatch from the fractured 1960s. Seconds, directed by John Frankenheimer, concerns a middle-aged businessman dissatisfied with his suburban existence, who elects to undergo a strange and elaborate procedure that will grant him a new life. Starting over in America, however, is not as easy as it sounds. This paranoiac symphony of canted camera angles (courtesy of famed cinematographer James Wong Howe), fragmented editing, and layered sound design is a remarkably risk-taking Hollywood film that ranks high on the list of its legendary director’s major achievements.

Special Features:
Audio Commentary Featuring Director John Frankenheimer
New Interview With Actor Alec Baldwin
Excerpts From Hollywood On The Hudson, A 1965 Television Program Featuring On-Set Footage And An Interview With Actor rock Hudson
New Program On The Making Of The film, Featuring Interviews With Evans Frankenheimer, The Director’s Widow, and Actor Salome Jens
Interview With Frankenheimer From 1971
New Visual Essay By Film Scholars R. Barton Palmer And Murray Pomerance
Booklet Featuring An Essay By Critic David Sterritt

“Seconds” stars Rock Hudson, John Randolph, Will Geer, and Salome Jens. It was directed by John Frankenheimer. It was released on Criterion Blu-ray and DVD on August 13, 2013. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

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