Seconds (1966, John Frankenheimer)

Why have I gotten Seconds and Targets confused? I wondered why Boris Karloff wasn’t listed in the opening titles, figured he’d be an unannounced surprise guest star or something. No matter.

Shot by madman James Wong Howe:

Arthur (John Randolph) is a middle-aged married guy, gets a call from his long-dead friend, follows instructions and ends up caught in a secret surgical cult. Prominently-eyebrowed Jeff Corey (sheriff in the Butch Cassidy movies) lays out Arthur’s options: let them remake him as Rock Hudson, or release him along with the life-destroying sex tape they shot while he was drugged.

Post-surgery, “Tony” (Rock Hudson) lives on a lovely beach house with a dedicated butler/watcher (Wesley Addy, Ralph Meeker’s disapproving boss in Kiss Me Deadly), works on his paintings all day. This plus massive surgery is what $30k bought in the sixties? He attends a naked wine orgy with the neighbors but doesn’t really feel like socializing, and has a tendency to shout about his former life when drunk – turns out all his neighbors are also middle-aged losers with new bodies and lives (Reborns).

John Frankensteimer:

Rock meets a cute girl (Salome Jens, title star of Angel Baby) on the beach, but this and the parties and paintings aren’t cutting it, so he sneaks off to check on his wife (this is a year after becoming Rock) and is recaptured by the company and united with his “dead” friend (Murray Hamilton, mayor of Jaws). Both Rock and his friend “died” in their previous lives in some awful, disfiguring accident, some dope’s body substituted for their own. Now they waste their days in an office, waiting to be the dope body for some other guy’s midlife crisis dream-come-true. Depressing movie, kinda.

Frankenheimer, a few years after Manchurian Candidate, gets a neat effect by attaching the camera to walking actors, exactly as done in Pi. Supposedly this is the third in a “paranoia trilogy”, with Seven Days in May the middle piece.


D. Sterritt:

When much of American pop culture was infatuated with the swinging, psychedelic 1960s, John Frankenheimer was focused on the decade’s darker side—the sour aftertaste of McCarthyism, the expanding military-industrial complex, the growing sense that technology might be controlling us instead of the other way around. … An early clue to the Company’s sinister nature is its shifty way of inducing Arthur to sign up. Instead of inveigling him with Faustian rewards of sex, glamour, and fulfillment, the Company stresses the emptiness of his current life, making him gaze into its vacant, lusterless eyes until he’ll do anything to look away.