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1966 106 mins

John Frankenheimer
Lewis John Carlino, David Ely
Rock Hudson, Frank Campanella, John Randolph

Presented by Chicago Film Society

Seconds, adapted from David Ely’s 1963 novel, is not for the faint-hearted. Director John Frankenheimer, known for his work on The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May, brings forth a chilling psychological horror film deeply entrenched in science fiction. Renowned cinematographer James Wong Howe’s striking visuals, which earned the film an Academy Award nomination, heighten the sense of paranoia and existential dread. Seconds revolves around Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph), a disenfranchised banker unsatisfied with his marriage and the overall course of his life. A call from a friend beyond the grave lures him into working with The Company, an agency that promises a complete life reincarnation through dark and unpleasant means. At the hands of The Company, Arthur transforms into Antiochus Wilson, a seaside painter portrayed by the iconic Rock Hudson. Arthur’s transformed physique, achieved by way of rhinoplasty, hair transplants, and months of physical training, is novel to him. But can he mentally handle the transition of leaving his old world behind? Seconds refuses to shy away from the macabre details of Arthur’s experience. The film intensifies his transformation with footage of real-life plastic surgery; director Frankenheimer stepped in as a camera operator for this scene after a crew member fainted. Rock Hudson gives a career-defining performance that serves as the film’s focal point, shedding light on the consequences of attaining a second life and realizing one’s desires. Seconds weaves together a Dionysian party, dystopian realities, and the unsettling moral complexities associated with fulfilling one’s deepest wishes. The result is a rapid fever dream of cinematic unease and excellence. 

Preceded by: “By the Sea” (Pat O’Neill, 1963) – 10 min – 16mm from Canyon Cinema

106 mins

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