This essay is the first of several of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s contributions to The Camp & Cult Blogathon, an event being hosted at my BBFF Stacia’s blog She Blogged by Night from September 17-28. For a list of participants and the camp classics/cult films discussed, you’ll find “the usual suspects” here. (Note: I have tried to include adequate space for a spoiler warning for those of you who have not yet seen this one-of-a-kind film.)
A cocktail party Tony throws for a few friends at his beach house goes completely south, however. Under the influence of too much alcohol, Tony leaks details about his former life of Arthur Hamilton, prompting John and several other male guests to hustle Tony into the bedroom. Tony learns that the guests, are all like himself—“reborns”—but the betrayal that stings the most is that Nora is also not what she seems…like John, she is a Company employee.
Confused and miserable in his new life, Tony pays Emily Hamilton a visit in direct violation of Company policy. Though Emily still believes her late husband was “a good man,” their marriage deteriorated because of
ambition and pursuit of material possessions.
“He lived as if he were a stranger here,” Emily tells Tony. “I mean, he never let anything touch him.” Tony is determined not to repeat the same
mistake, and so he contacts the Company about starting over for a third time—a
life in which he will make the decisions, not the organization.
The negotiations between Tony and the Company reach a small impasse when the organization tries to prod him into suggesting other candidates who might be interested in their services…as his friend Charlie Evans did with him. It is, in fact, while waiting for reassignment that Tony runs into Charlie—who like him also had difficulty adjusting to the “reborn” process. Their reunion is interrupted when the Company’s plastic surgeon, Dr. Innes (Richard Anderson), informs Charlie that he needs to prepare for surgery. Meanwhile, Tony and several other men spend their time in a “waiting area” until they are called.
Tony is awakened in the middle of the night by the Old Man, who before informing him that it is now time for his surgery, explains that the Company sometimes makes mistakes with “reborns”…but that the Company tries to learn from its mistakes, and “keep plugging away at the dream.” Several orderlies come to collect Tony and strap him to a gurney…but the presence of a Protestant minister (Karl Swenson) administering the last rites reveals to a horrified Tony that he will not be undergoing plastic surgery—that failed “reborns” are instead used as cadavers in the faking of new clients’ deaths. As Innes administers a cranial drill to Tony’s skull, the last thing he remembers is a vision of a man with a young girl on his shoulders, running along a beach.
******END SPOILER WARNING******
Seconds (1966), a horrifying suspense thriller directed by John Frankenheimer, was chosen by Paramount Pictures to be an entry at the Cannes Film Festival in 1966. The result? European critics panned the work; the reaction was so hostile that Frankenheimer, who was nearby in
Carlo filming Grand
Prix (1966), refused to attend the festival’s press conference. The box office for the film also stank to
high heaven, and for many years after its initial release it was a difficult
film to see, which is why Seconds
acquired the cult reputation it did.
Never released to VHS, the first time I saw the movie was on a local
Savannah TV station, where it was edited to shreds for commercials and also
because of some nudity (more on that in a sec).
American Movie Classics aired the film uncut in the 1990s, allowing many
film buffs to see a truly underrated film, and Seconds’ release to DVD in 2002 (unfortunately, the disc is now
OOP) and subsequent showings on Turner Classic Movies have given
Frankenheimer’s neglected masterpiece a bit more exposure. (The director has noted in many interviews
that the movie went from being a “failure to a classic…without ever being a
|Borrowing Brent McKee's Applied Theory of Toupees, this role must have been pretty serious for veteran character actor Richard Anderson (on the right) to leave the rug at home.|
|One of the subtleties in Seconds: Will Geer's character is The Company's founder, who wants to give men a chance to be "reborn." So why does he remain an old man?|
|Murray Hamilton learns that Roy Scheider wants to close the beaches.|