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Desperate to escape his dreary, dead-end life, aging broker Arthur Hamilton succumbs to a mysterious organization's offer of a new identity and a fresh start.
For more about Seconds and the Seconds Blu-ray release, see Seconds Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 19, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: John Frankenheimer
Writer: Lewis John Carlino
Starring: Frank Campanella, John Randolph, Murray Hamilton, Jeff Corey (I), Will Geer, Richard Anderson
» See full cast & crew
Seconds Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 19, 2013
Nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival, John Frankenheimer's "Seconds" (1966) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include: new video interview with Alec Baldwin; new documentary featuring interviews with Evans Frankenheimer and Salome Jens; new visual essay by film scholars R. Barton Palmer and Murray Pomerance; archival interviews with John Frankenheimer and Rock Hudson; and an audio commentary by the American director. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic David Sterritt. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
You can buy everything in America - even a new life. This is exactly what Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph, Serpico, Prizzi's Honor), a successful middle-aged banker, discovers after one of his old and supposedly dead friends begins calling him at home. At first Arthur refuses to believe that he is the same man he knew years ago, but after he points out details from his past no one else could have known he changes his mind. Encouraged by his friend, Arthur also agrees to visit the office of a company specializing in procedures that allow its customers to reinvent their lives.
At the company's lavish office Arthur is informed how, when and at what cost he can become a new man. Not entirely certain what he is being offered, he signs a contract that quickly drains his bank account and gives the company the power to literally take over his life. Shortly after, he gets a complete makeover - a team of surgeons replaces his face, teeth, fingerprints, and everything else one could possibly use to identify him. A kind man from the company also informs him that in a matter of hours the old Arthur will unexpectedly die in a tiny hotel room somewhere in the city.
The new Arthur (Rock Hudson, Pillow Talk, All That Heaven Allows) that emerges from the company's office is younger and slimmer. He also has a new name, Antiochus 'Tony' Wilson, and a new address in Malibu Beach.
Soon after he returns to his lavish beach house, Tony meets the attractive blonde Nora Marcus (Salome Jens, Savages). The two then visit a Bacchanalian grape-stomping ceremony that forces Tony to reexamine his new and supposedly better life.
It is an indisputable fact that John Frankenheimer's Seconds was well ahead of its time. Completed in 1966, the film asks a number of questions that are frequently debated in the media today. To see that Frankenheimer was able to imagine a future reality and more importantly accurately describe how technology could alter people's perceptions about right and wrong is indeed quite extraordinary.
Seconds is structured as a thriller, but there are various themes in it that actually make it an unorthodox study of morality in America. There are two major character transformations in it that are linked to different perceptions about success and happiness and the price one may have to pay for them. As the film progresses, Frankenheimer carefully forces the viewer to ponder whether the two are related or simply misunderstood.
The film is very dark and very intense. It is also notably cynical. At times it feels as if Frankenheimer intentionally lets the camera observing Tony's misery for as long as possible, as if to make a point that there is a good reason for everything that he is going through. The party sequence where Tony gets seriously drunk is simply painful to watch.
The look of the film is essential for its success. Cinematographer James Wong Howe shot select sequences with a hand-held camera and many of them greatly enhance the sense of paranoia that permeates the film. The ending is also amongst the best scripted and shot for a film of this caliber.
Randolph and Hudson are both terrific. The latter truly looks like a man on the verge of a serious nervous breakdown during the party sequence. (Apparently, Hudson was really drunk by the time Frankenheimer was done shooting it). Jens also leaves a memorable impression as the liberated blonde who wants to live life to the fullest.
Seconds is also complimented by a terrific, very dark soundtrack courtesy of award-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith (Basic Instinct, Papillon).
Seconds Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.75:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, John Frankenheimer's Seconds arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a SCANITY film scanner from the original camera negative; the restoration was then performed in 2K resolution. The colorist referenced a previous transfer supervised by Frankenheimer to generate this version. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise management.
Transfer supervisor: Maria Palazzola.
Colorist: Sheri Eisenberg/Colorworks, Culver City, CA."
Recently restored in 4K, Seconds looks stunning in high-definition. Detail and especially depth are simply outstanding. During close-ups one could easily see even extremely small facial details (see screencapture #5), while during larger shots clarity is enormously pleasing (see screencapture #2). Contrast levels remain stable throughout the entire film. Also, there is a wide range of beautiful and very natural grays that are perfectly balanced with the blacks and whites. (See screencapture #4). As it is always the case with high-quality 4K scans, there is an ultra-fine layer of beautifully resolved and evenly distributed grain. Unsurprisingly, the film has a terrific organic look. Lastly, there are no debris, scratches, dirt, or stains to report in in this review. To sum it all up, this is indeed an outstanding presentation of Seconds that should impress a lot of people. I personally think that it is on par with Criterion's presentation of Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Seconds Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
It is easy for me to tell that the audio has been remastered - clarity and depth are excellent. Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack is also very effective during a number of key sequences, which suggests to me that balance improvements have been made. The dialog is crisp, very clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. There is no background hiss, pops, cracks, audio dropouts to distortions.
Seconds Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Seconds Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I could not be happier with Criterion's Blu-ray release of director John Frankenheimer's Seconds. The technical presentation is every bit as impressive as that of Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront. Fans of Seconds who have been asking and waiting for a solid Blu-ray release are in for a very, very special treat. Buy with confidence, folks. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Seconds Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: August 13-20 - August 10, 2013
For the week of August 6th, Warner Bros. is distributing Shane, George Stevens' landmark Western about a former gunslinger (Alan Ladd) coming to the aid of a struggling frontier family. Other releases include the "Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition" of The Muppet ...
• Criterion Announces August Titles - May 15, 2013
The Criterion Collection has announced five titles for Blu-ray release in August. On August 6th, the studio will release Max Ophuls' The Earrings of Madame de... (1953). On August 13th, it will release John Frankenheimer's Seconds (1966). On August 20th, it will ...
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