Great Lost Films of the 60s: An Unexamined Life

on February 08, 2010 by Steve Simels
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51GX1HG4SQL._SL500_AA240_.jpgMajor League Intense DVR Alert: Do not fail to set your your machines for Tuesday, February 26 at 3 am. The reason: John Frankenheimer's despairing black comedy(?) sci-fi masterpiece Seconds, from 1966.

Okay, I realize this is a heads-up a bit more in advance of the the event than may be customary, but you'll thank me -- this is a great film. And the DVD version, from 2002, is now discontinued, which is a major cultural tragedy.

If you've never seen Seconds, I'm loathe to give anything away about it except to say that it features what is easily Rock Hudson's best performance and that it offers up one of the bleakest assessments of the essentially tragic nature of the human condition ever committed to celluloid. Honest -- compared to this, Woyzeck is a puckish satire of contemporary mores.

Plus, it has a surprise ending that you not only won't see coming but which, once witnessed, will haunt you forever.

Some movies draw you in almost from their opening frames. Seconds, I think, is one of them. Here's the main title sequence -- visuals by Saul Bass (without benefit of CGI) and absolutely chilling music by the great Jerry Goldsmith. Top of my head, I can't think of an opening to another film that grabs you by the lapels so quickly and powerfully before its story has even begun. And whose credit montage functions so beautifully as a little work of art in its own right.

A pertinent (especially if you remember the 60s) bit of Seconds trivia. When the movie first played theatrically, Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson (then scarfing down huge quantities of better drugs than any of us have ever had) became convinced that the film's opening line of dialogue -- "Good morning, Mr. Wilson" -- was meant specifically for him. And that producer Phil Spector, whom he considered an artistic rival, might have had something to do with getting it into the movie as a way of messing with his head.

In any case, for those of you without basic cable, the DVD of Seconds (as I mentioned earlier) is unaccountably out of print, but you might be able to snag a copy here.

 

Tags: John Frankenheimer, Seconds, Rock Hudson, Saul Bass, Jerry Goldsmith
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