Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Seconds" Suspense Sags in Middle

Cleveland Press May 17, 1968

"Seconds" is an odd conglomeration of a movie -- bits and pieces of the Faust legend, morality play, horror film, suspense movie and science - fiction shocker.

The first half hour is probably the best of it in terms of sustained suspense. A Scarsdale banker -- wealthy, comfortable and living a dull life -- finds himself in the hands of an organization that promises him a second chance at life. His death will be staged with another cadaver to stand in for him at the funeral, his identity will be changed through plastic surgery and a new life will await him far from home.

John Randolph as the banker sweats through the ordeal of deciding, finds himself enmeshed in the Kafka-like setting of the organization headquarters, undergoes surgery and emerges as Rock Hudson.

IF THE FILM SAGS at this point it is not all Hudson's fault. While continuing to be outclassed by the performers around him, Hudson is a far better performer in this movie than in any other he has done. Credit the fine directing hand of John Frankenheimer for that.

It may be that the movie suffers because there is more horror in fantastic events filmed among realistic surroundings in New York than there is in observing them against the brightly sunlighted never-never land of California.

As the reborn man Hudson is an artist living on the seashore, meets a strange and beautiful girl (Salome Jens) who seems to be in love with him. But he also is a mature man inside, a man with old memories trying to live among young people.

At a drinking party he almost blurts out his past, rushes off to see his old home, finds that there is little trace and even less memory left of the man he was.

HE RETURNS to the organization asking for another identity and from this point on the film picks up its earlier suspense as it marches unrelentingly to one of the most grisly conclusions a movie ever had.

In addition to Frankenheimer's direction, much of the excellence of this movie can be traced to the imaginative photography of one of the best in the business, James Wong Howe.

Aside from the conclusion, there is a long scene involving plastic surgery that is not for the squeamish. The movie's drawn out middle isn't helped by a bacchanalian orgy at a grape festive that is sillier than it is dramatic.