“Operating Table,” initially posted on 8.15.13: “John Frankenheimer‘s Seconds is a black drag to sit through. A dark, creepy, chilly-hearted downer from start to finish. Mainly about malevolence and threats and intimidation and dread. ‘Interesting,’ yes, because of the creepy Orwellian (or do I mean Burroughsian?) tone and James Wong Howe‘s nightmarish black-and-white cinematography. But it’s mostly punishing.
“Seconds lasts 107 minutes and aside from the grape-stomping scene there isn’t even a 30-second passage that delivers anything that comes close to enjoyable. The movie makes you feel like there’s a needle in your neck the whole time.
“Rock Hudson spends pretty much the entire film looking over his shoulder and sucking in cigarette smoke and acting like one of the most haunted and miserable fucks who ever agreed to star in a film about a haunted, miserable fuck.
“The dweebs like Seconds because it’s a modern horror story about middle-class entrapment and corporate malevolence, and because some of James Wong Howe’s camerawork vaguely recalls the severe angles and surreal set design in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. But if you watch it from a gut Joe Popcorn level (i.e., without your honorary scholastic film lover cap on) it will send you into a tailspin of depression. It’s not ‘scary’ — it’s suffocating. It’s about ‘how much longer does this last?’ It’s about hitting the fast-forward button during the slow scenes.
“The fundamental thing that you can’t buy is that John Randolph could be transformed into Hudson through plastic surgery. It would have been ten times more interesting if Frankenheimer had just had Hudson wear lots of older-guy makeup with a putty nose and chin and neck wattle. Randolph is maybe 5’11 or six feet tall compared to Hudson’s six-foot-five, and it’s just ridiculous that plastic surgeons would be able to add five or six inches of height to his frame.