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The Films of John Frankenheimer

The Young Stranger

The Young Savages

All Fall Down

Birdman of Alcatraz

The Manchurian Candidate

Seven Days of May

The Train

Seconds (November 7/11)

Seconds casts John Randolph as Arthur Hamilton, a wealthy yet bored middle-aged businessman who reluctantly agrees to undergo a procedure that will completely alter his appearance - with the film's latter half following Arthur, now Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson), as he attempts to adjust to his new life. There's little doubt that Seconds fares best in its promisingly eerie opening half hour, as the film, in its early stages, boasts an off-kilter visual sensibility that proves a striking complement to Lewis John Carlino's spare screenplay - with the almost total lack of context playing an instrumental role in perpetuating (and heightening) the movie's irresistibly creepy atmosphere. It's only as things are slowly-but-surely explained that Seconds begins to morph into a progressively tedious piece of work, with the impossible-to-swallow nature of the movie's absurd premise exacerbated by a deliberately paced and unreasonably uneventful midsection - as filmmaker John Frankenheimer places an all-too-consistent emphasis on Tony's aggressively pointless exploits (eg he attends a weird outdoor orgy, he hosts a dull cocktail party, etc, etc). It is, as such, virtually impossible to sympathize with Tony's increasingly perilous situation, which does ensure that the twist ending, as brutal and memorable as it may be, simply isn't able to pack the visceral gut-punch that Frankenheimer has clearly intended. It's finally impossible to label Seconds as anything more than a second-rate Twilight Zone episode, with the unreasonably protracted running time the tip of the iceberg in terms of its many, many deficiencies.

out of

Grand Prix

The Fixer

The Gypsy Moths

The Extraodrinary Seaman

I Walk the Line

The Horseman

Story of a Love Story

The Iceman Cometh

99 and 44/100% Dead

French Connection II

Black Sunday

Prophecy

The Challenge

The Rainmaker

The Holcroft Covenant

52 Pick-Up (November 6/11)

Based on Elmore Leonard's far superior book, 52 Pick-Up follows Roy Scheider's Harry Mitchell as he's forced to take the law into his own hands after three thugs (John Glover's Alan, Clarence Williams III's Bobby, and Robert Trebor's Leo) attempt to blackmail him with evidence of an illicit affair. Filmmaker John Frankenheimer has infused 52 Pick-Up with an aggressively deliberate pace that proves disastrous, as the ensuing lack of momentum prevents the viewer from embracing the central character's plight on a distressingly continuous basis. The hands-off atmosphere is compounded by a frustrating emphasis on sequences of an overlong and sporadically needless variety, and although Frankenheimer has peppered the narrative with a handful of admittedly engrossing moments (eg Scheider's character is forced to watch the murder of his girlfriend on videotape), Harry's campaign of violence against his oppressors isn't even remotely as satisfying or as visceral as Frankenheimer has undoubtedly intended. (This is despite Harry's appreciatively harsh takedown of the film's final surviving villain, which is almost Saw-like in its brutality.) The end result is a thriller that's woefully lacking in thrills, with the less-than-engrossing atmosphere exacerbated by a preponderance of dated elements (eg Gary Chang's distracting, synth-heavy score).

out of

Dead Bang

The Fourth War

Year of the Gun

Against the Wall

The Burning Season

Andersonville

The Island of Dr. Moreau

George Wallace

Ronin

Reindeer Games

Path to War

© David Nusair