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H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Seconds [Blu-ray]

 

(John Frankenheimer, 1966)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: John Frankenheimer Productions Inc. / Paramount

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #667

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:47:19.933

Disc Size: 45,345,332,960 bytes

Feature Size: 31,660,720,128 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 14

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: August 13th, 2012

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.75:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• Audio commentary featuring director John Frankenheimer
Actor Alec Baldwin on Frankenheimer and Seconds (14:21)
New program on the making of Seconds (18:37)
Interview with Frankenheimer from 1971 (10:26)

Hollywood on the Hudson (4:19)
New visual essay by film scholars R. Barton Palmer and Murray Pomerance (12:38)
PLUS: An essay by critic David Sterritt

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Rock Hudson is a revelation in this sinister, science-fiction-inflected dispatch from the fractured 1960s. Seconds, directed by John Frankenheimer, concerns a middle-aged banker who, dissatisfied with his suburban existence, elects to undergo a strange and elaborate procedure that will grant him a new life. Starting over in America, however, is not as easy as it sounds. This paranoiac symphony of canted camera angles (courtesy of famed cinematographer James Wong Howe), fragmented editing, and layered sound design is a remarkably risk-taking Hollywood film that ranks high on the list of its legendary director’s achievements.

 

 

The Film:

Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a listless Manhattan businessman who lives with his wife in the New York suburbs. One day, he runs into an old friend (Murray Hamilton) whom he thought had died. The friend leads him to The Company, a secretive operation run by The Old Man (Will Geer). The Company is a high-tech service which, for a price, provides older men with plastic surgery, a beefed-up body, and a fresh start in life. To cover the "disappearance," a middle-aged male cadaver is "killed" in a hotel fire. Hamilton submits to the operation that will turn him into a "Second," and when the bandages are removed, he's shed twenty years, renamed Tony Wilson and portrayed by Rock Hudson. The Company creates a new identity for Hamilton, relocating him in a hedonistic California beach community with an identity as a painter. Celebrating during a local wine festival, Hamilton has his revelry cut short when he learns that all his new young friends are Seconds like himself and suddenly feels trapped in these surroundings. Unfortunately, finding a way out isn't nearly as easy as it was to find a way in.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Hemmed in by an arid marriage, paunchy middle-aged banker Randolph grasps another chance at life when a secret organisation transforms him into hunky Hudson and gives him a new start as an artist in Californian beach-front bohemia. Freedom, however, turns out to be a rather daunting prospect, and the struggle to fill the blank canvas comes to typify Hudson's unease with his new existence. Saul Bass' unsettling title sequence sets the scene for the concise articulation of fifty-something bourgeois despair, as visualised by James Wong Howe's distorting camerawork and the edgy discord of Jerry Goldsmith's excoriating score. After that, the film's uptight view of the hang-loose West Coast feels like a slightly forced argument, until Frankenheimer regroups and the jaws of the narrative shut tight on one of the most chilling endings in all American cinema. Little wonder it flopped at the time, only to be cherished by a later generation, notably film-makers Siegel and McGehee who drew extensively on its themes and visuals in their debut Suture. (This downbeat sci-fi thriller completed Frankenheimer's loose 'paranoid' trilogy - earlier installments being The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Seconds looks excellent on Blu-ray from Criterion.  The black and white image has brilliant texture with grain moving across the image like a small swarm of insects.  This is dual-layered with a high bitrate and it looks so impressive and film-like in-motion. The obtuse angles and distortions are handled beautifully by the HD. Ditto for James Wong Howe's immmersive cinematography. It is in the 1.75:1 aspect ratio and contrast - a Criterion hallmark - is brilliant. They are examples of depth and the image is vastly beyond the last SD rendering. This Blu-ray has no discernable flaws and supplies a highly pleasing 1080P presentation from close-ups detail to layered light and shadows.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Not much in the way of aggression and the linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps handles the film's subtleties and dialogue with casual ease. Infrequent effects are handled well with a smattering of depth. We get a keen and atmospheric score from the brilliant Jerry Goldsmith that certainly benefits from the lossless. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as, predictably, being a region 'A' disc.

 

Extras :

Criterion included the audio commentary featuring director John Frankenheimer - recorded in 1997 and seen on both DVD and Laserdisc. It's still a good one - he jumps right into important details and is a pleasure to listen to. We also get actor Alec Baldwin talking about Frankenheimer and Seconds for almost 15-minutes. There is a new program on the making of Seconds - it runs almost 20-minutes and features interviews with director John Frankenheimer's wife, Evans Frankenheimer, and actor Salome Jens - who played Nora Marcus in the film. We get a rough, vintage interview with Frankenheimer from 1971 (broadcast on Canadian television) running just over 10-minutes and a piece entitled Hollywood on the Hudson which is a 4-minute, rare, except from a WNBC news special shot on location in Scarsdale NY during the filming of Seconds in 1965 and features an interview with star Rock Hudson. We also get an excellent new visual essay by film scholars R. Barton Palmer and Murray Pomerance running over a dozen minutes. There is a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic David Sterritt.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Easily my best viewing of Seconds. It shouldn't surprise me that superior a/v results in a more impacting presentation. In this case - I found it very true - scenes I have watched multiple times were fresh and substantially more... creepy. This is a definite masterpiece and the Criterion Blu-ray package offers a wonderful a/v presentation with plenty of worthy extras. A film I could watch over and over again for the rest of my life. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

July 11th, 2012


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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