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Posts Tagged ‘John Frankenheimer’

North Korean Red Dawn: Olympus Has Fallen

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

I have a new essay out today on the film Olympus Has Fallen in the journal Film International.

As I write, “part Kim Jong-un’s ‘the West must fall’ fantasy come to life, part right wing wet dream and all around militarist anthem, Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen (2013) is an updated riff on John Frankenheimer’s Manchurian Candidate (1962; though we’ve already had that in 2004, directed by Richard Condon) for a new, more merciless generation.

US President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is taken hostage by North Korean fanatic Kang (Rick Yune) in the White House bunker, along with Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan (Melissa Leo) and other members of the White House inner circle, and it’s up to disgraced Secret Service Agent and professional loner Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) to get him out and foil Kang’s plot.

Banning has fallen into official disfavor as the result of an accident in which the president’s wife, Margaret (Ashley Judd, in a brief cameo) plunges to her death in a frozen river on the way to a Presidential fundraiser on a snowy evening; though Banning really isn’t responsible, and saves the President from an equally watery grave, he’s racked by guilt – you know, he’s got to make up for it somehow.

Relegated to a desk job, Banning longs to get back into action, and the unfolding crisis gives him the perfect opportunity to pull a Bruce Willis/Die Hard riff and almost single handedly bring down the invading terrorist force. All around him, cops, civilians, and military personnel are being shot to ribbons, but somehow Banning survives the considerable amount of gunfire to worm his way into the White House basement, and start a counteroffensive.”

You can read the entire essay by clicking here, or on the image above.

John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (1966)

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Rock Hudson seldom got to play roles of substance; he was stuck with the “pretty boy” leading man image all his life. John Frankenheimer’s brilliant and sadly forgotten film, Seconds (1966) offered him a chance to do something more than his usual action film, or romantic comedy. Seconds — as in “I’ll have seconds, please,” or the “seconds” of one’s life, or a “second chance” — is about an aging man, Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph), who is suddenly offered the chance to live his life over again, in a new body, and to disappear from his desperate and mundane suburban existence. All he has to do is to sign over everything he owns, and he’ll wake up with a new identity, thirty years or so younger, and a whole new lease on life. Or so he thinks.

Tricked into signing over all his worldly possessions and agreeing to the Faustian bargain only under duress — the company that will do the makeover drugs him, then stages his participation in a faked pornographic film, so that it’s impossible for him to change his mind — Hamilton wakes up after the surgery as Rock Hudson, and is given a new identity as a beach bum artist, but as he soon discovers, nothing comes without a price — in this case, one that will obliterate him – in either persona – entirely. Unremittingly bleak and downbeat, the film was, not surprisingly, a financial failure at the boxoffice, but Seconds is nevertheless a film that speaks directly to the cult of eternal youth that is being pushed relentlessly in the media today, and remains one of Frankenheimer’s most resonant, and successful films.

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. All comments by Dixon on this blog are his own opinions. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at or

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