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.