Seconds

I’ve never been one to bang the drum for remakes of classic movies.  My feeling is that you can’t improve on perfection so why try?  Most of the time, all you do is harm.  I understand the motivation.  It’s hard to watch one of your favorite movies get actively ignored by new viewers because the clothes are out of date or the hairstyles are funny or the writing is too mired in its time period. 

No movie exists outside of the context in which it was made.  That context includes all sorts of intangibles like the year it was made or the zeitgeist of the time.  So when you remake a classic like Rollerball or Death Race 2000  or Total Recall the political mindset of the times is the first thing to go and since that was all that made those movies relevant when they came out you’ve just gutted the picture.  What’s left to do?  Backfill it with special effects and over the top stunts.

But what about a movie that was made at the wrong time in the first place?  Or one whose themes would be even more relevant today than they were back then.  Seconds (1966) is just such a film.  This is, believe it or not, a Rock Hudson film that digs so deep into questions of identity that it smacks of something that should have escaped from Philip K. Dick’s fevered brain. 

Rock plays a conflicted man of middle age who has reached that point that all men of middle age eventually reach where he questions everything about his life.  Unfortunately for him, right in the middle of this ritual navel gazing, he gets a call from an old friend who, over the course of a strange conversation, informs him that there is a service that, for a fee, will fake your death, take your mind out of your old worn out body and put it into one that, in this case, looks like a young Rock Hudson. 

What follows is a story that could only have been made in the 1960s.   The second act doesn’t make a lot of sense but the third act kicks you right in the nuts.  It’s a flawed film, deeply flawed in fact, but the ideas in it are powerful and even more poignant today than they were in the willy-nilly 60s.  A remake by a talented director working from a more coherent script would be a mighty thing indeed.

One note of warning: This is not a good movie.  Don’t Netflix it, watch it, and then send me a pipe bomb.  The whole point of a movie that needs to be remade is that it wasn’t made right the first time.  But you should watch it simply because it needs to be seen.  Plus, you can lord it over your friends later. Oh, it’s called Seconds.  You probably haven’t heard of it.

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