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Paranoid Pick: Seconds

By Chuck Stephens

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(Criterion, $39.95)

John Frankenheimer Seconds Blu Ray

The conceit is proto-Being John Malkovich: what if, through the services of a mysterious Corporation, you could be reborn in the still-virile 1966 body of Rock Hudson? Blessing, right? Or curse? John Frankenheimer’s Seconds is as high-concept a movie as they come, not to mention one of the most deliriously discombobulated thrillers from mid-Sixties Hollywood, part HUAC/Red Scare hangover, part assassination-era paranoia-thon. A black-and-white nightmare about the dawning age of Aquarius, and the capstone in a trilogy of Cold War classics begun with The Manchurian Candidate (62) and Seven Days in May (64), it still packs a nauseating punch. Criterion’s excellent new Blu-ray restores some footage of saturnalia in Big Sur missing from the television edit we all grew up watching. Brilliantly photographed by James Wong Howe, this is filmmaking that strides into the abyss . . . and doesn’t come back.

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