Seconds (1966) is John Frankenheimer's criminally overlooked monolith of paranoia, part science fiction, part body horror, part noir thriller cum black comedy, a film found at the intersection of the post-McCarthy mindset, European art cinema, the suburban identity nightmares of The Twilight Zone and the mid-life crises of masculinity aroused by 1960s counterculture. Arguably the bleakest mainstream Hollywood film ever made, it was famously booed at its Cannes unveiling and was a box office failure upon release. And while the film’s critical reception has gradually turned to acknowledge its significance in the scheme of American cinema, throughout the wider science fiction film community, it remains surprisingly under appreciated.
This Constellation sets out to shed light on the film’s many attributes, from its stylistic significance to its political commentary, countering the critical dismissal of a film suffering from ‘personality disorder’ to suggest that, instead, Seconds turned its inner identity crisis from a vice into a virtue. In the spirit of the finest science fiction, Seconds is both emblematic of the time in which it was made and perpetually relevant to new audiences as a portent of things to come – or, for that matter, a startling reveal of the hidden here and now.