John Frankenheimerís paranoia classic Seconds comes to Blu-ray thanks to Criterion, presented in the aspect ratio of 1.75:1 on this dual-layer disc. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a 4k scan of the original camera negative.
The black and white presentation is an absolutely gorgeous stunner. One of the most film-like transfers Iíve seen lately, it delivers a clean and crisp image, with every fine detail and nuance jumping out with absolute clarity, while also delivering the filmís innate sense of depth perfectly. Shadow delineation is superb, with distinctly rendered gray levels and beautifully rendered blacks, and contrast levels looking to be spot. Film grain is rendered wonderfully, looking natural but never overly heavy.
There are not noticeable artifacts to speak of and the print itself is pristine shape. For a film I always felt Paramount never truly cared for (despite some decent previous home video releases) they went all out on this transfer. Itís one of the best ones Iíve seen in a long while. 10/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
Paramount actually hasnít treated the film too badly over the years, giving it a decent LaserDisc release 16-years ago, and a fine enough DVD release 5-years after that. However Criterion has gone above and beyond in delivering as close to the definitive special edition one could hope for.
First Criterion ports over the same audio commentary featuring director John Frankenheimer that appeared on both the Paramount LaserDisc and DVD, and was recorded in 1997. Itís a disappointingly sporadic track with a shocking amount of dead space, but when Frankenheimer does pop up to say something itís always fascinating. He shares plenty of stories about the production, and the use of various locations (Frankenheimerís own house was used as Tonyís house in the film.) He talks about the use of the cameras and the editing within the film, concentrating primarily on this subject during the house party sequence, which was shot with handhelds and an inebriated Rock Hudson, who purposely got drunk for the scene. Along with a number of other subjects Frankenheimer also addresses the issues the film faced during its release, specifically having to make edits for the American release and then its failure at the box office. He also hypothesizes on why the film flopped, feeling that maybe casting Rock Hudson may have caused certain audiences to stay away or react badly to the film, especially if they were expecting this would be your typical Rock Hudson picture of the time. Again there is a surprising amount of dead space but I still felt Frankenheimer shared a great wealth of information and keeps the track quite entertaining.
Criterion then includes a number of its own new supplements starting with an interview with actor Alec Baldwin on John Frankenheimer. At first I thought it was a bit of an odd choice to get Baldwin since the two only did one film together, Frankenheimerís last film Path to War, but it looks as though the two were friends and had actually tried to work together on other films previously. Baldwin talks about Frankenheimer on a more personal level, sharing some humourous anecdotes before talking specifically about Seconds. On the film he talks about his favourite moments in the film, Hudsonís performance, and uses it as an example as to how Frankenheimer could build up tension in his films. The feature runs about 14-minutes.
A Second Look is an 18-minute interview with Widow Evans Frankenheimer and actress Salome Jens, both recorded separately. The two reflect on Frankenheimer and Seconds, with Jens recalling getting the part, and then what it was like to work with both Frankenheimer and actor Rock Hudson. Evans recalls some details during the development of the project, the most interesting of which (and one I wasnít actually familiar with prior to this release) was that Laurence Olivier was who Frankenheimer wanted to play both the parts of the older man at the beginning of the film and the younger version he would turn into. The studio didnít consider Olivier enough of a name and wanted Hudson, who Frankenheimer was apparently uneasy about. Another interesting segment in the feature gives a glimpse of a deleted scene where Tony goes to see his daughter, with Leonard Nimoy playing her husband. Unfortunately appears only a still from the scene survives. A rather insightful feature with a few surprises in it.
Following this we then get a short 12-minute visual essay by film scholars R. Barton Palmer and Murray Pomerance. It looks at Frankenheimerís previous two films in his ďparanoia trilogyĒ (The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May) and their political undertones, and then moves onto the culture politics present in Seconds, particularly that of conformity, the ďAmerican DreamĒ, and the idea of change. They then quickly examine his visual sense and his editing, which he carried over from his teleplay work. Itís not an overly insightful piece but there are a few decent comments.
The disc then provides some archival footage, starting with a 10-minute interview made for Canadian television in 1971 with John Frankenheimer, where the director talks about his work, style of filmmaking, and how its employed in films like The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds. The section then closes with a clip from an episode of Hollywod on Hudson from 1965, running 4-minutes and presenting an interview with Rock Hudson while working on the film. Both are rather excellent finds.
The release then closes with a short booklet featuring an essay by David Sterritt, who offers an examination of the film and Frankenheimerís work as a whole.
In all I found it contains a strong set of supplements, nicely improving over Paramountís previous editions. 8/10