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June 10, 2024 72 mins

In this classic episode of Weirdhouse Cinema, Rob and Joe discuss John Frankenheimer's 1966 psychological horror film "Seconds," starring Rock Hudson, with cinematography by the legendary James Wong Howe.(originally published 06/09/2023)

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:04):
Hey, welcome to Weird House Cinema rewind. This is Rob Lamb.
We're on a bit of a summer break here, so
we have some extra weird House Cinema rewinds for you.
This one is going to be coverage of John Frankenheimer's
nineteen sixty six psychological horror film Seconds, starring Rock Hudson,
with cinematography by the legendary James Wong Hoo. Originally published

(00:28):
six nine, twenty twenty three. Oh, you're gonna enjoy this one.
It's it's darker and deeper than you might expect.

Speaker 2 (00:38):
Welcome to Stuff to Blow your mind, A production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 1 (00:48):
Hey you welcome to Weird House Cinema. My name is
Rob Lamb.

Speaker 3 (00:51):
And I am Joe McCormick. And today on the show,
we're going to be talking about a movie from nineteen
sixty six, a film called Seconds, directed by John Frankenheimer.
And I was trying to think. I was trying to
think what to call it. Would you call this a
science fiction thriller or a philosophical horror thriller? This really

(01:13):
does defy genres in a way.

Speaker 1 (01:15):
It really does. I mean, you can see there are
elements of conspiracy drama, the conspiracy thriller. There there are
elements of sci fi and horror, but it's not really
any of those things. It is deeply psychological in many respects,
so you might say it's psychological ab or c. But
any attempt to pin this film down is going to

(01:36):
miss something crucial, I think.

Speaker 3 (01:38):
So I'm really excited to talk about this movie. I'm
honestly astounded how interesting I found it. But I do
want to issue a sort of dual warning here at
the top. First of all, about the podcast episode, This
film has some i would say extremely powerful twists and
surprises in it, and in order to talk about the
movie in detail, we have to sort of reveal those surprises,

(02:00):
including the ending, a little later in our conversation. So
if you want to watch it spoiler free and preserve
your surprise, you should do that before listening. But secondary warning,
before you go off to do that, I also have
to say I was absolutely floored by the ending of
this movie. And I don't usually feel the need to
issue like warnings just about a movie having disturbing content

(02:23):
or being really unsettling, But you know, we cover a
lot of weird horror and stuff but this one was, like,
it shook me so hard that I feel like I
should give people a bit of a heads up, especially
because I think you're not really expecting it given the context.
This movie is from nineteen sixty six. It's shot in
black and white. The cinematography is amazing. It looks like

(02:45):
a film from a little bit earlier, Like it looks
like it could be a really well shot, interesting looking
film from the fifties. It stars Rock Hudson's that really
also makes it feel like, I don't know, one of
these kind of romantic comedy movies from the fifties or something.
But I think, especially given all that context, I was
just not prepared for the raw horror and desperate bleakness

(03:08):
achieved by the end of this film. So if you
watch it, prepared to be shaken.

Speaker 4 (03:13):
Yeah.

Speaker 1 (03:13):
This movie is a sixties film that looks in many
respects like a nineteen fifties movie, but ultimately has the
feel of a seventies or even eighties film in terms
of its impact.

Speaker 3 (03:25):
I guess I could worry that on the other end,
I might be kind of diminishing the dramatic effect by
giving this warning, but so be it. I was shocked
by the ending, and I was kind of like walking
around the house feeling a pit in my stomach afterwards. So,
you know, if people were going to go off and
watch this, be prepared.

Speaker 4 (03:42):
Yeah.

Speaker 1 (03:43):
I was finishing watching this movie after my son came
back from summer camp, and I was like watching it
in the living room but with headphones in, and right
as everything was going down, and I was like prepared
to jump up and like like pause the movies from
entering the room just because I was like, this is to.

Speaker 3 (04:01):
To start exactly right after I finished, I was going
to go play with my baby. And it's just I mean,
I guess that's a good thing to do, actually, because
I want to say but on the other hand, I
don't want to scare people off too much because I
think Seconds is a phenomenal film. I had never seen
it before we watched it this week for the show.
I understand it received I think a very polarized reaction

(04:24):
from critics back when it was first released. I think
some thought it was a kind of strange masterpiece. Others
thought it was cold and even reprehensible. And I didn't
fully understand this division in opinion while I was watching it.
Until the ending and then it made sense. But I
think I would side more with the supporters. In my opinion.

(04:45):
Seconds is a piercing, fascinating look at the nature of desire.
This is a film about what it means to want
things and to want something different for your life, and
it explores the really complex, troubling, hidden architecture underneath the
visible edifice of all those desires. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (05:06):
Yeah, I won't say anything more about the ending until
we get to it, but I will say it's not
a gut punch ending. It's not one of those undeserved
gut punch endings anyway. I think it's as you were,
as you're there on the floor holding your stomach, you
realize no, that gut punch was warranted. Yeah, and is
supported by the film. Now, one thing that I think

(05:29):
is interesting to point out, and this is purely accidental,
but I think Seconds is in many ways an interesting
companion piece to The Incredible Shrinking Man from nineteen fifty
seven that we recently talked about on the show. They
both deal with themes of mid century midlife crisis and
fantastic treatments of desired or undesired change. In The Incredible

(05:52):
shrinking man. Our protagonist is literally diminished and ultimately reaches
a point of acceptance and ultimately even transcendence. Seconds, however,
deals with the siren song of escape and liberation from
one's own life, and is ultimately a far darker tale.

Speaker 3 (06:08):
Agree one hundred percent. These are both excellent movies and
offer really interesting philosophical counterpoints to one another.

Speaker 1 (06:17):
My elevator pitch is feature length Twilight Zone midlife Crisis. Yeah,
all right, let's go ahead and hear the audio from
the trailer.

Speaker 4 (06:52):
Old Bizarre Terrify rock Hudson in an astonishing change of
pace stars in Seconds. Rock Hudson as a second freed

(07:16):
from all responsibilities, now ready to taste new pleasures. Rock
Hudson as a man who buys for himself a totally
new life, a chance to begin again every man's dream

(07:40):
since time began. As soon as these people leave, I'm
going to attack you. I want you to know that
I'm counting on it. Rock Hudson as a man who
lives the nightmare of being a second.

Speaker 1 (07:59):
If you like that, Hey John, Hey John, Hey John,
Why are they're stirring at me like that?

Speaker 3 (08:09):
They know.

Speaker 1 (08:11):
They know what they're like?

Speaker 3 (08:14):
You Reborn.

Speaker 1 (08:19):
All right, Now, if you're eager to go out and

(08:46):
see this one for the for yourself before we discuss
it any further, and this would be a good place
to do that, because after after this, you know, we're
going to start getting into the characters and into the plot,
and even in discussing the characters, we're gonna spoil a
few things for you. So yeah, go out and see
it if you're interested. It's widely available on digital and
it was released on Blu Ray as part of the
Criterion Collection. So yeah, it's a film that, despite it's

(09:11):
seeming mixed reviews when it came out, or mixed reception
critically and so forth, it has developed a cult following
over the decades, and I think is largely very well
received and admired today.

Speaker 3 (09:26):
Yes, I think it really aged into proper acclaim.

Speaker 1 (09:30):
Yeah, all right, well, let's talk about some of the
folks involved in making this picture. Starting at the top,
I mentioned that this is a John Frankenheimer film. He
directed it. Frankenheimer lived nineteen thirty three two thousand and two,
started out in TV in the mid fifties and directed
twenty six episodes of Climax exclamation point. He made his
film directorial debut with nineteen fifty seven's The Young Stranger,

(09:53):
a drama starring Kim Hunter. In the sixties, though, he
really came into his own first with The Young Savage,
a nineteen sixty one street gang flick starring Burt Lancaster
as a district attorney, not as a troubled youth, I
should say, because I don't know Burt Lancaster ever was
a youth. He also did a trio of films in
nineteen sixty two, All Fall Down with Warren Beatty, Birdman

(10:16):
of Alcatraz with Lancaster and Carl Malden, and The Manchurian
Candidate starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansberry. That is probably
one of his more famous films.

Speaker 3 (10:28):
Well, it's a very different kind of genre and subject matter.
I would say one thing that is shared in common
between Manchurian Candidate and Seconds is the atmosphere of secretiveness
and paranoia that is conjured in both films.

Speaker 1 (10:45):
Yeah. Yeah, This after this came nineteen sixty four, seven
Days in May. This is about a military coup taking
place in the United States, which I think also has
similar strains. You know obviously of conspiracy and so forth
in Paranoia, and then a film called The Train, which
I think is maybe a little less on the intrigue
and conspiracy spectrum. And then comes the movie Seconds. Frankenheimer

(11:09):
continued work steadily throughout the rest of his life, and
some of the standouts include seventy five's The French Connection two,
nineteen seventy seven's Black Sunday. This was the first film
adaptation of a Thomas Harris novel. The nineteen seventy nine
mutant Bear movie Prophecy, which we've mentioned a few times
on the show before.

Speaker 3 (11:28):
Seems to come up frequently.

Speaker 1 (11:30):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I mean it's it's a mutant bear movie,
directed by John Frankenheimer. I still haven't seen it all
the way. I started watching it and then realized it
it was maybe too serious for what I had in
mind for myself. He directed the nineteen eighty two John
Salis scripted action movie The Challenge, starring Scott glenn In
Toshiro Mafuni nineteen ninety four is The Burning Season starring

(11:53):
Raal Julia. He of course stepped in to replace Richard
Stanley on nineteen ninety six as the Island of Doctor Moreau,
and then he also directed nineteen ninety eight's Ronan, which
is a pretty entertaining espionage thriller. As I recall, it's
got a really solid cast and some excellent vehicular stunts.

Speaker 3 (12:12):
I think that's one of those movies I saw when
you know, I was like too young to understand the
plot at all, but I do remember, like Robert de
Niro and Sean Bean and still in Scars Guard.

Speaker 1 (12:23):
Yeah, even you don't have to understand the plot of Ronan. Really,
it's just, you know, various spy types are encountering each
other as saying cryptic things, and then stuff gets blown
up and so forth, all right. The screenplay for this
film was written by Lewis John Carlino, who lived nineteen
thirty two through twenty twenty American screenwriter and director. He'd
written for TV previously, but this was his first feature

(12:46):
screenplay credit, but certainly not the last. His later screenplays
include nineteen seventy twos of the Mechanic and nineteen seventy
nine's The Great Santini starring Robert Devall. This was based
on the Pat Conroy novel, and Carlino also directed film
Now this film, Seconds is based on the novel by
David Ealy born nineteen twenty seven. The only other adaptation

(13:09):
of his work that I ran across as a nineteen
seventy one segment on Night Gallery titled The Academy starring
Pat Boone. I think I've seen this one because I
think it's season one, but I don't remember it at all.
Seconds was a nineteen sixty three novel, and his other
works include sixty eight Timeout and nineteen ninety two is
a journal of the flood year. All right, getting into

(13:30):
the cast here, and yes, there're gonna be some spoilers,
as we discussed, like who each of these people is playing.
We have this character named Arthur Hamilton. He's the initial
incarnation of our protagonist, a successful man who's deeply uncomfortable
in his own life and completely bottled up emotionally. It is,
in my opinion, just a really great performance by the actor.

(13:53):
John Randolph, who lived nineteen fifteen through two thousand and four.

Speaker 3 (13:57):
Agree that the cast is excellent across the I think
really everybody who gets speaking roles in this is very good.
But the two actors playing the protagonist are I think
should be singled out for really high praise.

Speaker 1 (14:11):
Yeah, yeah, I mean, obviously a performance doesn't exist in isolation.
Randolph's performance here is accentuated by great direction, great cinematography.
But man, it really all comes together in this very
uncomfortable and at times like really surprisingly raw, like emotionally raw,
and also just paranoia inducing performance.

Speaker 3 (14:31):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (14:31):
So.

Speaker 1 (14:32):
Randolph was born Emmanuel Hirsch Cohen and was active on
Broadway as far back as nineteen thirty eight according to
the Internet Broadway Database, and his earliest TV and film
credits go back to forty eight and forty nine. But
he and his wife Sarah Cunningham were both blacklisted around
that time, and in nineteen fifty five they were both
called to testify before the House and American Activities Committee.

(14:55):
As such, Randolph was forced to work outside of Hollywood
and New York film televis in radio for a good
fifteen years.

Speaker 3 (15:02):
Man, I feel like Huac has been coming up a
lot in Weird House episodes recently. That's not by design.
It just happens to.

Speaker 1 (15:09):
Me, It just it just happens. It seems like it's
a case of watching, you know, meaningful films with talented
folks in them from this time period. It just it
ended up impacting so many people, either the Blacklist or
the Gray List or the ramifications of those lists. So anyway, Yeah,
he continued working in New York theater. I don't think
that was like directly impacted. It may have been indirectly.

(15:32):
But his TV and film credits are pretty lackluster up
until the mid sixties, and this film Seconds was his
first real film role coming out of that Blacklist period. Now,
after Seconds, he did a lot more TV work, including
Night Gallery, and played the chairman in two Planet of
the Apes movies, Escape in Conquest at seventy one and

(15:52):
seventy two. He was in Serpico in seventy three, the
al Pacino cop movie. He was in the seventy six
King Car film Heaven Can Wait in seventy eight, Pritzy's
Honor in eighty five. Oh, I didn't recognize him at
all from this, but he was in National Lampoon's Christmas
Vacation in eighty nine playing Clark Griswold.

Speaker 3 (16:13):
No memory of that, though, I've seen that movie.

Speaker 1 (16:15):
Yeah, it was in You've Got Mail in ninety eight,
and he played the original Frank Costanza on Seinfeld. I
either didn't know or had forgotten that this was ever
a case of someone else ever having played the plot
before Jerry Stiller and I couldn't find a clear answer.
It seems like it might have been just scheduling issues

(16:37):
that the reason they ended up replacing him as playing
Frank Costanza, but it also may have been a desire
to go in a new direction with the character. I'm
not sure. I can't really imagine him being Frank Costanza
long term on the show. Likewise, I can't imagine Jerry
Stiller playing this role in this movie.

Speaker 3 (16:54):
So you know, I really want to give credit to
Randolph in this role because he's very good, and in
many ways it's a thankless kind of performance because he
it's very complex and he's pitch perfect in it. But
it's a role where he doesn't really get to branch
out and like offer much emotion, because like the whole

(17:15):
point is that his character is kind of like unfulfilled
and unfulfilling. He's just sitting there, like containing all of
his disappointment within himself and not really getting to express it.
And this character does have an arc where he goes
other places, but as we're about to reveal in a minute,
this actor doesn't get to be there for that.

Speaker 1 (17:37):
Yeah. I think the key thing is that as a
vessel containing these complex emotions that are just straining to
leak out, like you can see that, you can observe that,
you can feel that in its performance, and it's not
it's not a situation where you just have to imagine,
you know, purely imagine what's going on inside, like you
can see the gears turning. So excellent performance. Yeah, absolutely,

(18:02):
And you know, I don't think i'd really seen much
of his work before outside of obviously Christmas Vacation, which
you know, it is perfectly fine. I've seen it a
million times, but not really a showcase for his work,
all right. Playing author Hamilton's wife, Emily Hamilton is Francis Reid,
who lived nineteen fourteen through twenty ten. American actor, best

(18:24):
known in film for her role here, but she also
acted in nineteen seventy one's The Andromeda Strain soap opera. Fans, however,
might recognize her from This Is Correct, three three hundred
and ninety three episodes of Days of Our Lives, in
which she played Alice Horton from nineteen sixty five through
two thousand and seven.

Speaker 3 (18:43):
How is that even possible? I don't know.

Speaker 1 (18:46):
It just it sounds astounding, But I guess they just
really cranked these out. I mean this was like a
daily show, right.

Speaker 3 (18:53):
That's a sound. I had no idea that show ran
that long. But also I want to say Francis Reid
extremely good in this movie in a similarly thankless kind
of role to to John Randolph here, that she you know,
she plays a character whose complexity is a lot in
what she doesn't get to say and doesn't get too emote.

Speaker 1 (19:14):
Absolutely yeah. So I think it's also a solid performance.
And there's there's kind of a part one in part
two of it that I think equals thinks out really well.
All right, the next character we're going to discuss here
has a different name. It's Antiochus Wilson or Wilson as

(19:36):
he's mostly referred to. This is the reborn Arthur Hamilton.
So this is we'll explain, this is the character he becomes.
He is reborn as this person through like surgical reconstruction
and through fraudulent documents and so forth. There's a whole
organization we'll get to that, but basically, one character becomes

(19:58):
this other take on the Carre and a new actor
takes over the role. That actor is Rock Hudson, who
lived nineteen twenty five through nineteen eighty five.

Speaker 3 (20:08):
I'm not super well versed on Rock Hudson's career, but
from what I understand, this was a major departure for
him that he had mostly done much lighter movies. You know,
he's known as that, like, he's a handsome guy. He's
there to like be like the fun, good looking guy
in like a romance or romantic comedy or something to
be in a in a dark, brooding, philosophical science fiction

(20:33):
film like this. I don't think he'd really done anything
like this, had he?

Speaker 1 (20:37):
No, No, I was looking around. I don't think he'd
ever done anything that you could classify as horror or
science fiction or certainly fantasy. And you know, part of that,
as we've discussed highly successful actors or directors or what
have you of the day, they generally didn't have to
do that. It's such an inversion of what we have today,
where the biggest actors around are you know, almost inevitably,

(20:58):
with some notable exceptions of it, there no, any of
these generalities are not going to be one hundred percent,
but you know, it's not surprising to see someone who's
won multiple Oscars show up in a Marvel movie or
in you know, whatever the or Star Wars or what
have you. But back in the day, you know, as
we've discussed on these various genre pictures, they were lower
down on the pecking order, and so yeah, it's not

(21:22):
surprising to find a situation where rockets and had never
been in a movie that had robots or aliens or
even you know, the sort of ultimately kind of light,
sophisticated sci fi, you know, kind of more Twilight Zone
ish elements that you find in this picture. Like you said,
he was, I mean he was a nineteen fifties leading
man perhaps, I mean not just a he was kind

(21:43):
of the nineteen fifties leading man. He's the top build
actor in this film. And he was easily one of
the biggest, if not biggest movie stars off his era.
His main film roles were stuff like his biggest pictures anyway,
from the fifties were stuff like All That Heaven Allows
Written on the Wind and Pillar Talk. These are all
movies where you look at you can pull him up

(22:04):
now on the database of your choice, and all the
posters prominently feature his character romantically embracing the lead actress.
That is not the case with Seconds. No, so so yeah,
going into that, this was a departure. And I'm to
understand he was not Frankenheimer's first choice for the role.
Apparently Frankenheimer considered Rock Hudson to you know, to be

(22:26):
maybe a lighter weight actor. Ultimately, you know, he's the
he's the rom com guy, he's the heart throb guy.
He's like, I need somebody like a Bert Lancaster. But
ultimately he gets sold on Rock Hudson, like his agent says,
you know, no, Hudson can do this. He's excited for
this role. And and in thees, so Frankenheimer was proved
wrong and has admitted as such. And and I know,

(22:49):
I absolutely agree. I think Hudson's performance in this is great.
I think he perfectly captures this sense of the reborn
in Seconds.

Speaker 3 (22:58):
Fully agree. I wouldn't want anybody else in this role.
I think he's fantastic.

Speaker 1 (23:03):
Yeah, he's like, he's playing a character that's outwardly strong
and confident, you know, a complete transformation from his previous incarnation.
But inside, you know, there's still this uncertainty, there's perhaps
this sense of inadequacy, and you can see all of
that happening. You know, it just was I was worried,
honestly because the first performance of this character, John Randolph's

(23:27):
performance is so strong. I was like, even not being
that familiar with Rock Hudson's work, I was like, I
don't know if Hudson's going to really be able to
pull this off, or we're going to feel it's going
to feel unequal. But I really think that he pulls
off a great performance here, and yeah, I can't imagine
it being any different now. Hudson would go on to
appear in two more films you could qualify as science

(23:48):
fiction nineteen seventy six is Embryo in nineteen eighties, The
Martian Chronicles, and the various other films. I think he's
in an avalanche movie that was covered on Mystery Science
Theater at some point late in his career. Much has
been written about Hudson's personal life, as he was a
gay man working at a time and in a position
that did not permit him to live openly as such,

(24:10):
and this is also factored into a fair amount of
film analysis. You know, retrospectively concerning seconds. But any way
you shake it, any way you look at it, this
is now largely considered to be one of his best performances.
I think I read that it's a performance that Hudson
himself was very proud of, and I think with good reason.

Speaker 3 (24:30):
Here here hats off to Rock Hudson.

Speaker 1 (24:33):
This is one of those episodes where we don't really
get to harp on anybody or critique anybody's performance. It's
like every one of them is like, Wow, they nailed it,
absolutely well.

Speaker 3 (24:41):
Yeah, that's how it is across the board. I feel
like everybody did great work here.

Speaker 1 (24:46):
Now up next, we have Salome Gents playing Nora Marcus
Or nineteen thirty five American modern dancer turned actor of stage,
screen and TV. Her first major role was playing the
Future Woman in nineteen fifty eight Terror from the Year
of five thousand, a movie some of you misties out
there might remember from Mystery Smith's Theater three thousand. It's

(25:07):
not actually that memorable a film, but a lot of
people probably saw it through MST. She played the title
role in nineteen sixty one's Angel Baby, which starred George
Hamilton and was the film debut of Bert Reynolds pre Mustache.
Of course, she was in sixty five's The Fool Killer
opposite Anthony Perkins, and then comes Seconds in which she
plays this captivating character Nora that our protagonist encounters in

(25:32):
his new life in bohemian California.

Speaker 3 (25:35):
She is a self actualized free spirit who has taken
her life into her own hands, and she represents, in
a way, I think, the potential to live life in
freedom and self determination.

Speaker 1 (25:50):
Yeah, she's so alive, but to the degree that, at
least through the lens of our main character, you know,
she is exciting and full of promise, but also maybe
a little bit intimidating and frightening. And I think it's
all played perfectly. It's a very lively and charismatic performance.

(26:10):
So hats off to Solome gens here. She worked a
lot after this, mostly on TV, but her TV credentials
are really solid, including The Outer Limits, the original Outer Limits.
She was also in a single episode of Tales from
the Cryptomaniac at Large. That one's notable because that one
was directed by John Frankenheimer. That was a pretty solid episode.

(26:32):
That was one that we actually discussed on a past
anthology of Horror for stuff to blow your mind. Oh okay,
that one had adam Ant in it. You might recall
she also pops up on Star Trek the Next Generation,
and also had a more substantial role as the female
shape Shifter on fifteen episodes of Star Trek Deep Space nine.

(26:53):
She narrated nineteen eighty six's Clan of the Cave Bear
and did other voice work late in her career. All right,
So at the heart of this movie, there's a sinister
corporation that is called The Company, and it has various
individuals working in it. I'm going to go lighter on
the backgrounds on these actors, just because I don't want
to spend the entire podcast just talking about the Stellar cast.

(27:16):
But heading this up, or seemingly heading this up, is
the Old Man, played by Will Gear, who lived nineteen
oh two through nineteen seventy eight, botanist turned actor and
lifelong activists who also found himself blacklisted in nineteen fifties
Hollywood after refusing to name names before Congress. Other films
of note include nineteen sixty sevens In Cold Blood and

(27:36):
nineteen seventy two's Jeremiah Johnson.

Speaker 3 (27:39):
Will Gear really stood out to me, he was perfect
in his role. I think we can talk more about
him when we get into the plot.

Speaker 1 (27:45):
Yeah. We also have a man by the name of
mister Ruby, played by Jeff Corey. Jeff Corey lived nineteen
fourteen through two thousand and two, another stage and screen
actor blacklisted during the nineteen fifties, also for refusing to
name names. He became a noted acting teacher during that
period and worked with a number of future stars. His
biggest films include sixty nine's True Grit as well as

(28:07):
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and nineteen seventies Beneath
the Planet of the Apes. Also the film Little Big
Man from nineteen seventy. We also have a character named
Doctor Inni. This is the I guess, the plastic surgeon
that works for the company, and he is played by
Richard Anderson, who lived nineteen twenty six through twenty seventeen.

(28:28):
American actor, best known on screen for supporting roles in
fifty eight Paths of Glory, fifty nine's Compulsion, and fifty
six's Forbidden Planet. On TV, he played Oscar Goldman, who
is the boss of both the six Million Dollar Man
and the six million Dollar Woman, or I guess like
the twelve million dollar man in Woman. There's also another

(28:49):
interesting character in the company, a character named Devallo, and
he's played by the actor Kay d who lived nineteen
ten through nineteen ninety one, an American actor of Anglo
Egyptian Sudanese ancestry who tended to play characters of Asian
descent in various pictures and TV projects from nineteen fifty

(29:09):
through about nineteen ninety. His other big film was nineteen
sixty two's The Manchurian Candidate, where he played the brainwashing
expert doctor Yen Lowe.

Speaker 3 (29:18):
Oh yeah, okay. In this movie, he has an interesting role.
It's a very small role, but an interesting moment in
the plot where he is there to sort of illicit
confessions and monologues from the clients of this company to
sort of reveal their hidden true desires. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (29:40):
So it's a similar feel, I guess in some ways
to this character from The Manchurian Candidate and also a
wonderful mustache. Yes, we also have a character named John.
We don't know his last name, he's just John. We'll
discuss his role and everything in a bit, but he's
played by Wesley Addie, who lived nineteen thirteen through nineteen
ninety six stage and screen actor, best known for nineteen

(30:03):
fifty fives, Kissed Me Deadly, nineteen seventies, Tora Tora Torah
in nineteen seventy six's Network. All Right, moving outside of
the company here we have another character or not completely
outside of the company, but another character encounter is a
character named Charlie, and he's played by Murray Hamilton, who
lived nineteen twenty three through nineteen eighty six stage and
screen actor who might not be as recognizable to many

(30:23):
in this film. But Joe, where do you know this
guy from?

Speaker 4 (30:26):
Oh?

Speaker 3 (30:27):
This is the Mayor from Jaws in a way, playing
the same kind of squirrely scammer he is in Jaws.

Speaker 1 (30:34):
Yep, yep. This is Mayor Vaughn from the first two
Jaws movies. He was also mister Robinson in sixty seven's
The Graduate and Father Ryan in The Amityville Horror from
nineteen seventy nine.

Speaker 3 (30:44):
It is weird seeing him without one of his signature
blazers from Jaws. By the way, if you've never noticed
in Jaws before the Jackets that Mayor Vaughn wears, they
are words can't even describe just chef kiss. I want
them all in my closet. One of them is an
anchor print. It's just got a little anchors all over it.
And another one is rob look at the one with

(31:06):
the parallel lines. I don't even know how to describe this.

Speaker 1 (31:11):
Wow, I went. I would be very surprised if someone's
not putting these out again now, because I'm served ads
of lake for reproductions of like shirt prints from like
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and other films like
this is like people have realized that people just want
to wear that shirt. So how long until this blazer
with all the anchors on it is out? When people realize, hey,

(31:33):
as I, you know, settle into the late middle age,
I want to I want to start wearing jackets, like
like the mayor from Jaws does.

Speaker 3 (31:41):
Yeah, Amity, as you know, means friendship.

Speaker 1 (31:46):
All right. The music in this film is by Jerry Goldsmith,
who lived twenty nine through two thousand and four. His
work has come up on Weird House previously, I believe
in the Congo episode and in the Grimlins two episode.
So I won't go really deep here or anything, but
suffice to say, a very successful and prolific film composer,
and I think this score hits all the right notes.

(32:06):
It really leans into the melodrama where that's appropriate, and
certainly into the paranoia.

Speaker 3 (32:11):
I agree. I think this very strong score really does
help but drive home the paranoia. But another thing, probably
the thing that more than anything else, really sets the
tone of paranoia is the excellent cinematography.

Speaker 1 (32:25):
That's right, and this is the work of James Wong Howe.
Howe lived eighteen ninety nine through nineteen seventy six, and
he's actually the reason this film initially popped up on
my radar. That was because I was reading about notable
Asian American film industry folks and James Wong Howe is
considered one of the best cinematographers of all time, a
real master of shadow. Was highly sought after for multiple decades,

(32:49):
ultimately earned ten Oscar nominations, including for this film, and
one two of them they're only like when I I
was looking into him, I was like, well, hopefully this
guy did some weird films, something that we could discuss
for weird House. And out of all the movies he did,
I think only two or three classify it, but this
was one of them, and I'm glad we went with
this one.

Speaker 3 (33:06):
Another one I think was Mark of the Vampire, right,
which is a vampire movie famous for having kind of
a Scooby Doo ending.

Speaker 1 (33:12):
Yeah, I mean it's a Todd Browning. It's supposed to
look gorgeous. Nineteen thirty five has a great cast, but
I don't think it's the Todd Browning film we need
to watch. So this one was I think the right
choice for James Wonghow.

Speaker 3 (33:27):
Yeah. I haven't seen that other movie, but you can't
be disappointed with his work on this one. It's just amazing.

Speaker 1 (33:33):
So how was born in China, but his father went
to work in America for the Northern Pacific Railway and
eventually was able to bring his family over as well.
I think how would have been four or five at
the time. His father eventually ran a general store in
Washington State, and Howe got his young hands on an
Eastman Kodak Brownie camera, which I'm to understand was kind

(33:55):
of like his This was where things would begin his
interest in photography and a old time mintly cinematography. Now,
as he grew older, he tried his hand at a
few different career paths, but eventually worked his way into
first commercial photography and then cinematography in la during the
Silent film era. He did assistant camera and clapper work
as early as nineteen nineteen, but served as cinematographer for

(34:18):
the first time on nineteen twenty three's Drums of Fate,
due apparently in part to star Mary Miles Minter, who
took note of Howell's technical ability capturing I believe the
darkness in her eyes. He had some trick for photographing
her just the right way, and she's like, well, this
is the guy, this is who I want to work with,

(34:39):
and work he did. He worked steadily throughout the twenties, thirties,
and forties, and became highly sought after, working with such
directors as Howard Hawks again Todd Browning. He worked on
such films as nineteen thirty four as The Thin Man.
He was also the uncredited cinematographer on those orchestra segments
in Disney's Fantasia in nineteen forty woh Okay. He made

(35:01):
numerous technological innovations as well, and ultimately cemented his place
as an innovator and master, particularly of shadow as well
as deep focused cinematography now in many respects, Yeah, his
is a great Chinese American success story, but it's also
essential to realize a lot of what he was up against.
He couldn't obtain US citizenship till the nineteen forties due

(35:23):
to the Chinese Exclusion Act, which ran from eighteen eighty
two through nineteen forty three. And he also could neither
legally marry or publicly acknowledge his wife, Sonora Babb until
the nineteen fifties due to California laws against interracial marriage
and the moral clause of his studio contract, which I
think that the basic idea is there, like he couldn't

(35:44):
legally marry her, and then due to the moral clause
of his contract, he could not like publicly be in
a relationship with her, that sort of thing. Then, during
the years of the Hollywood Blacklist, his wife was blacklisted
for alleged Communist sympathies, and Howl himself was gray listed.
This forced them to move to Mexico for a period,

(36:05):
though year by year his output seemed to remain pretty
steady by the look of things, so you know, one
way or another, he was still finding projects to work on.
Other films of note that he worked on include nineteen
fifty six's The Rose Tattoo, This was his first oscar win,
nineteen fifty eight's The Old Man in the Sea, nineteen
sixty three's Hud that's also one that won him an Oscar,

(36:27):
nineteen sixty eights, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, nineteen
seventies The Molly Maguires, and nineteen seventy five's Funny Lady.
This was his last film for which he was also
nominated for an Oscar. He also has eight directorial credits
to his name, including nineteen fifty four's Go Man, Go
in nineteen fifty eight's Invisible Danger. But again, his work
in this film is just tremendous. I think you've never

(36:49):
seen a film that he worked on like this is
a perfect starting place.

Speaker 5 (36:54):
Absolutely, yeah, all right, we ready to talk about the plot.

Speaker 1 (37:05):
Let's do it, all right.

Speaker 3 (37:06):
So I found myself thinking we probably shouldn't do a
detailed scene by scene recap of this one like we
do in some episodes. Actually, this movie got me thinking
about which movies feel right for that and which ones don't. Somehow,
I think it's the campier or sillier outings that really
invite the more minute scene by scene treatment, and for

(37:29):
some reason, the more weighty and serious dramas don't. I
don't exactly know why that is, but that does seem
to be the general trend.

Speaker 1 (37:36):
A lot of times we kind of breathe life into
the spaces where there's not life, and yeah, a film
like this, it's like all the spaces are occupied, all
the spaces are meaningful, and they don't necessarily need us
to interpret them exactly.

Speaker 3 (37:50):
So something would feel kind of cheap I think about
looking at it too closely. So instead we're going to
zoom in and zoom out a little bit. But one
place I do want to start zoomed in is the
very beginning with the opening credits, where we have dissonant
mechanical music, almost like the sound of a kind of
scanning device emitting a signal that there is something being
detected right here. It made me think of the motion

(38:11):
trackers and aliens, but I don't know, some kind of
music like that. And then you also have dark, moody
strings and minor chords on the organ. Again, this is
a score by Jerry Goldsmith kind of reminds me in
a way of some of Howard Shore's music for like
David Cronenberg movies. Yeah, that would come later, of course.
And throughout the credit sequence we have extreme close ups

(38:34):
on human facial features with a kind of fun house
mirror effect. Everything is warped and inverting upon itself, lips, teeth, ears, eyes,
and then there's one part that's kind of funny with
the name Rock Hudson appearing across the sclare of a
tortured eyeball, and then finally a face covered in cloth wrapping,

(38:54):
almost like a ski mask, but I think it is
supposed to be bandages.

Speaker 4 (38:58):
Now.

Speaker 1 (38:59):
It's a note that the one and only Saw Bass
is credited with the titles here. He of course directed
Phase four, the ant movie that we discussed on the
show previously, though to just call it an and movie
is almost a disservice. That was his one and only
feature directing credit. But the man's main bread and butter
was this sort of work.

Speaker 3 (39:18):
Yeah, like main titles and credit sequences and stuff posters
as well.

Speaker 1 (39:22):
Yeah, and these are great, but again but kind of
to your point, if you don't want to look up
anybody's nose or into someone's ear, if that's like a
real turn off for you you might want to skip
this section of the movie.

Speaker 3 (39:34):
Well, if you got that kind of constitution, you might
just not want to watch seconds. Yeah, so the movie begins.
You were speaking earlier about the paranoid cinematography, and there's
a great example of that right at the beginning. The
movie begins with a man moving through a train station.
I think it's actually Grand Central station. It is, And

(39:55):
there is a type of shot that I believe occurs
several times in the film where the camera is kind
of floating over the man's shoulder from behind and following
him very tightly as he moves. It's almost like it's
glued to him. And this has, for some reason a
very unsettling paranoid effect. It's like the feeling of an

(40:16):
unseen spirit chasing and observing your every move.

Speaker 1 (40:20):
Yeah. Absolutely, this movie doesn't play around with these the
feeling of something unsettling about the nature of reality.

Speaker 3 (40:30):
And so it's following this man through a train station.
We see this man moving, and then another man who's
always sort of photographed from the middle of the face
up I believe, with like the brim of his hat
down in in a kind of sinister way, following behind him.
So the man who's walking ahead turns out to be
our protagonist, Arthur Hamilton, and the stranger who's following him

(40:51):
follows him through the crowd, down the stairs, all the
way onto a train and then suddenly calls out his
name and hands him an address written on a piece
of paper and then departs, leaving Arthur just standing there
on the train baffled. What is this?

Speaker 1 (41:04):
Yeah, like the whole setup, it's like, what's going to happen?
Is so I'm going to be stabbed or shot? You know,
there's a handoff of a note, and somehow that makes
it all the more sinister because you know, especially from
the individual's reaction, like there's something really wrong about about
what just happened. Nothing good will come of this.

Speaker 3 (41:20):
I guess we should take a moment to describe Arthur
the man here. What is his vibe?

Speaker 1 (41:26):
Well, it's like we kind of discussed earlier. He has
a vessel, an unleaking vessel, straining with all sorts of
uncomfortable emotions. He is not comfortable in his own flesh,
in his own body. He's a man in his I
mean to be accurate, I mean the actor himself was
in his early fifties at this point though it's nineteen fifties,

(41:50):
early fifties, which is kind of a different animal than
we tend to have nowadays. You know, a lot is
said and commented upon regarding like differences in aging, or
aimingly difference that there are differences in aging, et cetera.

Speaker 3 (42:04):
I think the way he plays it and the way
he's made up in photographed just makes him feel older
than he actually is. Yeah, So we learn a bit
about Arthur's life. We see him interacting with his wife,
We see him at work. He is a moderately successful
man in middle age. He's a banker. He obviously has

(42:24):
a steady income and some accumulated wealth. He has a
very nice home. He has a wife and an adult
daughter who is out of the home now she lives
with her husband in another state. And yet he seems
rather unhappy with his life. And this doesn't come from
overt expressions of emotion, but rather from kind of what
is unsaid and his something kind of straining underneath the surface.

(42:48):
We see him at his job, where he obviously makes
a very good living. It seems he could hardly complain
about that, and yet he is just clearly bored with
his work and preoccupied. We see means of Arthur and
his wife Emily interacting, and there's an interesting approach here.
I feel like a lesser film might have made their
relationship more strife ridden or more strained. But they don't fight,

(43:14):
they're not overtly unhappy. They are basically loving and supportive
of one another. But there's something kind of intangible missing.
You get the sense that their marriage is basically celibate,
and that they're like in that he reads this in
a way that's just kind of gray and disappointing.

Speaker 1 (43:34):
Yeah, Like he's not like a lesser film would have
also made him just completely cold, and it's not quite
what's going on. There's this just this this sense of
like I feel like I should want to and yet
I cannot. Yeah, sort of thing.

Speaker 3 (43:48):
You know.

Speaker 1 (43:48):
It's it's it's complex.

Speaker 3 (43:50):
And in the middle of all this, Arthur has begun
receiving strange phone calls in the middle of the night,
calls that claim to be from someone he knows from
his old old friend, Charlie, who played They played tennis
together when they were in college. And at first this
seems impossible because Charlie died several years before. But one night,

(44:11):
the man claiming to be Charlie gets Arthur talking and
he provides all kinds of private details that no one
would have any way of knowing. It has to be Charlie.
But how could he be back from the dead. Well,
Charlie tells Arthur to go to the address the man
on the train gave him. He sort of like gives
him this this exhortation. I think he I don't recall exactly.

(44:34):
I think he also sort of implies like, you've got
to do it for me.

Speaker 1 (44:38):
Yeah.

Speaker 3 (44:40):
Now, I'm not going to go into great detail about this,
but this does lead to a kind of hunt sequence
where where Arthur decides that he does have to go
find this place, this address, and he goes to this
laundromat where he's asking around about it. I liked this
whole sequence because it's not exactly easy to find the
thing that Arthur is looking for, and he doesn't even

(45:01):
know what it is he's looking for. He's looking for
an unknown and yet he's he's going to all these
lengths to find it.

Speaker 1 (45:08):
Yeah, and and really going through you know, the underbelly
of the world here, like the laundry mat where you know,
where where the garments are washed and pressed and they're
steam and sweat going through. Then this there's this whole
scene where they're going through this like meat processing place
where you know, obviously big swabs of meat is taking place,

(45:29):
animals are being processed, and people are walking around and
in smocks, uh, you know, and the whole time we're like,
oh my god, what's gonna what's gonna happen? Author you
should really really be walking in I don't want to
say confidently, because he doesn't really do anything with confidence,
but it's there's it's a very sinister ara to everything.

Speaker 3 (45:48):
I think the significance of the meat packing plant has
the gateway to his final destination will make a lot
more sense once you see the end of the film. Yeah,
So eventually Arthur meets someone who knows what he's looking for,
and they sort of like they load him into the
back of a truck because he can't see where he's going,
and he is transported into the bowels of some large
building with no windows, to the heart of a secretive organization,

(46:12):
and they have a proposition for him. They say, Arthur,
what if you could have another chance at life? In fact,
we know that you are unhappy with your life, you
are not satisfied. What if you could start over somewhere
else and have the life that you really wanted, that
you know you should have had to begin with. This
company claims they can give that to you. Now, they

(46:35):
charge a very hefty fee they're going to take. I
think they say it's thirty thousand dollars, which is a
lot in the money of the time. But they can
do this impossible thing. They will stage your death, freeing
you from your family and work obligations, and they will
give you advanced plastic surgery basically full body plastic surgery

(46:55):
to completely transform your identity and appearance. So they can
take this bored middle aged man and his boring gray
life and transform him into the man he wishes he
could be. Now there's an interesting ripple here because at
first Arthur seems very hesitant. But they say, well, we
know everybody actually wants this, but they're going to feel

(47:18):
unable to say yes. So to help you along with
your decision, we have removed that choice for you with
the help of blackmail. So they say, when you first arrived,
we drugged you and we took photos staging a fake
sexual assault with you as the perpetrator, and if you
try to leave, we'll release the photos. So you have
no choice. You have to say yes. But this is

(47:40):
presented as we're doing you a favor because we know
you want to agree to this. You just don't feel
like you can. Now you don't have a choice.

Speaker 1 (47:48):
Yeah, it's like we both know you want to leave
this lot in a new car. To help you out,
we went ahead and set your old car on fire. Yes,
and all this is played very well, like you can
see just how uncomfortable and afraid he becomes at this,
and the whole setup for it is also like hypnotic

(48:10):
and disturbing. So already we're well into the twilight zone here.

Speaker 3 (48:15):
Right, But despite all of his hesitation and fear, Arthur
does agree. So he undergoes plastic surgery and then a
serious rehabilitation course and is transformed from his boring, doe
middle aged self into Rock Hudson, a lithe, dashingly handsome
and glamorous man, and he's given a full new identity.

(48:38):
He's a man called Antiochus Wilson. Now, of course, since
the company faked his death and committed all this fraud,
he has to keep his past life absolutely secret, so
he can't go around saying, you know, I used to
be this other guy. He has to just pretend all
he is is antioch As Wilson, that other life never existed.
During this process, he undergoes therap sessions to sort of

(49:01):
I think it's to uncover his true desires. And there's
a theme that emerges during these therapy sessions that'll come
up a couple of times in the film, where I
think they put him under hypnosis and record the things
he's talking about, and before he gets into talking about
the things that they try to actualize, there are moments
where he kind of regresses into childhood desires and he

(49:23):
keeps talking about a big red ball. So there's this
establishment of a theme that becoming free to actually seek
one's true desires is in a way a kind of
regression into more and more immature objects of desire. But
they find through all this process that Arthur actually always

(49:44):
had an interest in painting. We find out later that
he sort of had a watercolor hobby. You know, he
would do little paintings, but he never got to really
pursue this because, of course, you know, he's trying to
have a serious career as a banker. So they set
him up as a professional painter with a house on
the West coast, and they send him off to settle
into his new life where he has like a butler

(50:06):
or a valet. I think the guy's name is John,
Is that right?

Speaker 1 (50:09):
This is John the Silver Fox.

Speaker 3 (50:11):
Yes, the butler who is provided by the company, who
attends to all of his needs. He's got this nice,
swanky house, he lives on the beach. He has this exciting,
glamorous life where he can do whatever he wants, and
he has all these friends, and he has this exciting
career with actual artistic fulfillment. Now he gets to be
the painter that he thinks he really should have been.

(50:34):
He also meets an exciting woman, a woman named Nora
Marcus played by salome A Gens, and she's like a
free spirit who also left her previous life behind. Of course,
he can't admit that he did this. And they meet
and get to know one another, and they bond, and
eventually there's a scene where they attend like a literal

(50:55):
bacchan al together a bunch of hippies get naked and
they're like chugging and playing musical instruments and stomping on
grapes and.

Speaker 1 (51:03):
A big vat Yeah, some obvious jazz cigarettes being smoked
at this event. I can come back to one second
to one second for the whole idea of them setting
him up as an artist. There was one of the
many scenes where the company men are talking him through
what's going to happen. There was one scene in particular.
I thought it was really good because he's he's they're
showing him the paintings that they have provided that he

(51:24):
they're setting him up with his portfolio of his previous
work and talking about, you know, and then you'll you'll
change up your style a bit and you'll do something different,
and and they he has some hesitation about this, you know,
because it's like I really I don't have that level
of ability. And they're like, it doesn't matter, because you
will be established. And I thought that was that was
very chilling and kind of kind of cutting, and one

(51:47):
of the many moments in the film that you know
isn't about like, you know, high levels of anxiety or fear,
but it's just very solid.

Speaker 3 (51:55):
I totally agree, and in fact, I think we see
it with like the Wild the bakan a, oh yeah,
the party lifestyle, and with his supposedly fulfilling artistic career.
In both of these cases we since that despite him
quote getting what he wants, something is very wrong and
very empty with this life. There's a scene where he paints,

(52:16):
and that the scene is just painful because, as you
said earlier, like there so they establish his reputation as
an artist by buying paintings done by someone else, faking
them as his, passing them off as his, and now
he gets to paint. When he goes to paint, it's
it's obvious he's not happy doing it, Like he may

(52:37):
have been happy in his previous life doing his little
amateur watercolors, but now that he is supposed to be
a serious painter and he realizes he's not like satisfied
with the paintings that he can produce with his own hand,
something is very like gnawing at him about this.

Speaker 1 (52:56):
Yeah, it's like it's it's been taken out of like
the organic pattern of his life, and now it's presented
in this unnatural state, and therefore it's not fulfilling because
the things that made it fulfilling and and made it desirable.
All of those conditions have been removed.

Speaker 3 (53:14):
He may have not been able to be a painter professionally,
but in his other life when he was painting, at
least that was an honest pursuit. And now it's all
a fraud. Yeah, So that that emptiness comes through in
the painting scene. But there are also the scenes where
he like, he has these parties where he uh, you know,
is drinking and doing drugs and you know, having this

(53:34):
exciting lifestyle. But then he gets drunk and he blabs
about his previous life.

Speaker 1 (53:41):
Oh boy, does he get drunk. He this is such
a like, these are such cringey scenes, Like I'm tempted
to compare them to like something you would see on
I think you should leave, yes, yeah, because but without
the comedy, you know, just like that level of windful,
it is painful to watch. I mean, he's it's beyond like,
oh he's a funny drunk or and he's just like

(54:04):
a he gets sloppy drunk where you characters are trying
to say you shouldn't drink anymore or you should leave,
and he keeps going.

Speaker 3 (54:12):
And there is a scene where at one point he
gets drunk and he starts blabbing about his previous life,
and some people from the party have to grab him
and take him into his bedroom and explain to him,
you need to keep your mouth shut, because it turns
out all of his new friends, they're not necessarily like
organic friends. Most of these people at the party, maybe

(54:32):
not all of them, are also people living second lives.
They're also born yes, they're also reborns. And they're like,
you're gonna spoil this for all of us if, like
the company gets exposed, if we get found out too,
you got to shut up. And you got to think
that that also sort of cheapens it for him, right,
that like all of his so called friends are also frauds.

Speaker 4 (54:55):
Yeah.

Speaker 3 (54:56):
So this leads to a break where he ends up
going back to visit his wife. As rock Hudson. He
doesn't say like, hey, you know, I'm your husband, remember me.
She is still going on under the impression that her
husband died in a fire in a hotel room, which
is what the company staged for him and Rock Hudson.
He pretends to be a friend of her late husband's,

(55:19):
and so he goes to visit the house and speaks
to her, I think he's like, hey, you know, I
maybe wanted I'm a painter and I wanted to paint
a portrait of your husband because he was a friend
of mine. He also asks about the watercolors. He's like,
you know your husband's watercolors? Do you still have them?
And it's interesting there's an unresolved thing from this conversation.

(55:40):
I wonder what you made of this where she's like, oh,
the watercolors. Yeah, and he's like, did you get rid
of them? And she says not exactly.

Speaker 1 (55:50):
Yeah, I was expecting there to be some follow up,
like maybe she donated them somewhere or they were painted over.
I don't know, because in a sense, I mean, his
life has been painted over, right, But yeah, yeah, we
don't get the second beat on that really.

Speaker 3 (56:06):
But she actually in the scene has insights about her
late husband, very cutting ones, the kind of thing that
you know, she never would have said to him when
she thought he was alive, And she says that she
thinks he spent his life trying to acquire what he
had been taught to want, you know, a good job,

(56:28):
a steady income, a nice home, a family, and yet
he was deeply unsatisfied, she says, that it was like
there was something he always wanted to say, but he
couldn't say it. He was just holding it in. And
in the background in this scene, we know that now
he's gotten all of the things that he yearned for

(56:49):
when he was unsatisfied with his previous life, the life
he had when he pursued what he had been taught
to want. So there's the second order thing, the things
he thinks he really wanted, his genuine one, good looks, glamour,
artistic expression, excitement, sex, drugs, bacchanalia. And yet we can
tell that he is not at all happy by acquiring

(57:10):
these things either. There is a deep hollowness and fraudulence
and anxiety at the core of his new existence. So
his wife sends him away with a memento of her
late husband. It's his tennis trophy, which is is a
callback to a scene earlier where when his friend Charlie
called him on the phone and said, hey, you know

(57:31):
this is really me. You can know because look on
the underside of our tennis trophy from the doubles tournament.
We carved this into the bottom. I think it's like,
you know, fidelis Eternia or something, and So when Antiochus
Wilson leaves the house, he is picked up by John,
the valet from the company, in a car and he says,

(57:51):
I want to go back, and John says, of course, sir.
He says, no, no, no, I don't mean to California.
I want to go back to the company. I want
to start again again. Is it possible, Anti kis Wilson
can die, can't he? And John says, I think that
can be arranged, sir. So they go back to the

(58:19):
company and here Rock Hudson meets with his caseworker and
they explained to him, yeah, we can set you up
with a new life once again. You know, sometimes this happens.
People are not satisfied with their second life. They need another.
But before we do that, we do need you to
do something for us. We would ask you to sponsor
someone else for our programs. Someone you know obviously, you

(58:43):
know you must know tons of people who would be
good candidates. We just need you to give us a name,
somebody we can get in touch with, and we might
need you to stay on hand to help them, maybe
make some phone calls to them to make sure that
you know that they end up in our care. And
this makes sense because they can't add what they do
is illegal. They can't advertise on the news in the newspaper.
They have to operate on a personal referral basis. And

(59:07):
here it becomes clear there was a payoff of a
waiting room that Arthur Hamilton went into earlier in the movie.
That's full of men just sitting around, playing cards, reading books,
hanging out, just seemingly waiting, you know, wiling away the hours.
Here we meet Murray Hamilton and it turns out this
is this is Arthur Hamilton's old friend, Charlie, the guy

(59:30):
from school, except of course he looks nothing like him.
He has had a second, second life a he is
a reborn by this company. But it turned out he
also needed another chance. He also needed to start over again,
but he couldn't do that until he fulfilled his duty
for referring Arthur Hamilton here, and they'd had him on

(59:52):
hand so he could continue making phone calls to him
and helping him get settled in.

Speaker 4 (59:57):
Yeah.

Speaker 1 (59:58):
Yeah, there's a great vibe with the day roun because
we saw the dayroom earlier and we saw everyone it
looked like more like they were working or studying. And
now we realize they're just passing the time, and we
also see that they're being given little cups of medication
to help them pass the time, and that it's this
kind of limbo between lives with all of them clear

(01:00:21):
they are waiting for their next chance to get their
third life, or perhaps their fourth or fifth, who knows.

Speaker 3 (01:00:28):
Yeah, you don't know how many times. So but now
finally the mayor from Jaws is going to get another shot.
Whatever he blew the last one for some reason, it
is not what he wanted, so he's going to get
another one. But now this is where this is where
Rock Hudson is stuck. And so they say, okay, that's fine,
we can give you another one, but we do need
you to refer somebody first, And the problem is he refuses.

(01:00:51):
He's like, I can't think of anybody to refer. I'm sorry,
and he's really hung up on he's got to have
another chance at a new life because he screwed up
the first one, and you know, he just wanted what
people taught him to want. The second time, he wanted
something else, but he didn't do it right. Something wasn't
right about it. But the third time, then he'll get it,
then he'll really fulfill his desires.

Speaker 1 (01:01:11):
Yeah, he expresses that he on his second life, he
also didn't have input in it like the first life. Yeah,
he didn't have input into what he should want. And
the second time around, like what did they do? They
kind of drug some things out of him during hypnosis,
constructed something for him, and then put him into that slot,
and so he kind of he felt ultimately trapped in

(01:01:35):
an artificial place once more, and he thinks, well, this
next time, I want lots of input into it. I
have ideas. Let's work together so that this can work.

Speaker 3 (01:01:44):
But they keep asking him, you know, we got to
get a referral. You got to give us somebody, and
he doesn't. He's just like, I can't think of anybody.
So then we are finally let after he refuses multiple times,
he's led to another meeting with the old Man by
Will Gear, who he spoke to earlier the first time
he was in the building belonging to the company. Will

(01:02:07):
Gear is very good in this role because he's very folksy,
and he's very soft spoken, and he's just like a sweet,
sweet old man who talks about his dream of giving
people what they really want. He knows that so many
people live lives of kind of quiet misery that they
just can't can't really commit to living the lives they

(01:02:28):
know they should be living, and he wanted to create
the opportunity for people to have that chance. But then
he also gets a little real He's like, you know,
so that is the ideal under which I started the company.
But the fact is, you know, now we have a
lot of employees, and we got to make payroll, and
we have shareholders, and we've got to meet our obligations
to shareholders. So if we don't have an ongoing you know,

(01:02:50):
basis of new referrals coming in, we really can't keep
doing what we're doing. In order to make the dream work.
We gotta have money coming in, So you got to
refer somebody.

Speaker 1 (01:02:59):
Yeah. Again, is basically as he puts it is is
to end human suffering, like he has this, and I
think that's one of the great things about the Old
Man particularly, but the company as a whole, well, there's
almost everything about it is sinister and at times very cold,
and very also very you know, corporate and so forth.

(01:03:20):
It is presented as if like at in its roots anyway,
it is trying to help people.

Speaker 3 (01:03:27):
Will geartt. Yeah, he at least thinks he is trying
to help people. But then, of course, you know, once
you start, once you start a business, it kind of
has a it has hungers of its own, like you
got to you got to keep the lights on. So
they need the referrals, and he doesn't give them the referrals,
so they're like, okay, well that's all right. And then
this leads up to the ending, the the shocking, horrifying

(01:03:49):
ending where they strap rock huts into a gurney. He
thinks he is being taken off to his next plastic
surgery to get a whole new face, a whole new body,
a whole new identity again, and it turns out no,
they are taking him off to become one of the
cadavers that will be used to fake the death of

(01:04:10):
a new applicant.

Speaker 1 (01:04:12):
Yeah, oh god, it's there's there. It really builds up
to because at first he's like, where we go? We're
going to my surgery. It's too soon because you know,
we didn't talk through all the details. You know, I
really I have ideas, you guys have ideas, you know,
I want to make sure we're doing it right this time,
and they're reassuring him, but then is there going It's
fabulously shot, this strange hallway that they're going down. I

(01:04:35):
can only imagine that some of the gurney scenes in
Jacob's Ladder that would come many many many years later,
or perhaps referring back to this sequence, because you know,
at first, he's you know, he's just expressing his you know,
concerns over it, and then it becomes clear that this
priest perhaps that is speaking to him, is basically administering

(01:04:56):
last rites.

Speaker 3 (01:04:57):
Yes, it is hard for me to commune Kate, how chilling.
The last few minutes of this movie are one of
the most shocking, unsettling things I've ever seen in film.

Speaker 1 (01:05:08):
Yeah, because when he begins to realize what's really happening,
he begins to struggle. They jump, they like strap his
mouth closed, and he continues to fight and scream horribly
for what feels like fifteen minutes or so. It's a
lot as they drag him off to the death room.
And I kept thinking, well, they're going to stop out

(01:05:30):
the way, We're going to fade away or cut away
as they roll them into that room, and they don't.
We go into the death room with him, and there
is the doctor from earlier, his plastic surgeon, and he explains,
you know, like, yeah, you were my best work. I
really nailed it.

Speaker 3 (01:05:45):
I made a rock Hudson out of you.

Speaker 1 (01:05:47):
I made rock Hudson out of you. And I hate
to see this work, you know, go down the drain
and then we go. We follow the scene right through,
like the cranial drilling of our main character as they
drill the life out of him, and we get like
the final sort of like death, desire, hallucination, and it

(01:06:07):
is a scene what of presumably either him and his
daughter on the beach with a red ball, or perhaps
it is some other scene. Maybe you could interpret it
as him and a parental unit on the beach with
a red ball, like you know, it's I guess it's
abstract like that, but like this, I guess was the

(01:06:27):
true desire. You know, this was you know, deep down
in him, like this is the most honest part, the
purest part of his life, and it's the last thing
we see. You know.

Speaker 3 (01:06:36):
It made me think about how so once I saw
the ending, I was like, oh, okay, now I think
I understand because the ending of the movie feels so bad.
I understand why some people hated this movie and thought
it was like cold and awful. I think it's actually
quite brilliant. But I think the film and I'm not
at all saying it should have done this. I'm just
saying imagining a different movie that could have been. I

(01:07:00):
think the ending would have felt very different if there
was some character in it somewhere who got it, who
figured out the I don't know what the correct desire is,
the desire that that one can have in order to
find true happiness, And the movie does not give an
answer on that. It doesn't. It just shows It shows

(01:07:21):
you lots of failures of wisdom and failures to understand ourselves,
and the pitfalls of desire and the hollowness of desire.
But it never shows you the right way. It never
provides the solution. So so you you know, you're not
given like that sort of ladder out of the pit
of despair.

Speaker 1 (01:07:40):
Yeah, there's no there's no Buddha in this film. And
I thought for a little bit they were setting our
main character up to be a kind of Buddha that
he would realize that. Essentially, in the day room, you
have these characters that are going in and out of incarnations.
It's very much like the Buddhist Wheel of Semsara in
the real is that like everything is just a cycle

(01:08:02):
of life and death and rebirth, and that the only
way to find true liberation is to remove yourself from
that cycle. But there is no such revelation in this
film because ultimately he's like, give me another shot. I
think the next shot is it. I think the next
shot will be better, and he just commits to the
wheel and that is undoing.

Speaker 3 (01:08:24):
Well in a way, I think this film is extremely
compatible with Buddhist ideals, Like I think that is sort
of the wisdom of the movie. But there's no character
who embodies that realization. You only see the characters who
are who fail and just like you know, are are
slavering after their their next desire.

Speaker 1 (01:08:46):
Yeah. Yeah, they're all all hungry ghosts.

Speaker 3 (01:08:50):
So the ending is bleak, dark, shocking. It does not
feel good at all, but I think is quite powerful,
and I want to make clear again, I don't I
don't think I would change it. I don't think I
would prefer the film with the character who does get
it or does embody sort of the wisdom of the
movie's message.

Speaker 1 (01:09:08):
Yeah, I agree, I think it's it's perfect as is.
I like the direction they ended up going in. I'm
I didn't even look into it. I'm assuming this is
the basic direction of the novel as well, but perhaps
it goes in a different direction. I'm also I'm also
a little shocked that no one has remade this film,
or certainly maybe not as a as a motion picture.

(01:09:29):
But it seems like the kind of thing that someone
could pick up for some sort of a television series,
you know, especially nowadays thinking of the success of things
like Severance and so forth. There's a lot you could
do with seconds. But on the other hand, as we
often say with films that really nail something, I don't

(01:09:50):
really want to see someone else come in and perhaps
screw it up. This this film doesn't need to be reborn.
As I mentioned the other day, off off my my
one caveat would be this would have made a great
tree House of Horror episode if the Simpsons had done
a send up of this with Homer Simpson or I
don't know, there are various other Simpsons characters that might

(01:10:11):
have been ideal for this treatment, but I can imagine
at least the old Days of the Simpson Treehouse of Horror.
They could have they could have done this up really nicely.

Speaker 3 (01:10:19):
First life, you're Ned Flanders, Second life, you're Troy McClure.
Third well, third life, you know you refer Homer and
you get to go be somebody else, you get to
be Auto.

Speaker 1 (01:10:28):
Finally, yeah, yeah, all right, Well that is seconds from
nineteen sixty six. Yeah, terrific picture. Not for the Week
of Heart, not for someone expecting just kind of a
I don't know, an easy going psychological horror film. This
one has a lot going on in it, so obviously

(01:10:49):
we'd love to hear anyone's thoughts out there about the film.
You know, what's your interpretation of its message? What do
you think about some of the choices here and the
performance and the sinemography and so forth. Right in we'd
love to hear from you. We discuss listener mail from
everything we do here in the Stuff to Blowing Mind
podcast feed on our Monday listener mail episodes. Our Core

(01:11:11):
science episodes air on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Wednesdays, we
do a short form monster fact or Artifact episode, and
on Fridays we set aside most serious concerns even though
it's a pretty serious movie and many respects for Weird
House cinema. And if you want to see a full
list of the movies we've covered over the over the
years here, you can go to letterbox dot com. That's

(01:11:33):
L E T T E R B O x D
dot com. We have an account there. Our username is
weird House and you'll find a list of everything we've covered.
And that website allows you to do a lot of
really cool things too, like organized by decades and years
and genres. So check it out. It's a it's a
neat little tool.

Speaker 3 (01:11:52):
Huge thanks to our excellent audio producer JJ Posway. If
you would like to get in touch with us with
feedback on this episode or any other, to suggest topic
for the future, or just to say hello, you can
email us at contact at stuff to Blow Yourmind dot com.

Speaker 2 (01:12:12):
Stuff to Blow your Mind is production of iHeartRadio. For
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