SECONDS. Paramount, 1969. Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, John Randolph, Will Geer, Jeff Corey, Richard Anderson, Frances Reid, Murray Hamilton. Based on the novel by David Ely. Cinematography: James Wong Howe. Director: John Frankenheimer.

SECONDS Rock Hudson

   James Wong Howe, who was last mentioned here for his work on Out of the Fog, also handled the camera on Seconds, a film which has been described as “John Frankenheimer’s cinematic Xanadu,” and to be sure, director Frankenheimer and photographer Wong Howe fill this thing with all sorts of artsy movie tricks, including slow motion, fish-eye lens, odd angles and eye-blink editing, all to produce a sense of disorientation and alienation in the creepy tale of a man (John Randolph) who buys a chance to be young and sexy again (Rock Hudson) only to find himself drowning in the shallowness of his new life.

   The antic artistry of the thing works, even if it gets pretentious after a while, as a growing sense of claustrophobic paranoia suffuses the film, but all the cinematic slight-of-hand seems less effective than the sinister acting by seasoned pros like Will Geer, whose expression can pass from fatherly to frightening without changing a wrinkle; Jeff Corey, who makes Evil seem distracted and self-absorbed; Wesley Addy as an overly-unctuous manservant; and even the once-blacklisted Nedrick Young as a party guest whose annoyance gets chillingly ominous.

   If Seconds succeeds at all — and I think it does — it’s less because of the camera and more due to the folks in front of it.