John Frankenheimer is precisely the type of erratic Hollywood auteur who benefits from a selective retro, rather than an exhaustive career survey reminding J.F. himself and the world of horrors like Prophecy, The Challenge, and Dead-Bang. Frankenheimer fell on lean years in the ’70s and didn’t quite get back up until last year’s Ronin, but his halcyon era, the ’60s, saw a handful of dark masterpieces that still ricochet around in the cultural skull. Starting with the political fireballs The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Seven Days in May (1964)—the first strident, hallucinatory, and queasily prophetic; the second deceptively reserved and wickedly chilling—Frankenheimer established himself as the preeminent postnoir stylist, giving the sober World War II thriller The Train (1964) a stormy menace it didn’t quite deserve. Also included in the series are his ’70s disaster disaster Black Sunday (1977) and his beautifully cast recording of The Iceman Cometh (1973). But his crowning achievement must be Seconds (1966), a scratchy straitjacket of a movie that’s the most horrifying portrait of corporate service culture ever made in this country. Like Bruno Schulz by way of Rod Serling, Seconds pits the individual (Rock Hudson) against the secret forces of America, and icily documents the fallout.
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