May 26th, 2021

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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.

'Jez Conolly and Emma Westwood have crafted an incisive and riveting study of this long-underrated mainstream oddity... You’ll come away from this compact but thorough love-letter to a once unloved piece with the urge to revisit Seconds immediately.'
Steven West, Cinemacabre

'[The book] is a joyously discursive journey into the making of Seconds, its influences and where it sits in the culture... [Conolly and Westwood's] analysis of the making of the film can only be described as loving and highly nuanced...Seconds is a rich, rewarding study, and another excellent monograph published by Auteur'
Andrew Nette, Pulp Curry

'This is one of the best books on a single film that I’ve read in a long time. For one thing, it is endless allusive and referential, shows wide learning and media understanding, constantly surprises, and makes fascinating connections.'
Douglas Holm, KBOO

'Co-authors, Conolly and Westwood’s writing is seamless... when you watch the film again after finishing the book you can really appreciate how closely Conolly and Westwood had to look at Seconds.'
Rachel Bellwoar, Flickering Myth

'Each of the nine chapters that make up Seconds is an assemblage, suturing together contextual material, theoretical discourse and film analysis... While Seconds is a short monograph, it is nevertheless rich, innovative and daring. It is an important addition to the critical discourse surrounding an often-overlooked masterpiece of twentieth-century American cinema and a critical intervention in the ongoing academic and popular reappraisal of the film.'Diabolique

Author Information

Jez Conolly is Head of Student Engagement with University of Bristol Library Services and author of The Thing and co-author of Dead of Night in the Devil's Advocates series. He is co-editor of three books in the 'World Film Locations' series (covering Dublin, Reykjavik and Liverpool) published by Intellect and is currently a regular contributor to Beneficial Shock! Magazine. Emma Westwood is the author of two cinema books – Monster Movies for the Pocket Essential series, and a monograph on David Cronenberg’s The Fly for Auteur's Devil’s Advocates’ series – and she is currently working on a book for Electric Dreamhouse Press about James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. She writes for numerous publications and film festivals and can be heard on DVD audio commentaries and extras for the likes of Kino Lorber (USA), Indicator (UK) and Umbrella (Australia) among other labels.