A couple of weeks ago, the notorious Toby Young (a man with several criminal-minded namesakes) took me to lunch in his capacity as restaurant critic of the Evening Standard. I made a poor guest, to be honest, because I was too busy talking to pay full attention to the food. Afterwards, I stopped off at a Hollywood memorablia shop in Soho, and there, to my great surprise, I unearthed an old publicity still of my all-time favourite film, John Frankenheimer's Seconds. I meant to scan the picture as soon as I got home, but I'd forgotten that my machine didn't have the right software. So I'm finally getting round to it now.
The first time I saw the movie I was about 15, and it scared me witless in a way I couldn't really understand. There's no blood and gore, but the entire film is permeated with a sense of what you'd have to call existential dread. I've seen it two or three times since then, and it remains an incredibly unsettling experience.
Astonishingly, Seconds was a flop on its release in 1966. (Critics had trouble accepting Rock Hudson in the chilly lead role. He's superb, in fact.) But its reputation has risen ever since. Some see it as a critique of the then-nascent youth counterculture. Perhaps. All I know is that I like it even more than that baroque masterpiece, The Manchurian Candidate.
I just wish I'd had a chance to interview Frankenheimer before he died. He fell out of favour soon after Seconds was released, eventually making a critical comeback as a director of made-for-TV films. I'd say he's worth three Tarantinos. No, make that four.