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The Old Man – Seconds (Will Geer)

I never saw the Waltons, but it may be relevant to some that The Old Man was Pa from the Waltons. I DID see John Frankenheimer’s masterpiece Seconds. Sometimes, I talk to my wife about perfect films, I know off the top of my head, Ridley Scott’s Alien comes to mind. Seconds is quite nearly a perfect film.

Seconds concerns Arthur Hamilton wealthy businessman in a completely dull life, who is contacted by a friend of his who died years ago. He is mysteriously invited to a meeting with the Company, a corporation who offers a unique service, they make people disappear and create entirely new lives for them.

Alarmingly, once he gets a certain amount of information on the Company, he is manipulated and blackmailed to commit to the procedure. But just when he reaches utter panic, that’s when the Old Man comes in.

The Old Man is a captivating figure, folksy, charming, even avuncular. That’s what makes him so terrifying, that’s he’s likable, even as his withering logic breaks Hamilton down until he agrees to the procedure. Tubby Arthur Hamilton becomes Tony Wilson, (played by Rock Hudson). He becomes an artist that lives near the beach. The only problem is, that he is still a stodgy old man, who is inflexible and out of place. Revisiting his old family, he realizes that his pursuit of his career is what ruined his life. He cannot escape himself.

He demands a new body and identity, but refuses to recommend the service to anyone else. He meets the Old Man again, who talks about the Company and how things have changed over time. The Old Man is wistful, almost reluctant about what he has to do, but he does it anyway. Tony Wilson is not co-operating. And bad things happen to people who don’t co-operate.

The Old Man is just amazing to me, because there is nothing evil or sinister about him for the majority of his performance but he is involved in the most horrible deeds imaginable. Under his watch, people deemed of no value are murdered and then used to fake the deaths of customers they find useful. At best, he perpetrates fraud at the highest level, but at no point does actor Will Geer feel the urge to twirl his moustache as a lesser actor would. The Old Man is pure evil, he just never feels like it.