Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1966. Joel Productions, John Frankenheimer Productions Inc., Gibraltar Productions. Screenplay by Lewis John Carlino, based on the novel by David Ely. Cinematography by James Wong Howe. Produced by Edward Lewis. Music by Jerry Goldsmith. Production Design by Ted Haworth. Costume Design by Jack Martell, Peter V. Saldutti. Film Editing by David Newhouse, Ferris Webster. Academy Awards 1966. Cannes Film Festival 1966.
John Randolph plays a depressed businessman who has no feeling for his job as a banker and has stopped connecting with his wife (Frances Reid) in their sterile suburban home. He receives a phone call from a friend he thought was dead and finds out about a service that allows you to become a completely different person and escape your current mundane existence: after agreeing to sign up, Randolph’s death is staged by the company while he is put through extensive plastic surgery that turns him into Rock Hudson (yeah okay). He is given a new name and job and sent to live on the beach in Malibu, now a painter who gives cocktail parties and romances a neighbouring woman. The problem is that the malaise of his former life hasn’t gone away and he is dragged down by guilt and fear, unable to enjoy his second chance and wanting to tie up loose ends of the past. He requests a further reassignment but the results are not exactly as accommodating as they were the first time around (what do you expect for thirty grand, buddy?) One of the strangest and most disturbing of John Frankenheimer’s paranoid thrillers, this one shows a dimension of Hudson as a performer that makes one regret he didn’t delve into challenging material more often. His growing increasingly inebriated at his party until falling apart under the weight of his emotional crisis is expertly performed, as is his visiting his widow and forcing his sorrow to hide under a tight, polite smile. Frankenheimer emphasizes point of view shots that create a sense of uncomfortable other-worldliness that is still rooted in the film’s themes, it never feels like it’s stylish for its own sake but has probing questions to ask us about our ideas of happiness and if we truly examine the things we think would change things for the better (though honestly, if it involved being turned into Rock Hudson, I’d give it a shot).