Two Seconds

The Production Code warned that executions on film must be “treated within the careful limits of good taste,” yet the entire plot of Two Seconds takes place with Edward G. Robinson in the electric chair, reliving his hardly tasteful trajectory from construction worker to convicted murderer in the two seconds it takes him to die. “Certainly—both stylistically and thematically—a film noir long before that term was coined, and quite coincidentally a kind of foreshadowing of Robinson's later Scarlet Street....The ghoulish matter-of-factness of the warden, the zippy thirties dialogue and wisecracks (not too many of them, but they provide welcome relief), the nostalgic musical themes, and the overall surface power grab hold of one....Robinson himself becomes almost a parody of his screen image in his big, semi-mad scene, where he gestures, puffs at cigarettes, stares bug-eyed at the camera...and generally behaves for all the world like a Robinson imitator” (William K. Everson).

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