Thursday, August 16, 2007

KBT Presents: INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)


With the much delayed 2007 version of Invasion of The Body Snatchers on its way to the cinema this weekend, I thought it might be the right time to do a little 3 part series here at KBT. (What can I say, I'm in an urban apocalypse state of mind at the moment.) It has been 51 years since the release of Don Siegel's film version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers which was itself and adaptation of the 1955 magazine serial novel from Jack Finney. When that original film version came out, the number of spins and theories on what people being replaced with emotionless pods could mean were wide and varied. This may have been the earliest indication that a something universal was buried in this particular story. Since then there have been 3 'official' remakes. The first was in 1978 by Philip Kaufman, another by Abel Ferrara in 1993 (with the truncated title of Body Snatchers) and recently one by Oliver Hirschbiegel titled (and equally truncated) The Invasion. The recent version was to have come out in 2006 but due to the studio pod--er--executives thinking that Hirschbiegel's version didn't have enough action sequences in it, other writers and directors were brought in to redo half the movie. An easy joke or truly meta-style film-making? ("They're here already! You're next! You're next, You're next... ")

The reason why remaking this film every 15 years or so is interesting is that the subtext of the 'fear' changes to reflect something gnawing away at America at that moment. Many point out that the Red-Scare is the buried metaphor for the 1956 version; that deterioration of social fabric and conspiracy theories (a la Watergate) is contained in the 1978 version; The destruction of the nuclear family is dealt with in the 1993 version and apparently, the recent version focus on disease pandemics and religious cults. The fact that the story is that malleable is what makes the science fiction and horror genres (or in this case, the fusion of the two) so great. A case could be made that the entire Zombie subgenre of horror (a personal favorite of mine) starting from George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, which came out 12 years after the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers and going right up to this years 28 Weeks Later. (People are with you one moment and after you the next, told to the tune of modern day anxiety.)

Many folks in my generation hold the 1978 version dear to their hearts (or is that fear to their hearts?) mainly because it was a late night TV staple all through the 1980s although partly because it is openly terrifying at times. The 1956 version, for all its influence, has actually been somewhat difficult to find and even now is surprisingly, somewhat of a chore to find on DVD. This is a shame (I may be showing a VHS copy next week: Oi! The nostalgia!). Since the powers that be have released the 1978 version in a nice remastered package, this will be the first to screen.

There are so many great visuals (and sound cues) in the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. My favorite is that Donald Sutherland's character drives around in a car with half the windshield glass smashed in a spiderweb of stress lines so dense that it is actually quite difficult to see properly what lies ahead. At a certain point he sees a character from the original version of the film run down in the street and mobbed by the poddies. How perfect is that?

4 Comments:

Blogger Drewbacca said...

Well I for one am pretty excited about this newest adaptation of the story with Kidman.

The scenes themselves, although intense, are not particularly scary. For me, it's the entire idea that is what makes this s compelling and mkes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on emd. Much like the Zombie genre, as you mentioned - although the hoarse scream the pod people in the 70s version emit is pretty frakkin' hair-raising.

It is fitting that I'm waiting to see this with my mom. The woman who let me stay up late one night when I was a kid to watch the Sutherland version on ABC, which subsequently didn't allow me to sleep comfortably for about 2 weeks.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Kurt Halfyard said...

And that, sir, is probably what made you a horror fan to this day...correct?

Certainly back in 1980 or so when I was a wee lad, Jaws had the same effect on me. Now I keep watching the damn things....

Fun.

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Jay C. said...

I just watched this film for the first time last weekend. I really enjoyed it, and I also thought the use of sound was amazing. There were so many noises that played over scenes that, at first, had you saying "What is that??". Then it's revealed that a screeching, high pitched alien sound is actually a squeaky swing set. A great way to enforce the idea of things not being what they seem.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Kurt Halfyard said...

Speaking of Swing-Sets. There is a mundane/creepy throwaway shot of Robert Duvall as a priest in the film just swinging and staring in that Pod sort of way, it happens really early on in the film too. Details like that make a movie really interesting, not to mention the great little Kevin McCarthy Cameo in the film which is a recreation of one of the great shots from the 1956 original, yet gorier and more non-sequitor/intense than the original...

I like the 1978 version the best if you can't already tell.

11:16 AM  

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