A Quartet of Body Snatchers

Jack Finney Invasion of the Body SnatchersInvasion of the Body Snatchers… is it an institution at this point, destined to be remade, its context & allegory respun, till the end of time? I just finished a private Body Snatcher’s film festival–my living room is a great place to serve drinks to myself.

I may have some perhaps unoriginal thoughts about them, but no one I know thinks Sutherland & Nimoy were in an LGBT film.

1956

mccarthy 1956

The brilliant…

The original version, seen in my early 20s, was one of the films to help me appreciate black & white. Ah, nostalgia. Despite creator resistance to the idea (Siegel et al merely sought to entertain), its reputation is as an anti-communist piece, & I agree. Lo-fi sci-fi at its best.

1978

cartwright 1978

…the exceedingly brilliant…

A lot of people love this remake. I tried to watch it on TV many times (remember regular cable?), but it’s deliberate pace is unwatchable with commercial breaks. On DVD, I agree with those who consider it a classic.

That said, I can’t help but view Veronica Cartwright’s anti-pollution/processed food rant as shoehorned in. I don’t know whether it’s the dialogue or the melodrama, but it doesn’t fit the rest of the film. Was it a heavy-handed effort to live up to the 1956 version’s reputation by giving it a ‘message’? If so, it’s the wrong one.

This remake is a gay film. Cartwright’s character:

I’ve been wandering among them for hours. They can be fooled… Hide your feelings.

In other words: hide in plain sight. Conform; never give a hint of your true self, or risk being outed. And that’s exactly the fate Cartwright’s character suffers when she trusts blindly.

1993

whitaker 1993

…the lame…

Not terrible, which is about the worst thing you can say about a film; Wayne Campbell would give Body Snatchers two stars (I’m sorry I can’t find a clip of Myers explaining the starred movie review system).

Shot with an aspect ratio that made someone so unhappy that they ordered the top & bottom of the picture removed (its wide panoramas sport chronically lopped-off heads, & a sense of claustrophobia that doesn’t serve the experience), it’s almost redeemed by a wonderfully creepy turn by Meg Tilly. But then there’s the desperation of stunt-casting Tilly’s sister Jennifer as her body double (the movie needs all the help it can get), & the ‘rightful’ murder–by the hero–of a 5-yo boy.

As with the 1978 version, this movie is mischaracterised – this is not an anti-military or anti-conformity film. I mean, it tries to be that, but it isn’t. It’s actually about the dissolution of the family unit; the first pod-turnee was the step-mom, & our teen hero was eventually betrayed by every member of her family (in addition to being rebellious, carousing & misunderstood).

Its tragic flaw is the ending. As in the 1956 version, we nipped the pods’ spread in the bud (no pun intended, & this time with huge explosions). “Whew,” right? Nope. They gave the pod people what-for, the narration & visuals imply having done so with fear-inspired righteous fury, yet the film concludes with Meg Tilly’s pitch-shifted voice warning that there was nowhere to hide, that no humans were left. Make up your mind much?

Ugh. It could have been so much better.

2007

kidman 2007

…and the tragic.

Post-modernism is in full force here, leveraging the fear of vaccines (sigh), America-centric government cover-ups (grr), & the use of a psychiatrist as the lead (Nicole Kidman), rather than a tool for exposition. The Invasion is the first ‘snatchers’ remake to use person-versus-themself as the major conflict.

It’s an exciting & engaging watch, but flawed. The initial spread of the alien spores was given too little attention in its rush to follow the psychiatrist’s personal story. Her estranged husband’s infection–when he clearly knew better–was idiotic, as was the idea that a little boy, from an awkward angle, could give an adrenaline shot to the heart.

I know, I know – it’s fiction. But that’s no excuse for the ridiculousness of developing a cure for an indestructible alien infection–inside a year, no less–when native ailments like AIDS have kicked our collective ass for decades.

Film aside, there was a time when Kidman was great. When will actors learn that a lack of facial mobility hinders their art? Besides, you’ve earned the lines on your face. They become you. Let them work for you.

I think it’s time to hit the library & read Jack Finney’s book.

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