Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

listen to the podcast

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956): Written by: Jack Finney (Collier's Magazine serial), Daniel Mainwaring (screenplay), Richard Collins (uncredited) Directed by: Don Siegel Budget: $417 000 (estimated) Gross: ?

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978): Written by: Jack Finney (novel), W.D. Richter (screenplay) Directed by: Philip Kaufman Budget: $3 500 000 (estimated) Gross: $24 946 533

Body Snatchers (1993): Written by: Jack Finney (novel), Raymond Cistheri & Larry Cohen (screen story), Stuart Gordon & Dennis Paoli & Nicholas St. John (screenplay) Directed by: Abel Ferrera Budget: ? Gross: $428 868

The Invasion (2007): Written by: Jack Finney (novel), Dave Kajganich (screenplay) Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel & James McTeigue (additional director, uncrddited) Budget: $80 000 000 (estimated) Gross: $14 104 358 (as of September 2nd 2007)

alien pods and people replaced by emotionless clones while they sleep.  sounds like a good premise for a science fiction movie don't it.  well, actually it is the premise to four science fiction movies made over the last 50 years: starting with the original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers movie back in 1956 and ending, most recently, with the just recently released mediocre, The Invasion.  let us take a walk through them all shall we....

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956): i had seen this film many years ago, but only had a vague recollection of it when i sat down to watch it again recently.  i have to say that i didn't like it as much this time around as i remember liking it the first time i saw it.  it is still however, a classic sci-fi film and one that fans of the genre should definitely see.  don siegle, who went on to direct more classics, does a good job at building the tension and suspense as the pods and clones are revealed.  my problem with the film was with the voice-over.  now, personally i don't usually have a problem with voice-overs (although i know many critics look at v.o. as a poor screen writing tool, i am not one of them).  however, in this case it is a little much.  too much of the v.o. goes to telling us stuff rather then the film showing it to us - it is used to generally to fill in plot and logic holes.

continuing with that though, i had remembered a different ending to the film when i saw it years back.  the famous scene where dr. miles bennell is running through the traffic on the highway screaming at the cars about the danger of the pods and the clones is how i remembered the film ending.  however, this time around the film begins and ends with the good doctor being questioned by a phschyatrist who obviously doesn't believe what he is telling them - until they get the phone call.  it turns out that this coda  and the flashback nature of the film with the v.o. was added in afterwards by the studio who didn't think the original version was audience friendly enough.

a lot has also been made about the film as a political allegory to the mccarthy era and fear of communism that was so prevalent in the 1950s.  while the books author, jack finney, has said that he had none of that in mind when he wrote the story, the comparison is hard to miss.  the talk of the emotionless clones taking over and forcing conformity on people for their own good speaks loudly to the fears of the era.

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978): i have to say right up front that this was my favorite of the four films.  it combines the good parts of the first and fourth (what little good there was) and makes for a surprisingly good film (as you will read in a minute, the third film has no good).

this one is the most direct remake of the original (as you could probably tell by the fact that it is the only one with the same full name title as well) and it shows.  while the main character, played by the great donald sutherland, is a health inspector instead of a doctor, much of the film does play out in a similar way to the original.

i mentioned the similarities between the first and fourth films and by that i mean:  the fourth film works well for the first part of the movie, while the 'disease' is spreading and the tension is building, but then it just turns into a silly chase movie with no depth that tries to act like it has lots of depth.  this one, however, builds that tension and develops its characters but actually sustains itself throughout the rest of the film like the first/original one does.

however, unlike the original the political overtones are not as obvious or pronounced.  i tried to think about what was going on in america in 1978.  it was only 3 years since the war in vietnam had ended and then there had been the watergate affair, and don't forget disco.  so there was a political culture of distrust of leaders and those meant to protect us, but i just didn't feel like the film was talking to that as directly as the original was referencing its political time.  in the original there are many mentions of the new zombies all being alike and following each other without individual thoughts and beliefs (the red fear is hard to miss). 

in this remake there are no such comments except for one moment when a group of 'changed' people are ganging up on sutherland and his female costar, brooke adams.  at this point they say something to the effect of how things will be better when everyone has changed, but thats about it.  instead this version talks more about the 'alien' aspect of the situation. in fact, the beginning of the film starts off with the alien microorganisms traveling through space, landing on earth and developing into the flowers and buds.

Body Snatchers (1993):  wow, this was bad.  i was sure going into watching the three older ones, and having just seen The Invasion, that there was no way any of them would be worse then that one.  I was wrong.  abel ferrera, who has made some good films in his day (Mrs. 45, Bad Lieutenant) really gave us a stinker with Body Snatchers.  not that it is all his fault though, given the poor script he was working with.  this thing was laughable.  not only was the whole alien pod/sci-fi part of the film really superficial and barely explained or even that interesting, but the other part of the film had this bad john hughes teen angst/love story thing going on.

The Invasion (2007):  i've made reference to the poor quality of this version while talking about the others, so it is no surprise that i did not like this movie.  while it started off with potential the majority of the film is just one big chase - and a very predictable one at that. also, unlike the good 1978 remake, this version acts like it has some big message about humanity and the way that human kind is destroying itself with hate and violence.  sure, there is definitely some truth to that, but when comments and intonations of that nature are made during this film, rather then coming across with some depth of purpose they just feel superficial, cheesy and, in the end, help to illuminate the films faults.

i think there was a good film in there that just never found its way to the screen.  whether that was director, oliver hirschbiegels fault or the studio fucked with it afterwards i don't know.  however, according to imdb, the movie was made during september-december of 2005 then they did some more filming in january 2007 (sounds like desperate reshoots to me, but again, i don't know if that was the studios doing based on preview audiences or if hirschbiegel felt it needed something that wasn't there).  whatever the reason, it was not a good movie and we will have to wait for the dvd, and the special directors cut, to see if there was a good movie there somewhere.