I’m starting this column approximately 20,000 hours since the polls closed. It’s been insane to say the least. Seemed like a good time to revisit an old favorite–INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978).
This was not the first time Jack Finney’s novel had been adapted for the screen. The original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) is considered a classic in its own right. It was remade again in 1993 as BODY SNATCHERS by Abel Ferrara. I love that version, but more for style than anything. Most recently it was filmed as THE INVASION (2007) starring Nicole Kidman. That I consider as successful as her STEPFORD WIVES (2004) remake…which is to say I try not to consider it at all. But the 1978 version directed by Philip Kaufman is one of the few times I’ll say a remake is better than the original.
The story for all of these is very simple, and ingrained in our culture. People start changing overnight. While they may look exactly the same on the outside, something happens to their personalities. They become cold and emotionless. Since physically they’re fine, no one believes the people who try and say “This is not my wife! This is not my parents!” Can they discover who or what is changing their loved ones and stop it before it’s too late?
What sets this version apart is its realism. The original was well done but as melodramatic as science fiction movies from the 1950s were expected to be. The 90s version was like most Ferrara movies–a stylized mediation on what constitutes good and evil. The Kidman one was just…bad. But in this version, Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, and Veronica Cartwright lead a cast of desperate San Francisco residents who are one small step behind the audience in trying to figure out what’s happening to their city. Leonard Nimoy gives the performance of a lifetime (yes, better than Spock) as a trendy psychiatrist who might be part of the problem or might just be an annoying hipster.
Yes, this movie is a little sad and bleak. But like sitting and listening to the blues, sometimes it helps to remind you you’re not alone in feeling what you do.
Question of the night–is there any pop culture from the 1970s that you miss?