Saturday, March 21, 2009

Day Fifty-Eight: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - Rank 5/5


For anyone who knows me well, it's no surprise that I'm not a fan of remakes. Rehashing the same plot over and over diminish the imagination and originality that can be present in many good films. Not only that, but many studios remake a film that had a director whose style is distinctive (Hitchcock, for instance. "Disturbia" I can kind of see the logic behind, but Gus Van Sant's "Psycho?" Come on, now. And don't even get me started on Michael Bay's "The Birds" remake). Still, there are a few remakes that are comparable with or enjoyable as the original - typically horror films. I suppose that with other genres, such as drama, they're tougher to remake since they're more performance driven. Horror films are often story, or in lesser cases, scare, driven. That, and horror films are often cheaper, so two qualities that tantalize the slothful and overly cautious studio execs, who would rather add another entry into a worn franchise than risk financial loss with something original.

The premise of the 1978 film is the same as that of its 1956 predecessor: people are slowly being replaced by emotionless clones while they sleep by giant, pod-bearing plants. Both films thrive on paranoia rather that "shock scares," though the 1978 version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" takes the disturbing nature of a plant that can bear forth your doppelganger to a new level with awesome and unsettling special effects. Horror films of the 1980's are often times characterised by amazing and amazingly visceral, practical creature effects. In fact, on the topic of acceptable remakes, three other shining examples of both fun scripts as well as great effects would be John Carpenter's "The Thing," David Cronenberg's "The Fly" and whoever directed "The Blob" remake's "The Blob."

The film boasts a great scene where Sutherland dozes off out on his penthouse terrace and four pods begin to bloom and produce the duplicates of the film's other three stars, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright and Brooke Adams (aka: Poor Man's Jessica Harper). The scene lasts almost five minutes as a tremendous, flesh-colored flower regurgitates forth a placental mass that pulsates and oozes as the raw mass of tissue begins to take shape. Great stuff. The film has been remades twice since with the 1993 "Body Snatchers" and 2007 Nicole Kidman film "The Invasion." I can only assume that they'd be intolerable for the simple fact that they lack cameos by Kevin McCarthy (for if there's anything that "UHF" and "Matinee" have proven, it's that cameo roles by the zealous character actor are the earmarks of a great film). Though I'm sure my students would be fine with such films, for they've often voiced that anything in black and white should be remade because: "Why should you watch black and white when you can watch stuff in color?" I weep for our nations future.

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