AUGUST 26, 2007
Tonight, at the last minute, I found out about a great double feature, John Carpenter’s The Thing and Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. They were showing at the New Beverly Cinema, aka the best revival theater in LA. It’s a great idea for a double feature: both were superb (and in Carpenter’s case, superior) versions of 1950s films, and deal with paranoia, isolation, etc. while delivering the suspense and scares one would want from a movie about alien takeovers.
The Thing of course I have seen several times, so it’s ineligible for a Horror Movie A Day review. Suffice to say I think it’s a masterpiece, one of only three in Carpenter’s career (the others are Assault on Precinct 13 and of course, Halloween). The cast is perfect, the makeup is phenomenal, and I still jump at the blood test every goddamn time.
But the ‘78 Body Snatchers was new to me, in fact it was the only one of the four “legitimate” versions of Finney’s novel I had never seen. And like the original and 1993 ones, I dug it a lot. The sound design alone makes the film worth seeing, as it is eerily quiet at times, and unnervingly loud at others. There’s a scene early on, before anything has even happened, with a random Robert Duvall as a priest on a swing, that is more terrifying than anything in the new version with Nicole Kidman. And he’s just swinging! The makeup effects, sparingly used, are also fantastic.
Why aren’t more horror/thriller movies filmed in San Francisco? It’s got such a distinct look, and when used right (The Game comes to mind) it really does become a character in itself.
The great thing about all versions of the film (even the new one) is how it was able to tell the exact same story and yet totally reflect the fears of the respective era: Communism in the 50s, post-Vietnam lack of faith in the government/cover ups in the 70s, pro-war/military might in the 90s, and self medication/global war in the 00s. The 80s were pretty much covered by They Live.
Jeff Goldblum made one of his earliest appearances in this one, and he’s already got his trademark oddness down to a science. But, and I don’t know if it’s intentional, for some reason Leonard Nimoy seems just as cold and alien-like when he’s human as he does when he’s taken over. The Kevin McCarthy cameo is great, and while it’s a bit of a wink at the audience, it’s far more effective than Veronica Cartwright’s likewise appearance in the 2007 one.
Also the film offers a nude Brooke Adams back when that wasn’t a horrible thing to imagine.
There’s a new 2 disc DVD of this one, I can’t see why you shouldn’t own it if you’re a fan. Since it’s such a sparse, somewhat intimate version for the most part, I think it would play even better at home.
What say you?