For my next selection of films for this Halloween season, I decided to do another foray of “old versus new” with yet another classic film I somehow never got around to seeing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Wednesday Halloween Double Feature - Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956The original 1956 version of Invasion of The Bodysnatchers, directed by Don Siegal tells the story of the small town of Santa Mira California. Where local doctor Miles Bennell (played Kevin McCarthy) starts having multiple patients claiming that their parents, friends, and spouses aren’t who they say they are. While it is tempting to claim the whole thing is mass hysteria everything changes when a friend finds a half-finished duplicate in his greenhouse. It is now apparent that they are being invaded by strange pod-like plants that duplicate and replace their victims. But now that they now this who can they trust and who is going to be replaced next?

Back in its day, the original version of Bodysnatchers as a metaphor for the red scare that ran rampant in the fifties. Siegal does a great job with cranking up the feeling of paranoia and dread, in a setting where you can’t tell the difference between a well-meaning person who can’t help you and an alien who’s stonewalling you. I was impressed by how well it creeped me out with hardly any special effects at all.

It’s not completely perfect though, the happy ending that’s part of the framing device is painfully tacked on (fortunately easy to crop) and I kept wondering how much creepier it would be without the soundtrack.

Wednesday Halloween Double Feature - Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978I’d been hearing about The 1978 Philip Kaufman version of Bodysnatchers as one of the great remakes ever so I was very much looking forward to seeing how it would go.

I find that the best remakes don’t try to completely remake the original but try to serve as a cultural translation for the previous films. This is very much how the 78 version feels. The small quiet San Mira is replaced by the Large and bustling San Francisco. The metaphor of the red scare is replaced by the me generation of the seventies.

It also does a better job showing the difference between people and duplicates. In the first film, for all of the talk about the pods being unemotional, this isn’t completely obvious with the straight-laced fifties demeanor. Here the way a character changes literally overnight is disturbingly obvious.

It also takes time showing the process of replacement with the pod people with some very impressive pre CGI effects, though personally I found most of them very gratuitous and for the most part unnecessarily.

Ultimately I found this to be an impressive and creepy film with an impressive ensemble cast including Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy.