Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956 & Philip Kaufman, 1978)

A Comparison:

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)

vs….

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978 )

For years now, I’ve pretty much blindly stuck to the law-like rule that originals have to be better than remakes, and that remakes are bad. Boy, did these two set me on a different path. Don Siegel’s original “classic” anti-communist or anti-mccarthyist or anti-whatever you wanna make of it, the way i see it by today’s standards, was simply terrible. Bland, badly acted, and just about the worst and most thankless script i’ve seen from any movie in any time period in a long time (to paraphrase: “hey, lovely day we’re having!” “but my loved one is acting strange! I don’t think it’s really him!” “Why, he must be an alien pod-person!” “We have to warn people without falling asleep!” “Oh no, you fell asleep and became a pod person in the span of about half a second! Woe is me!” “YOU’RE NEXT! YOU’RE NEXT!”) And of course the tacked-on happyish ending that you just know 50s-era producers felt compelled to put in there. It’s a cool concept that fit that time period, but it couldn’tve been executed any worse by writers, actors, and all involved. A cheesy, completely uninvolving mess that makes a hammy mockery of an idea (body and soul-stealing) that should otherwise be terrifying.

Kaufman’s remake has the same basic story, characters, and events, just 20 years later, and presents it all in a way that Siegel didn’t: visually. Clearly the movie’s over-stylized, sometimes being too distracting and drawing too much attention to itself (with everything from the funny angles, sounds, editing and imagery, right down to that inexplicable walk-on cameo by Robert Duvall), but one thing’s for sure: that style’s unique, and I don’t care how contrived it can get, it makes the same material as the original a hell of a lot more interesting to take in. When it’s not distracting and actually fits, Kaufman’s style makes the story into what it should be: absolutely terrifying to even think about, let alone see. The sight of sleeping humans giving way to disgusting pod creatures slowly transforming into imitations, while a little dated by today’s standards, won’t leave my mind for some time, i think. A strange, strange movie this was: some of it a good strange, some of it bad, but definitely worth seeing, at least as a lesson into how similar material can be presented so differently in just a span of about 20 years.

Original: 5.5/10
Remake: 8/10

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