October 10th, 2007


Your Pods May Vary

An exchange I had with eeknight recently about a London Times article made me realize that The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney is one of those universal us-them stories.

There are four well-known film version of this book. That's four different interpretations, four different generations applying their perspective to a book originally written in the 1950s, when Joe McCarthy's communist witch hunts dominated a segment of the American political conscience.

I've seen three of the four: the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers with the great Kevin McCarthy; the 1978 remake, set in San Francisco and boasting a cast that included Donald Sutherland in the lead, with Leonard Nimoy in one of his most memorable (and convincingly creepy) non-Star Trek roles; the one from 1993, titled as Body Snatchers and starring Gabrielle Anwar as a teen transplanted to an Alabama military base; and the most recent remake, The Invasion, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. The latter is the one I've yet to see. I may check it out tomorrow (if it's still in theaters) as I've the day off, but even if I do enjoy the 90 or so minutes I'll spend in the theater it's still the Sutherland version that is my "body snatchers" story.

Each film version (so far) is valid in its own right.

The first, the one with the actor McCarthy, is a cautionary tale. "Guard against the other" is its warning, and it fits the time in which is premiered. I'd say it ends with a note of paranoia, apropos for a world where it seemed certain the Cold War would end with the world destroyed. The second offers the classic final image of Donald Sutherland, his mouth gaping wide in a pod scream. It denies hope, denies life, and I think I find it the most agreeable because the characters face impossible odds and still struggle to succeed. Failure doesn't matter; all life ends in death. Hope lies in the struggle. The third depicts Anwar moving from childhood and innocence to to adulthood and sexual maturity. It is a "body snatcher" for Gen X, a lost generation.

Different messages, different times. And I wonder if it's possible that the Kidman-Craig vehicle will bring the story full circle, back to where we're supposed to guard against the "other" in today's world? I know what I prefer: the struggle, against overwhelming odds.