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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ultimate Geek Fu: A Novel and the FOUR Movies (and various and sundry other stuff) Made From IT…

Certainly it’s not a book that’s been made into a record number of movies – that would be 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea which has been screen-played ten times between 1916 and 2002. And no, it’s not Frankenstein, that’s only been done seven times between 1910 and 2004 (the REAL story that is – I’m not counting Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) or I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (1957)).

I also recognize that my source site might be mistaken as it doesn’t list the correct number of one of my MOST favorite movies of all time: Invasion of the Body Snatchers. From Jack Finney’s (not a Nebula or Hugo winner, but not the worst book ever written, either) 1955 novel The Body Snatchers, Hollywood brought this story to the silver screen four times. In 1956, 1978, 1993 and 2007 this classic novel hit the theaters with varying responses.

Of the 1956 version: “In 1994, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"”.

The 1978 version was hideous – despite the fact that Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy starred in it. Really, really hideous and the only memorable moment is where Donald Sutherland becomes a pod person and walks and screams in a sorta-zombieoid-way. After I watched it once, I threw it away.

The production company and director chose to show the 1993 remake, titled The Body Snatchers (the same as the novel), at the Cannes Film Festival – where it was panned. It also received high praise from Roger Ebert who gave it four stars. Which just goes to show that movie reviews are simply personal opinion writ large. I didn’t like this version, either. They also didn’t mention that while it was certainly shown in the city of Cannes while the festival was taking place – it was shown practically in someone’s back yard…

The fourth version sank virtually without notice despite the star-drawing power of Nicole Kidman (whom I can only barely believe took the part of Carol Bennell) and has since become hard to find.

The only one worth remembering is the first black and white movie. Let me tell you why. It was without a doubt the most creepy film I have ever seen before or since because it made perfect use of Hitchcock’s and Romero’s penchant for understating horror so far that it becomes MORE horrible than the goriest, blood-spatteringest, slasherfest ever produced. Arguments: The Birds – a farmer with his eyes pecked out, slumped in the corner; Night of the Living Dead – the shadows at the foot of the basement stairs as the zombies attack one of the living…

In my humble opinion, it is because black-and-white film, coupled with understatement harkens back to the days of radio: it allows us to use our imaginations. While the remakes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers add blood, gore, sex and sound effects, nothing in them raises goosebumps like the sound of the fog horn/fire/earthquake/tornado/civil defense/air raid siren honking in the background as they flee the city (the scene depicted above).

While the strongest vehicle for imagination stimulation is reading a book (paper or e, I don’t care; reading is reading and requires the use of the mind to change words into pictures), if you’re going to deal with film, then black and white understatement makes for a better experience every time – it certainly did for me in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Now as Bruce says: “Let the arguments begin!”

Image: http://nighthawknews.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/invasion4.jpg

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