Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More 50s sci-fi

I'm a big fan of the 1950s sci-fi movies. A lot of them are pretty bad, but some are underrated, getting a bad rap mostly because they had very low budgets, leading to lesser productoin values. However, as I've mentioned before, I personally find it just as important to have a good story as it is to have realistic production values. Otherwise, all you get is an effects movie: lots of pretty explosions and other special effects, but no real story.

At any rate, TCM are airing a night of 1950s sci-fi movies tonight, including one of the very best: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, at 9:30 PM ET. Kevin McCarthy stars as a doctor who's just returned home to his small, peaceful California town from a medical convention, only to discover that something isn't quite right. It seems that some patients are very agitated, and then just as suddenly, the next day, they're calm and at piece with themselves. Soon, the good doctor figures out just what's causing these people to change: apparently, space aliens have infiltrated his town, and are planting pods in people's houses that hatch while the people are asleep, and assume the identity of the people, only rather more calm and conformist. Now, if people want to change their personalities, that's one thing. But the pod aliens have decided they're going to take over Earth, and that we poor humans don't have a choice as to whether or not we want these glorious new personalities. It's up to the doctor to warn everybody of what's going on....

Despite the minuscule amount of special effects (it's the pods, and that's about it), Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one creepy movie. Just imagine that there are people out there who want to take your identity away from you, and that they could do it while you're sleeping. Worse than that, you have no real way of telling which of your neighbors are normal human beings, and which have already been turned into the dreaded pod people. Of course, if you were to tell the authorities of such a plot, they'd never believe you. In addition, the story is advanced very effectively, notably in one Saturday morning scene when the organizers of the pod people gather their fellow pod people, and distribute new pods with which the townsfolk are going to go to neighboring towns and convert their friends and relatives. It's even worse than your favorite Jim Jones-like cult.

Needless to say, Invasion of the Body Snatchers quickly gained a cult following, enough to get remade in the 1970s, and again a few years back. The original is the best, though, and is fortunately available on DVD.

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