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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, 1978, 1993, 2006) [original and remakes]

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Old Feb 24, 2003, 05:40 PM   #1
blue
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Political Message Of The Original

I read some time ago a magazine article that suggested that the original film was meant to be a protest about McCarthyism. This seemed to me a pretty weak argument, in my opinion, since if anything it would seem to be a warning about Communists taking over America.

Most people who I've spoken to about this seem to agree that the new "anti-McCarthy" interpretation is probably just giving a classic film a trendy political vision.

I wonder what other people here think about this.
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Old Feb 25, 2003, 05:22 AM   #2
Tabitha
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Re: Political Message Of The Original

I think you'll find that it has been a long-standing conception of this film that it was a product of its anti-communist and witch-hunting times, a critique of a society that is both fearing the invasion of a communist alternative, and encouraged to report even the most innocuously irregulr behaviour to the authorities, in case those accused might be communist spies.

I actually did my dissertation on this topic, the influence of the Cold War and anti-communist activism on American cinema, and it became pretty clear from all the reading I did that almost all of the science fiction movies in this era could be drawn back to Cold War anxiety, with alien cultures depicted as fantastic versions of communist societies, without individualism or diversity - long celebrated as American ideals.

I believe that you could have a point - we do like to put our pasts in neat little boxes that can be explained away in one sentence or two - but I think there is more to the themes in 50s and 60s cinema that mere coincidences with political events could explain.

If you fancy doing some further reading on 50s cinema I can highly recommend "Seeing is Believing: How Hollywood taught us to stop worrying and love the 50s" by Peter Biskind.


edit: I just found the folliowing quote from director of IotBS, Don Siegel www.imdb.com -

"Most of my pictures, I'm sorry to say, are about nothing. Because I'm a whore. I work for money. It's the American way."

:lol: I give up then - you're right!
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Old Feb 25, 2003, 01:29 PM   #3
blue
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Re: Political Message Of The Original

Thanks for your well thought reply. If I can get hold of the book I'll certainly read it. I have to confess that my knowledge of US politics is pretty patchy, so I'm not sure how much I'll take in, but I'll give it a go.
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Old Feb 25, 2003, 06:59 PM   #4
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Re: Political Message Of The Original

Actually, the Biskind book is very accessible, and doesn't really require any deep knowledge of american cinema or politics. It is a good read, and I would recommend it to anyone who is even vaguely interested in how these topics intersect.
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Old Mar 5, 2003, 02:17 PM   #5
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Re: Political Message Of The Original

The original Bodysnatchers book - the one the movie in question is based on - is actually about a bunch of aliens replacing people. No, really. The author (Jack Finney?) didn't mean it as a political message or allegory or anything. It was just a story.

I read this in Stephen King's study of horror, Danse Macabre, if you're interested - bloody good referance book.
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Old Mar 5, 2003, 09:27 PM   #6
Tabitha
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Re: Political Message Of The Original

Quote:
Originally posted by Splendiferous
The original Bodysnatchers book - the one the movie in question is based on - is actually about a bunch of aliens replacing people. No, really. The author (Jack Finney?) didn't mean it as a political message or allegory or anything. It was just a story.
Jack Finney indeed. I read the book a few months back, and found it very enjoyable, even though it had a bit of a ridiculous ending.

The thing I always wonder in these situations is whether art can have a message even when the artist didn't intend to send one?

I mean, think about modern art, you know, those big slabs of blue paint or whatever, people must take something away from that kind of art, but how could you be sure that the artists message is actually being understood?

I also think that subliminally, an artist, writer, film-maker, might produce a commentary on his or her times without intending to *shrugs*
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Old Jan 1, 2004, 12:22 AM   #7
jill_valentine
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Re: Political Message Of The Original

I love Danse Macabre. Im so nerdy I actually have two copies: one to read, another to make notes in and highlight. It introduced me to two of my favourite books, The Haunting and I am Legend...

Anyway, as much as I like to think its just a bloody good story, I cant deny that there does seem to be distinctly political flavours to it. I dont know if it was the message, intentional or not, but its certainly there. The problem arises when you try and pin it down: is it a warning about communist infiltrators or the panic surrounding them? Its hard for me to see it as the former because Im so far removed from McCarthy era America that I dont like to think about movie makers being so paranoid. The wierd thing is how relevant the second interpretation is to us again. Once again the US is so afraid of attacking inflitrators that it has its own citizens suspecting each other to the point of hostile paranoia, even if they dont yet rat each other out by making high pitched shrieks....If you look at it as a cautionary tale about patriotic brainwashing, as seductive as that is to me, its still kind of half assed, and pretty fecking depressing too.

So after all that ranting, I think I have to say that in the end, its just a rather excellent sci fi tale that draws on that paranoia, and might not have really existed without it, but doesnt really say which side its on. I guess thats up to us, depending on how, when and where we watch it.
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