The alien threat that started a sci-fi movement…
‘The Body Snatchers’ has stood the test of time, from being written in 1955, it still managed to draw me in with its creepiness. And as evident, has inspired many screen adaptations, tapping into the audiences paranoia and wonder at the unknown.
Given the different era where the novel takes place, I found I was noticing how many of the characters smoke, and how our protagonist, Miles Bennell was the hero for the love interest Becky Driscoll. While Becky did have moments of her own heroism, she was still, at most times a silent companion and willingly followed Miles’ instructions. Much of that machismo is slowly deconstructed through its various incarnations, with a female lead in over half of the adaptations.
I loved the scientific explanations and long expository paragraphs of the state of affairs in the original manuscript – they reminded me of recordings of radio broadcasts of the 1950’s I listened to as a child in my grandparents lounge room. I could hear the accents and intonation where they sounded ‘proper’ and knowledgeable. It added an old-timey ambience to the story. A respectful gentleness that is absent from much of today’s new fiction. This esteem of knowing gets lost in many of the screen adaptations, apart from the earliest version. The later versions become more sensationalised and heavy on special effects, losing some of the core tension of the original story. Though the latest Nicole Kidman version does try to make a return. Labels as a bit of a box office flop, it was one of my favourite released of that year.
There is a strong sense of the paranoia of the time (in the 1950’s) of the novel, when the country was at war against communism, ‘The Body Snatches,’ taps into that fear to build a scenario where the people you know and love are not what they seem, where your home has suddenly found itself in the grips of an invasion. I’m greatful to say that this theme carries through all incarnations, whether it be sci-fi, horror, or suspense.
While this novel isn’t particularly scary, or alarming, it does possess an aura of the unsettling. An unassuming tension which resonates with the reader long after the book has been returned to the shelf. And I really wish that embodiment had translated to the screen – I think the closest it came was with the tv series ‘Invasion’ starring Eddie Cibrian. I’d discovered this series after it had been cancelled and loved their take on the franchise. Sad to have it canned after just one season.
I have seen all the movie and television adaptations, being the big sci-fi geek girl I am. ‘The Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ is one of my cult faves. I can’t believe it has taken me so long to read the original script that kicked off this movement. I guess I was scared I’d be underwhelmed. But thankfully not. I really enjoyed this origin that has spurned so many re-inventions. Though, I must say none of those actually mirrored the story completely, and all had different twists and endings. So, while you will already know the premise of the story, there is still an element of surprise with this debut.
For lovers of the classics, old fashioned values, cult followers, and anyone in between, I highly recommend you give the novel a go. Just to see what happens. It has stood the test of time for a reason. Some of the screen adaptations – well, let’s just say they tried. And for the time in which they were released, pretty good. But now I have to try and stop laughing in some, as the over acting and special effects just about do me in. But it’s all in good fun!
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