The thing about the ’56 movie “Invasion of The Body Snatchers” is that they added the voice-over and the bookend scenes because initially it frightened test audiences too much. They were too scared! Now that movie is gone forever. I would like to see a movie deemed too scary. Not too gory, not too shocking, not too deviant or sick or perverse, but too scary. A movie the very idea of which is so distressing you are unable to sleep or even to think, so sprung is your head. The ’78 remake of “Invasion of The Body Snatchers” doesn’t live up to the original, but it isn’t bad. It’s set in San Francisco and stars among others Donald Sutherland, who kind of already looks like a pod-person, and Jeff Goldblum (more on him below). A third remake came out in the ‘90s and is not worth remembering. Neither of these remakes is remotely as scary as the original, even with the voice-over and bookends.
The thing about John Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing” in ’82 is that they don’t make gory movies like that anymore. The gory movies of today aren’t creative the way “The Thing” is creative. Finding new ways to hack people up isn’t especially novel, no matter your method of hacking. Heads stretching off of necks, pulling themselves across a bloody floor with their tongues before sprouting insectoid legs and eye stalks is creative. Harlan Ellison wrote disparagingly of this remake when it opened. He preferred Howard Hawkes’ ’51 original “The Thing From Another World.” Perhaps he liked the snappy dialogue, e.g. “An intellectual carrot. The mind boggles!” More likely he was young when he saw it. We all love most the movies we saw as kids. The scene where the scientists dig out the mysterious object in the ice must have been especially creepy to a kid in the ‘50s. The scientists all back away from digging to find themselves standing in a giant circle on the ice. It must be a buried flying saucer! Who would have guessed?! Or so a young Ellison must have thought. Today we’re a little ahead of the game in terms of suspecting all mysteries to be the result of interfering space aliens. I like Carpenter’s remake better.
The thing about the ’58 movie “The Fly” is that it’s terribly silly, featuring as it does a scientist with a giant fly head, and later, trapped in a spider’s web, a fly with the head of a man famously squeaking, “Help me!” David Cronenberg’s remake didn’t seem at all silly when it came out in ’86. It seems somewhat sillier now because it stars Jeff Goldblum, who you have to admit has a unique sort of silliness about everything he does. The sequel to the remake of “The Fly” isn’t even worth discussing. The sequel to the original movie, called “Return of The Fly,” is perhaps even more entertaining (i.e. sillier) than the original. The deceased scientist’s adult son is turned into a fly and I think someone else is fused with a rabbit. The device in these original movies is called a “transporter” and not a “teleporter,” which word had yet to come into vogue. The third movie in the series is called “Curse of The Fly.” They knew how to name sequels in those days.