Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Why I Prefer Body Snatchers to Peaceniks

I'm one of those people who prefer books to films; who cannot sit through a Spider Man film; and who tends to buy the films I enjoy so I can watch them over and over again.

I have a weakness for 1930's and 1940's film noir and 1950's Science Fiction. So it was with some giddy anticipation that I purchased the classic sci-fi film THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, which I had never seen.

There are many things to like about this film: the Bernard Hermann score, the "look" of the film, and the acting are all very fine. What I didn't expect was that the plot ranks as one of the most ridiculous pieces of tripe ever conceived by the film industry, and that is saying a lot.

A super-race from another world (galaxy?) sends Klaatu to tell the nations of the earth that they endanger the universe with their "petty squables" (wars). Unless they all agree to listen (and agree with) Klaatu, this peace-loving alien will see that Earth and all its inhabitants are turned into dust.

This paper-thin plot is buttressed by the usual lefty portrayal of earth creatures as greedy, violent, xenophobic parasites. After all, the earthlings distrust Klaatu, even though his only crime is to have threatened Earth with extinction.

Is there an analogy to communism here? The outsider, ever more intelligent and humane, promises utopia to the inferior people. They callously and irrationally reject the new order that is offered to them, then hunt down the superior being with all the fury and hatred of peasant witch burners. Oh, if only the fools had submitted! The world would be so much better!

The funniest line: two doctors are discussing the fact that Klaatu is 147 years old (or something like that). One of them says, "What accounts for his longevity?" The other, while lighting ciggarettes for both of them, says, "I have no idea."

The liner notes of the DVD are a window into the madness. After noting that the film's "pro-peace message" might be controversial during the Korean War/Cold War, director Robert Wise lamented their innability to get the military to loan them equipment for the movie:

"We wanted some tanks...jeeps...uniforms, things like that. They said no...everything that we had...came from the National Guard of Virginia, not the War Department. They didn't approve the message of peace, I guess."

Or perhaps they didn't want anything to do with an idiotic film that asserts that all military conflicts are "petty squabbles" and each side in a war is equally guilty of destroying the peace.

Think about the conflicts at the time. World War II had ended just six years before. The Jewish state was immediately, upon creation, invaded by Arab countries bent on its destruction. North Korea invaded South Korea with the aim of turning the entire country into a communist hell hole.

Petty squabbles? I think not.

I much prefer INVASTION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. This 1955 film is allegedly a allegory for McCarthyism, but the film makers denied it had a political message, only an glimpse of what we become when we lose our humanity; a worthy message.

However, if one wanted to interpret the film in light of the time in which it was made (1955), it would not seem to fit neatly into the anti-anti-communist mold.

Consider the plot: "superior," but souless, people come from far away to introduce an utopia of comformity that is superior because it dispenses with individualism and passion. These pod people look like you and me. They talk like you and me. They act like you and me. But there's something wrong with them: they all act alike and not one of them doubts the humanity or justness of their mission. They slip in secretly and withold their true identity until they gain power in key areas. And then it is too late....

In the end they must be exposed to the larger population and destroyed, if liberty is to reign again.

How the hell is Body Snatchers a criticism of the anti-communist movement?

One thing for certain: Body Snatchers is a much better film.

And yes, I like the two sequels as well. Just not as much as the original.


At 12:34 PM, Blogger Conan said...

Klaatu Baricto some thing or other to you too!

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