So how did the ending of Finney’s novel and those of the four films differ? Let’s explore that here.
I’ll call a spoiler alert here, just in case you want to explore any of this on your own. In the novel, to state it simply we could say, EARTH 7, ALIENS 0. Earlier, Miles told Becky they might try to reach Highway 101 and warn motorists that the aliens are here, but he then figures that people will think they’re nuts. (Sounds a bit like the 1956 film, no?) Instead, they flee into the hills around Mill Valley, and when they see pods growing in farmers’ fields they set fire to as many as they can. Resistance is probably futile, they figure, but they’re not going down without a fight.
Well, resistance is NOT futile, because no one has ever stood up to the aliens before, and they decide to hit the space trail. As Miles and Becky watch, thousands of pods rise in the sky. The remaining pod people, confined to Mill Valley, die off in five years or less. Bottom line: everything is back to normal, thanks to good old American grit.
In the 1956 film, the original screenplay had Miles reaching the highway (Becky has become a pod person) and shouting his warning, a crazed look on his face. No one believes him; uh-oh, the Earth is doomed. Thinking this too negative, the studio had the filmmakers add a prologue and epilogue, so that once they finally believe Miles’s story a call goes out to local and state law enforcement, and the military, to stop the threat. We don’t see the results, but bottom line, the ending is—hopeful.
Not so the 1978 version, which takes place on a much larger stage: San Francisco. Dr. Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) has escaped throngs of pod people, has seen pods loaded onto ships to be sent all around the world, and has watched his girlfriend crumble into dust as her naked double appears. I won’t say exactly how it ends (it’s awesome), but the bottom line is, the Earth is fucked!
The low-budget, 1993 Body Snatchers did poorly at the box office but garnered some decent reviews. Its setting is an Alabama military base, and none of the characters have names similar to any of those in the novel or first two films. In fact, the main protagonist, Marti, is a teenaged girl. But there are still pods, and gross transformations, and pod people. As Marti and helicopter pilot Tim, the last humans standing, escape the base, take out a few truckloads of pods, and try to land at another base, a voiceover tells us, “Where you gonna go, where you gonna run, where you gonna hide? Nowhere…’cause there’s no one like you left.” Bottom line: the Earth is doubly fucked!
ODD FILM OUT?
The 2007 film, The Invasion, starring Nicole Kidman, was the last remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Tell the truth, it was not a remake at all. Okay, some of the names are the same: Kidman plays Dr. Carol Bennell, Daniel Craig is Ben Driscoll, the Belicecs are a couple of European diplomats, and a woman named Wendy Lenk (Remember Wilma Lentz?) is the first to say that her husband is not her husband. But that’s where the similarities end.
This time, the alien organism is a fungus that reaches Earth when a space shuttle explodes upon re-entry. It changes people, makes them emotionless, but it does not duplicate the body and destroy the original. Carol Bennell of the CDC spends most of the film running from the zoned-out people and trying to reach her young son, who had a brain-related illness and is immune to the takeover. The aliens, who have witnessed the violence on our world and want to do away with it, would “eliminate” all those with the immunity. Carol saves her son and helps prepare a vaccine to reverse the alien virus. Everyone is cured, and they remember nothing. Bottom line: life on violent Earth goes on; business as usual. Boring.
The Invasion bombed at the box office, and the reviews were brutal. But I found it watchable, especially since Nicole Kidman is on-screen for almost all of its ninety-nine minutes.
So are we done with all of the film adaptations of Jack Finney’s slim sci-fi novel? I would not hazard a guess, given Hollywood’s penchant for beating a good idea to death. Don’t wait around to find out. READ THE BOOK.