Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The festival includes probably the best and purest example of the "subversion" genre: "'>Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1955), directed by Don Siegel. (The '>1978 version, directed by Philip Kaufman and featuring Leonard Nimoy, is one of the few remakes that is equal to the original, while also being very much of its own time.) It gave us the universal metaphor of the "pod people," which has become a symbol for mindless conformity and dehumanization, and that's pretty much how I understood this movie when I saw it as a teenager on TV. But it has also been interpreted as a Communist subversion film, because one prominent aspect of Communism (or projection perhaps) was the denial of individuality.

"'>Village of the Damned" (1960) is about children as aliens with their subversive ideas, made at the start of the decade when the "juvenile delinquency" of the fifties became the youth rebellion. Civil Rights and anti-war protestors were sometimes said to be "controlled" by alien Communist influences, even taking marching orders from Moscow. This film is a mild preview, with a nice performance by George Sanders.

There were two more films on this theme (neither in this festival.) In "'>Children of the Damned" (1964), the American version, the children are mutants from the human future (which s/f experts will recognize from Olaf Stapledon's classic novel, Odd John). Some of the adults argue that the children are here to bring peace, but fear wins out and they are eradicated by the military.

A more pointed film on this theme was The Space Children (1958) directed by Jack Arnold, famous for the Gill Man movies and other 50s sci fi classics. An alien intelligence taps the minds of the children of scientists to stop a nuclear bomb test. The parents freak out and attack them, but they manage to destroy the warheads by mind power. But the movie is more than this bare plot, revealing the crassness and cruelty of standard 1950s domesticity. It prefigures the 1960s generation gap and youth culture in a sci-fi setting.

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