Tuesday, December 05, 2006:

body snatchers mix, part 1

Matthew and Becky (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Kaufman, 1978)

So I've made a Body Snatchers mix which I'll be posting over the next week and a half or so.

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes -- Wake Up Everybody
Philly soul wearing its heart on its sleeve, confident in its sincerity and optimism and urging positive change. Sing it, Teddy.

The Beatles -- I'm Looking Through You (alt version)
This one is probably one of the most thematically related to the Body Snatchers stories, though written for quite different reasons: "I'm looking through you / where did you go? / I thought I knew you / What did I know? / You don't look different but you have changed / I'm looking through you; you're not the same." It's the alt take off Anthology 2, naturally enough, and it says something for the general quality of the Beatles' work that for most bands this version would have been a perfectly acceptable release.

Sam Roberts -- Paranoia
Radio-friendly pop-rock, the kind of track I wouldn't usually post, but there's something about this one that keeps bringing me back to it. Maybe it's the ooooooohs.
[If You Don't Know Me by Now: The Best of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes ]
[Anthology 2]
[We Were Born in a Flame]

A brief philosophy of horror fiction: horror is deliberately transgressive and cheerfully untactful; it's not interested in chitchat about the weather, instead it wants to talk (metaphorically, or literally) about taboos. A good horror writer is like a tough-love psychiatrist, finding our most vulnerable spots and prodding them; the horror story is like Ingmar Bergman with optional religious iconography, yet it has no pre-defined point of view and no social obligations beyond investigating and reporting. It may or may not advocate social revolution and may even be reactionary--Night of the Living Dead is not advocating cannibalism; Frankenstein would be a poor witness for science--but it's speculative fiction and it must address taboos, regardless of whether doing so will shock any of the audience.

It's probably an oversimplification to say that horror fiction is about death, since there are some perfectly horrifying horror stories in which no one dies and since, in any case, death is the result of vulnerability. Yet "vulnerability" covers a lot of ground: it's a theme common to the shower scene, being lost in the woods, being chased by a plane, and having an eyeball sliced with a razor.

Of all the kinds of vulnerability, there are a number of horror films about a threat to current identity, about the threat of continuing life in a radically different form: films as diverse as Dracula, The Howling, and Night of the Living Dead; The Fly, The Thing, and The Exorcist; Misery, Rosemary's Baby, and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The ghost, vampire, werewolf, and zombie films have centuries of legends behind them and have the most variants as a result, but Invasion of the Body Snatchers gives a fair showing considering its relative youth. The story was first serialized in Collier's in late 1954 under the title Body Snatchers; Jack Finney expanded it and rewrote the ending for publication as a novel in 1955, and the book was republished with more trivial changes in 1978. As of 2006 the story has had three authorized film versions (with four different endings among them); a fourth film version was finished in October 2006 but was rewritten so much after the novel was optioned that the producers decided it was not actually a version of Finney's work.

All these stories--the body snatchers and the rest--are fertile soil for a writer (any writer, including satirists like Terry Pratchett and the Futurama crew) and are firmly a part of the culture. But what do they mean as cultural artefacts? What do they say about the environment they were made in; what kinds of changes did people fear, and what cultural and historical backgrounds help explain those fears?

I doubt I'll find the answer to all of these questions, but in exploring them I can at least see what other questions crop up along the way. So. The start of the Body Snatchers mix. More later on Finney's three versions, Siegel's two versions, Kaufman's 1978 film, and Ferrara's 1993 film.

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