To have one’s mind taken away is to lose one’s personhood. This is what happens to the people of Santa Mira as the outer space body snatchers do their demonic possessing in Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1955). Once the bodies are snatched, the people feel no love or any other emotion, caring only about self-preservation. In the interest of this, in fact, they know how to mimic people who still have their humanity. Miles (Kevin McCarthy) and Becky (Dana Wynter) still have theirs, and they themselves rush about for the sake of self-preservation. There is a fascinating panic in the film. Siegel never makes a misstep, and the tale, based on a Collier’s magazine serial, is unerringly crafted.
Without harshness This Is Spinal Tap (1984) satirizes hard rock musicians: the few who make up the British band Spinal Tap are blokes with very little going for them. Rob Reiner’s modest film is a mockumentary, still as funny as ever, with dandy cameos by Fran Drescher, Patrick Macnee and Fred Willard.
Principal cast members, Christopher Guest among them, wrote the script, which outdoes later mockumentaries which Guest himself directed.
Note: The sight of a long-haired, shirtless Harry Shearer is not one I care to see again.
It’s a pity that American movies declined in quality in 1975 and did not recover at all until the Nineties. Granted, they were not much better during the Sixties, but the years ’70 to ’74, for all the consistently adult material, told a somewhat different story. To be sure, I hate M*A*S*H and McCabe and Mrs. Miller, the Robert Altman offspring, but Badlands, Carnal Knowledge, Chinatown, Slaughterhouse-Five and three or four others are solid artistic successes. The Godfather might be, too, but I need to see it again to be sure. Even such films as The Conversation and Save the Tiger, though failures, are at least interesting and non-homogenized. A late ’70s film like Breaking Away, on the other hand, is interesting and homogenized.
A problem arose in that most of the artistic stuff failed to make money. Chinatown did okay, but the weird Slaughterhouse-Five? Forget it. The 1975 Michael Ritchie picture, Smile, didn’t make the commercial grade either, by which time Hollywood had had enough. It very much wanted stuff that was tamer and less ambitious. The truth is that to an extent moviegoers had let down the artists.