“Wooly Willy” is takin’ it waaaaay back. I remember this children’s toy from my early childhood in the 1970’s. (I was thrilled to receive this damned thing. The gimmick, if you can’t tell, is that you used a magnetic pen to draw features on Wooly Willy’s face out of those magnetic filaments encased over it. To a little boy, that seemed like magic.) I’m curious if anyone else remembers this guy.
These first hit shelves in 1955, according to Wikipedia, for the princely sum of 29 cents.
I keep wanting to correct the spelling of “Wooly” to “Woolly,” because I’m old and I hate fun, I guess.
Below are the trailers for all four major film iterations of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Though these movies enjoy varying degrees of fame, they all remain close to my heart. There is just something about Jack Finney’s original paranoia-inducing story idea that’s timeless and frightening. (Finney’s 1955 novel served as the basis for the first film, directed by Don Siegel, a year later.) And I always thought that the identity-stealing, alien body snatchers were an elegant monster concept too, because they can be rendered effectively on film with little or no special effects.
The first trailer is for the original 1956 classic, which still holds up surprisingly well. (If you haven’t seen it, then you might discover that it’s got more urgency and less camp than you’d expect from a typical 1950’s alien invasion flick.) The second trailer is for the genuinely frightening 1978 remake, which is, quite simply, one of the top science-fiction/horror films of all time.
I was introduced to both of these movies by my “movie uncle,” Uncle John. I remember thinking the original was far better than I’d expected for an “old black-and-white.” (I’d had a an adolescent’s predictable skepticism about old movies.) And the dour 1978 masterpiece got under my skin and stayed there forever.
The 1993 installment, simply titled “Body Snatchers,” is probably the least well known — I’ve never heard it mentioned outside of horror fan circles. I myself had never heard of it until I stumbled across it in a video store more than a decade following its release. It had a very limited theatrical release, and it sometimes feels like the most generic of the “Body Snatchers” movies — like maybe a made-for-television movie or an especially good entry for the first revival of “The Twilight Zone” (1985-1989).
I love it. You could tell it was a labor of love for its screenwriters and its director, Abel Ferrara … it was obvious that they truly “got” Finney’s concept, and that they set out to deliver just what genre fans wanted. This “Body Snatchers” was freaky, fast-paced and unsettling, and I still feel it deserves a broader following.
The fourth trailer is for the most maligned and recent adaptation of Finney’s novel, 2007’s “The Invasion.” (My god, was this really made 13 years ago? Tempus fugit.) People really dislike this movie, despite a cast led by Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. It was generally panned by both critics and audiences, and I sorta understand why. It’s got its share of flaws — most notably a hasty happy ending that feels tacked on by the studio. I don’t quite love it, but I really like it quite a lot — it’s stylish and ambitious and has a lot of creepy moments. And if you think Nicole Kidman is easy on the eyes, as I do, you’ll see that she looks like a million bucks here.
If you really enjoy these films and are hungry for more, there are two other alien invasion movies that seem to channel the same muse as Finney’s. The first is 1994’s “The Puppet Masters” by Stuart Orme. (It should not be confused with its soundalike contemporary, the “Puppet Master” (singular) horror franchise, which depicts demonic dolls.) “The Puppet Masters” is campy, but still very cool, and it adapts the eponymous 1951 novel by Robert A. Heinlein.
The second recommendation I’d offer is 1998’s “The Faculty.” It’s an even campier horror-comedy aimed more at mainstream audiences, but it’s still a lot if fun.
Here’s another Throwback Thursday post that is a relatively obscure, but might be a treat for my fellow HNAM’s (Horror Nerds Approaching Midlife). Who remembers the nationwide syndicated broadcast of 1955’s “Revenge of the Creature” in 3-D in early July 1982?
Your parents had to pick up the 3-D glasses for you from a local Pizza Hut or 7-Eleven, I think … This was a pretty big deal, especially if you were a nine-year-old boy, as I was. My good old Dad got the glasses for me, and he patiently explained to me how depth perception the 3-D technology worked. Good Lord, how I looked forward to this.
And I wasn’t disappointed. I remember the effects being actually pretty damned good. I was thrilled. It was my first 3-D movie. (In fact, it might actually have been the only 3-D movie I’ve ever seen …)
The Neato Coolville website has a far better account of the event than I could write — check it out right here: