Monday, February 25, 2008

The Puppet Masters

Underneath the jacket the body was dressed in a light singlet, almost transparent. Between this shirt an the skin, from the neck halfway down the back, was something which was not flesh. A couple of inches thick, it gave the corpse a round-shouldered, or slightly humped, appearance.
It pulsed like a jellyfish.
~ Puppet Masters, by Robert A. Heinlein
This weekend the Saturday night movie on SciFi is the 1994 version of The Puppet Masters, starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Warner. The movie is based on the Heinlein novel by the same name, and features alien slugs that crash land on earth, then try to take over by riding on the backs of their human hosts, controlling them like, well, puppets.

Screenwriter Terry Rossio wrote an amusing account of the many rewrites involved in bringing Puppet Masters to the big screen:
Our original desire to do the novel was based on wanting to see seven great gangbusters sequences. For those who've read the novel, they are:
  1. Investigating the fake spaceship and the fake news broadcast.
  2. Sam gets taken by the slugs, goes over to their side.
  3. Sam sits down in Mary's place for the slug interview.
  4. Sam goes into slug-infested Kansas City.
  5. The President takes off his clothes in front of Congress.
  6. The ape, Satan, gets slug-ridden. And
  7. Sam and the Old Man go into the alien spaceship.
Apparently the movie doesn't follow the book's lead and have all the characters walk around shirtless to prove their parasite-free state. It would be entertaining to see the movie try to manage that and keep its less-than-X rating. In fact, only elements 1 an 2 of the novel made it into the final version of the movie. There isn't even a real spaceship.

The reviews were mediocre, it didn't do too well at the box office, and the biology looks laughable, but it probably is more interesting than the evil-and/or-giant-animal-attacks movies that SciFi usually shows on Saturday night. Or you could dig up a copy of Heinlein's version and spend a cozy evening reading instead.

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