I’m back after a break (and thanks to Mike Hale for handling the column in my absence) with an account of two of the most famous political allegories of the 1950s, Fred Zinnemann’s “High Noon” (1952) and Don Siegel’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956). Conveniently enough, both are coming out this week as the first offerings from the Republic Pictures collection to be published (in standard def and Blu-ray) by Olive Films. As it happens, neither film is a Republic production, but rather are among the many titles that have accrued to the Republic library as it has been bought, sold and bartered over several decades. I hope Olive will eventually get around to burrowing deeper into the actual Republic output — they do have Blu-ray releases scheduled for four of the George Sherman/John Wayne “Three Mesquiteer” westerns for later this year — but that will probably depend on what masters are being made available for licensing by Paramount, the studio where the Republic library currently resides.
It would be comforting to know what kind of shape the Republic films are in (they include quite a few important late titles by directors like Frank Borzage, Allan Dwan, John Ford, William A. Seiter, Alfred Santell and other major studio veterans) as well as a storehouse of delights from homegrown Republic directors like Sherman, William Witney, Joe Kane, John Auer, John English, Philip Ford and others yet to be discovered. A lot of these titles were severely recut for television release in the 50s and 60s, and on those occasions when Republic films do turn up on cable or streaming video, they are almost always the mangled versions. Does decent 35-millimeter material exist on these films? So far, Paramount has not been terribly forthcoming, but now that Olive is mixing in as a sub-licencor, maybe we’ll see some action on that front.
As the half-sheet poster above suggests, “Invasion” seems ripe for revival as a Broadway musical. I can already hear the Alan Menken score, with Miles’s power pop ballad “I Never Knew Fear Until I Kissed Becky,” Dr. Kauffman’s second act soliloquy, ” Love, Desire, Ambition, Faith (Without Them, Life’s So Simple),” and of course, the grand finale, “You’re Next! You’re Next! You’re Next!” performed by a chorus line of dancing pods (perhaps they could coax the bananas from “The Gang’s All Here” out of retirement, and give them a quick makeover).
The possibilities are endless and my column, before I get too carried away, is here.