The Mind Snatchers
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Overall rating: 2.5/5
Director: Bernard Girard
Tagline: Walken, monkeys and low-budget science fiction: three things that were made for each other.
I’ve just summed up in two words the only reason that anyone would have released the forgotten The Mind Snatchers.
Not that The Mind Snatchers is a bad film, but it certainly isn’t a good film either. And the only thing that rescued it from the dustbin of time is that it represents the first starring role of a young actor named Christopher Walken.
Walken brings a dark charisma to the role of Pvt. James Reese, a violent, misanthropic man who is sent to a secluded army hospital to rest after breaking his arm.
Reese’s soon discovers that there are only two other patients in the hospital, and that they are all cared for by a single doctor, a brain surgeon.
His suspicions grow as he realizes that the “hospital” is surrounded by barbed wire and guard dogs. And the good doctor is performing strange experiments on the brains of monkeys in the basement.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that the experiments won’t stop at monkeys for long.
The Mind Snatchers feels like a cross between One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Twilight Zone. It’s low-budget, but like the best episodes of The Twilight Zone, it derives its horrors from psychological terror, not extravagant special effects.
The movie was based on the play The Happiness Cage. Heard of it? Me neither. But I’m betting it suffers from some artificial language and more than a little pretentiousness, ’cause that’s what you get in the film. Although Walken’s acting is a bit of a saving grace.
I think the movie is presented in its original aspect ratio which the studio itself seems not to know. Is it anamorphic? The studio’s Web site again draws a blank. I’m going to say “probably not.” The transfer is actually quite good. The color seems a little subdued, but there are no noticeable artifacts. Unfortunately, the print that was used for the transfer was in pretty bad shape, and there are very large noticeable scratches in certain scenes.
It’s in mono. Bleah. It was originally recorded in mono, though. Can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.
Let’s see, you get three versions of the original trailer, three or four TV spots and the original titles for the movie, which was first released as “The Happiness Cage” before some studio suit decided The Mind Snatchers sounded cooler (and more like The Body Snatchers, I suppose.)
Walken is much better than the material here, and pretty much makes the film watchable by force of will. You can see shadows of the actor who would win an Academy Award for The Deer Hunter in six years. He is helped out by the always dependable Joss Ackland as the Dr. Frederick and hindered by a young Ronny Cox overacting his heart out as a fellow patient.
Five Degrees of Separation
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die - More sci-fi brains. This movie is a little cheesy, but at least it’s not pretentious.
Robocop – Ronny Cox’s finest work.
The Deer Hunter – Remind yourself just how good Christopher Walken can be.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Jack Nicholson. Perhaps the only man who can play crazy better than Walken.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – A superior sci-fi movie that also features something getting snatched.