1978 version, which was an early favorite of mine from last year's 60/60 List. And as much as I both wanted to and tried not to... I found it was really hard to. They're, of course, the same story... but explored so differently. The film picks up with Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy), who has made his way to another town and making the authorities think he's insane. He tells his story of how his hometown was taken over by pod people, and they were going to slowly start taking over the world.
The pods themselves are really freaky, mostly because they remind me somewhat of Little Shop of Horrors, and that still causes plants to freak me out despite it being my favorite movie of all time. And although this film had a visual freak factor to it, that's the one area I did prefer the 1978 version. That version just had an amazing and gorgeous visual style and use of dream-like camera angles to add to everything. I loved the look of the '78 version, so that was hard to get past while watching this one. But still, while it didn't bring anything special to the table in that regard, it worked well--and sometimes better--elsewhere.
This is a nicely paced, taut noir thriller (much more than the horror it's labeled as). It's not as slow of a burn as the one that follows it, from what I remember, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat. Funnily enough, I was fighting falling asleep (due to tiredness, not the film) near the end, right around the time the characters themselves are fighting falling asleep so as not to turn into pod people... so there was a bizarre meta quality to watching this film that made it that much more intense.
Of course there's the comparison of endings, as well. The '78 version has the classic downer/shocker ending, which is fantastic (and a bit preferred). This version has a happier ending. Though apparently the happy ending was a studio choice, and the original ending was supposed to be in the scene right before it where Miles looks into the camera and says "You're next!" I'll admit, that was really creepy. And that only added to the exploitative nature of the film. In a way, it reminded me of something like Reefer Madness, where it was a fictional event used to scare people into thinking a certain way. In this case, it was used as a parallel with the red scare/McCarthyism (ironic, since the lead character is played by Kevin McCarthy). You can't trust anybody! And soon, if you're not careful, they'll come in the middle of the night while you're sleeping and take you and your family and brainwash you! Again, I know that was the entire idea behind it, so it works. It just felt, at times, a little beat-you-over-the-head with it, particularly toward the end.
Otherwise, it was a really good little film. Again, it's both easy and difficult to compare it to the '78 version. In a way, they both have their pros and cons. And I can't say which one is better. I think I prefer the '78 for both its ending and its visual style. But this version is much tighter in its pacing. I'd recommend checking it out if you like any of the other versions. It's a different enough cut of the story to keep you engaged, and it does get really creepy at times--mainly with the pods. Good stuff.