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Ten Sci-Fi Mind Control Movies
Peter Martin / Source: SciFiSquad.com
We've seen the ads, we've seen a trailer, but we really have no idea
what to expect from this week's release of Gamer. Except that it's directed
by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the madmen of action cinema, and
it's set in the near future, and it concerns an online game that involves
mind control. Cool!
If we're lucky, maybe we can figure out what's happening
before a migraine sets in from all the on-screen insanity sure to be
unleashed from the people behind Crank and Crank High Voltage.
Focusing on the mind control angle for a moment led me to think about
all the great sci-fi movies that have played around with the idea of
remote control mental gymnastics.
The adolescent brain immediately seizes
on the possibilities inherent in stripping unsuspecting young ladies
down to the buff (thanks a lot, Zapped!), yet the more mature thinker
wonders about deeper issues, like what to do with a woman who will only
go out with you because you gave her no choice.
Bryan Singer wove the mind control battle between Professor Charles Xavier
(Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) into the fabric of the
story. You could enjoy Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) discovering a fuller
range of his powers, sympathize with the desperate plight of Rogue
(Anna Paquin), admire Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), or simply try and
stare through the body paint covering Mystique (Rebecca Romijn). Lurking
in the background, though, was a duel between good and evil, with Professor
Xavier favoring gentle nudges in the right direction and Magneto ready
to wage an all-out war.
2. Star Wars Episode
IV: A New Hope
Boy, it'll be hard to keep George Lucas' original trilogy off these lists
for very long. We must put aside personal animosity, however, and honor
the Jedi Mind Trick. "These are not the droids you want." C'mon!
Hasn't everybody used that line in some twisted fashion? Hasn't the
standard response to "Where are my keys?" become "Use
the Force, Luke"?! Whereas most of science fiction -- both cinema
and literature -- leans toward the idea that mind control is a bad
thing, Lucas posited the bold premise that controlling the minds of
others was actually in service of the greater good. Which is pretty
scary when you think about it.
3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
(1956) / Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Two sides of the same coin, in a rare case where the original's primitive
pleasures, powered by the seductive direction of the great Don Siegel
and the off-kilter realistic insanity of Kevin McCarthy in the central
role, are complemented by the subversive insinuations of the remake by
Philip Kaufman. Each provided sly rebuttals to the political winds prevailing
at the time of their release: Siegel's a slap at Joseph McCarthy conservatism
in 1956, and Kaufman's a rebuke of the pious liberal, San Francisco hippy
platitudes still espoused in 1978. In other words: before you cross the
broad Mind Control Boulevard, remember to look both ways; you never know
who might try to make you conform to their way of thinking.
What evil lurks in the heart of sleazy cable TV executives? Describing
James Woods as "sleazy" is redundant (no personal offense
intended -- we're talking screen image), but he's perfectly cast, because
his transgressions pale in comparison to what he discovers when he
goes in search of more sensational shows to goose ratings and his reputation.
In David Cronenberg's bleak vision, television is the ultimate mind
control device. Did you really think that plopping your kids down in
front of the television for hours at a time would be a good thing?
What do you get when you mix two telekinetics? A pyrokinetic, of course,
in the form of nine-year-old Charlie (Drew Barrymore, of course). Daddy
David Keith is the actual mind-controller, but he plays second fiddle
to his fiery daughter, who gives great stare. Gertie, what have they
done to you? Later, when the young actress sowed her wild oats in public,
I wonder how many people were afraid to say anything because they were
afraid she might stare at them and cause them to burst into flames?
Fiction, man: it's a bitch. For which we should all give thanks that,
once upon a time, Stephen King was cranking out books that got right
to the point.
[Buy these films at the Mind Bending Movies page]
6. Planet of the Vampires
The great Mario Bava struck terror into the hearts of men with his fable
about man's inhumanity to man -- oops, wrong movie, this one is about
astronauts who fall prey to a race of alien creatures who vant to suck
their blood, or at least their life force, so they can possess the
very useful bodies that the astronauts are lugging around with them.
As Jeffrey M. Anderson wrote, "the plot and storytelling are fairly
ludicrous, and it's mainly Bava's masterful invention behind the camera
that makes the film work. His movement and timing provide an atmosphere
that clearly wasn't there in the script." Although, we must acknowledge
that the idea of mind-controlling aliens was highly original in 1935.
Too bad this movie wasn't made until 1965.
7. Invaders From Mars
We'll forget the abomination of the 1986 remake and go right back to
William Cameron Menzies' original. Telling the story of an alien invasion
through the eyes of a young boy is a brilliant way to capture the hearts
of all young boys, who already imagine that their parents are aliens
and secretly wish that they were orphans, the better to idealize a
life of noble suffering. (Or was that just me?) If you can pawn it
all off on brain-snatching aliens, so much the better. Mike Ward of
Pop Matters posted a hilariously over-thought review / essay on 50s
imperialism and psycho sexuality; me, I just thought it was a cute
movie with a dreadful ending.
8. Destroy All Monsters
All bow down to Ishirô Honda, also a major creative force behind
Gojira (Godzilla, if you must), Rodan, Mothra, and Matango, Destroy All
Monsters popped onto the hip, swinging cinema scene of 1968, daring to
postulate that aliens could control the minds of Earth's most fearsome
monsters -- helpfully imprisoned on one small island in the Pacific --
to try and destroy mankind. As if! Underneath all that latex, those monsters
are definitely on the side of humanity, and no mind-controlling alien
race will be able to turn them against us friendly earthlings ... for
very long, that is.
9. Village of the Damned
Ooh, those little devils, with their funny eyes and the lockstep conformity
and their eerie way of ignoring their parents! Of course, I'm referring
to Wolf Rilla's 1960 original, which sent chills up and down my spine
-- not from fright, but from gleeful envy! I was a wee little lad,
always one of the smallest in class, but what if I could control everyone
with the power of my noggin? Talk about youthful fantasies fulfilled!
Sorry to repeat a title from last week's Top Ten -- Sci-Fi Deaths, weren't
you paying attention? -- but even more than the blood spattering and
bureaucracy run amuck, Paul Verhoeven's film traffics in the idea that
dead cops are ripe to become corporate puppets, cruelly corrupting
the promise that bravery and loyalty should be rewarded, not trashed
into parody. Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) must fight his well-honed instincts
to protect and to serve, because his masters are not worth dying for.
[Buy these films at the Mind Bending Movies page]
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