Thursday, March 18, 2010

BAD NEWS FROM OUTER SPACE ~ (or: How I Learned to Love the Pods) ~ By Mike Whitney of Harbinger*33

Bad News from Outer Space
(or: How I Learned to Love the Pods)
~ By Mike Whitney

Disclaimer: This title is actually a line from a Bond film, ‘You Only Live Twice’. It was spoken by a flunky to the arch villain: ”Boss, bad news from outer space!” Shamelessly stolen for this homage to a great scary movie from the 1950’s, I - folksinger/songwriter - also turned it into a novelty tune in 1978. 1978 saw the first remake of this science-fiction/horror B classic. Another followed in 1993. Neither film worked as well, partly because sequels seldom succeed, and partly because I was thirteen in 1956.   ~ MW


Impressionable teen in the fifties: Elvis, girls, cars, sports, movies. Movies like ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’; ‘War of the Worlds’; and ‘INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS’. The original was a creature movie starring your family and friends as the creatures. For fright, nothing from a space ship or the Black Lagoon compared with everyone in town talking in a monotone. This was a perfect film for black and white. People looked like your mom and dad but they seemed to lack any emotional capacity. Director Don Siegel – later known for directing ‘Dirty Harry’ - perhaps thought he was making a propaganda piece depicting the horrors of Communism in the fifties. In an interview he referred to the executives at the studio as pods because they edited out all traces of humor from the film. That’s interesting in retrospect. All I saw then was this little boy about my age running down the road out of town screaming, “That’s not my mommy!” And I was sore afraid.  A mother suddenly drained of all emotional response? No love, no anger, no warnings of what will happen when dad gets home? No joy? Terrifying!

Mary watched her favorite aunt
Sucked feet first inside a plant
When you wake up, we’ll all be the same
If you get bored, your pod’s to blame!


I was then a married teenager. My pregnant teenage wife and I were watching a rerun of the film. In five short years, fear had taken on new meaning as our hero Kevin McCarthy stared in horror at his true love from high school, Dana Wynter. To sleep is to be taken over. She had finally fallen asleep and become a pod. I snuck a glance at my wife's growing belly. My thoughts exactly: we have both turned into characters from a B movie. What greater horror could the future hold?

Your double grows from a big seed pod
It takes your mind, and then it takes your bod
From pain and hunger we'll all be free
Come on, pod! See about me!


I was living in Houston when the first sequel appeared. A good cast including early Jeff Goldblum. As usual when Hollywood shows us the monsters instead of letting us imagine them, special effects shock quickly turns to boredom. Pod Donald Sutherland pointing at sole survivor Brooke Adams and uttering the pod squawk in the final scene neatly summed up my critique of the film as well as the Urban Cowboy craze sweeping Gilley’s Bar. First, Saturday Night Fever discoids and Bee Gee ‘bots, now cocaine cowboy cyborgs. Would the seventies ever end?

Your pod will get you. Don’t fight. Don’t weep.
They take over when you go to sleep.
No more feelings, peace there'll be
I can't wait till they get to me


Abel Ferrara directed the third version. ‘Body Snatchers’ was set on an army base where everyone follows orders. Thus, figuring out who the pod people are is all the tougher. But in the wake of ’Terminator2 – Judgment Day, the film lacked any originality or shock value. In February, the World Trade Center was first bombed. Life in these United States quietly and dramatically changed. In June, the film was released in France, but not shown in the United States until January of ’94. I hit the big five-0 this year, and Clinton was dancing on television as the Dow went out of sight.

What if Pod was one of us
Just a pod on the bus


ATLANTA-- July 29, 1996 (ENN) - The FBI said on Sunday that they were pursuing several promising leads to find who was responsible for the bombing in Centennial Park on Saturday morning. 

It’s been forty years and how the pods have grown
They’ve taken over government, big business and they’ve shown
You don’t need emotion to run the seed pod race-
Better keep on eye on the sky for bad news from outer space!


As war looms on the horizon once more, it occurred to me this might be a good time to watch for a rerun of the original ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’. Pods without emotions might be a nice antidote to religious fanatics. 

Ambulance Driver: Yeah, Doc, there was a nasty accident out on the interstate.
Dr. Bassett: Bad one, eh?
Ambulance Driver: Yeah, a truck and a car collided. Ya know, it was kinda funny... the truck was carrying a load of the strangest-looking seed pods.

“Mary, come quick! Out here in the garden. Down here by the tomatoes. You see that six foot zucchini-lookin’ thing?It looks just like you.  It’s got your eyes! Look! They blinked! I don’t think we ought to water that one any more, Mary. Mary? Speak to me! Mary!”

You load 16 pods, what do you get…

Hit the road, pod, 
and don’t you come back no more no more
No more no more.
Hit the road, Pod and don’t you come back no more.

Everybody knew you didn’t give no lip
To Big Pod, Big Bad Pod
Bad news from outer space
Peace on earth for the whole pod race
© 2002 by Mike Whitney


For a free MP3 of the author
performing ‘Bad News From Outer Space’
in a live performance, send an e mail to: 

Or visit him online at STAYONTHEHILL


No salesman will call, no spam or virus will infect your computer, and no pods will appear in your basement or in the trunk of your car. Because It’s too late!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

WHAT DO YOU SAY ABOUT A MOVIES and MUSIC MAN LIKE MIKE? That he was influenced by the Beatles, Firesign Theater, Leon Redbone, John Prine and Gordon Lightfoot? That he's a writer and a showman and an Indie musician born outta Chicago with the razzamatazz to prove it ... til he classed up his act even more as an Ohio boy now making music with his lady love in the North Carolina hills?

Well sure . . . all of that good, good, good vibrations hype as well as since his 1971 novelty single, Hard to Be Hip and My Best Friend was released, Mike Whitney has written songs and played professionally, from 1970 to 2003. Since then, he has released 3 albums of live and studio recordings. He has a new CD, Temporary Sanity at CD and two others.  
But there's more than high entertainment
where Mike's concerned . . . 

There's the kind of character in this character
you're just honoured (along with 3 million others)
to call "friend".

I do. I am . . . Honoured.

Thanks Mike for this share of pods sweet pods,
be they ever so humble.

~ Absolutely*Kate
and our very fine staff of renown


Laurita said...

Pods - all over the highway! Oh the humanity! I think I know a few pod people.
Always a pleasure to read the weirdness that is Whitney. Don't ever stop.

Harry said...

Mike, I never knew the Snatchers had been sequeled so. Love the song and of course your timeline bears out your theory. Great funny, as always with you!

Mike Whitney said...

Laurita, would that I could...stop, but wait, there's more...

Harry, there's a NEW one, Invasion, with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, the new Bond.

Michael Solender said...


Crybbe666 said...

Mikey, a fun trip down pod-lane. Like Harry, I didn't know there was so many versions of the film. Will make an effort to check 'em out.
Great piece, always a great read from you!

Anonymous said...

A great blast from the past. And with music!
If you meant for this to be fun...IT WAS!