Guest Post by Laughing Gravy from In The Balcony.com
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Dir. Don Siegel
Strange Science Cinema #053
Dr. Kevin McCarthy returns home to Santa Mira, California after a two-week trip to discover that half the townspeople are complaining that the other half aren't whom they claim they are: they LOOK like their spouses, uncles, and sweethearts, but the looks are deceiving and they're some sort of emotionless doppelgangers. Whatever the hysteria is, it's spreading, and Kevin, girlfriend Dana Wynter, and their country club pals King Donovan and Carolyn Jones soon discover these ginormous seed pods that have a tendency to pop open and spit out a body that resembles anyone who falls asleep nearby.
Funny, we're in our 11th year In The Balcony and nobody's started a thread on this one, one of the great science-fiction movies and one of my all-time favorite films. Let the discussion begin!
Based on a novel by Jack Finney (who wrote Time and Again), directed by Don Siegel (Dirty Harry), screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring (Out of the Past) and shot by Ellsworth Fredericks (Sayonara), this film leaves its low-budget Allied Artists trappings behind and is THE classic of 1950s paranoia. Sure, they LOOK like us, but they're NOT us. Enemies are much easier to hate when they look "different", but when you peer around you and can't tell who's a commie, or a pervert, or a heretic, or whatever, well, that just makes a person look over their shoulder an awful lot and eye their neighbors with suspicion.
Person who's been Podded: "Love, desire, ambition, faith. Without them, life's so simple, believe me."
Much of it is in the noir style, with scenes of McCarthy and Wynters running down dark, rain-slicked streets, casting huge shadows. At one point, Dr. Kevin remarks that the odd thing about the body snatching isn't that it's happening; "In my practice, I've seen how people allow their humanity to drain away." He's just surprised to see it happen suddenly instead of over time. This is far from your typical science-fiction horror film, kids. (And it's funny, I've been thinking how the sci-fi films of the '50s began with a sense of wonder, with most of the films about mankind's reach into space, but 'degenerated' by 1954 into mainly being about monsters coming to get us.)
McCarthy and director Siegel made cameo appearances in the 1978 remake; future director Sam Peckinpah plays the meter reader in this film. Filming wrapped in the spring of '55, but Allied Artists got antsy after middling audience previews, did some post-production editing, and brought back Siegel and McCarthy in September to film a new wraparound opening and closing with Dr. Whit Bissell and Dr. Richard Deacon to give the film a somewhat more upbeat finale. Does it ruin the film? Sort of. I've learned to live with it, though.
A great movie. Olive Films released it in its SuperScope format and it looks phenomenal on Blu-ray, but it's a shame it didn't get a major packaging with commentary and documentaries, a la Olive's The Quiet Man. It's worthy.
My comment: Great movie— This is one of the greats, watched this multiple times on the flight to Japan this year. It holds up to repeated viewings. Timeless. I like the 1978 remake too, but it's a little creepier. It's worth mentioning that Dana Wynter is gorgeous. Kevin McCarthy was 42 when he made this movie, and Wynter was 25-- not a problem except when they start talking about their old high school days. Was McCarthy a teacher??
Still a great movie.