In a small Californian town, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy, Innerspace) is confused by a common complaint among his patients: they insist that their relatives and friends are impostors. At first, Bennell thinks this is a case of mass hysteria, but he soon realizes that something more nefarious is at play here.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“Your are next,” the hysterical country doctor screams. That always gives me the willies. Directed by Don Siegel (Dirty Harry) from a screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring based on Jack Finney’s novel, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of the key films of the ’50s. This landmark film took horror out of old castles in Transylvania and dropped it in the middle of a picture-perfect all-American town, where it belongs. This is where modern horror begins — from this point forward no place was safe, not even a Mayberry-like community.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers was meant to be nothing but a cheap drive-in fodder, but today this is one of the most discussed productions of the era.
Although author Finney, director Siegel, and even actor McCarthy, always denied any political agenda, the film has been interpreted as an allegory for McCarthyism. It is perhaps one of the most interesting cases of people projecting their own biases onto a film. Regardless of whether the film was intended to have a political message or not, this is a disturbing nail-biter. For me, at least, the movie is a cautionary tale about the dangers of complacency, mainstreamness, and the “tyranny of the majority.”
The flashback framework was imposed by the studio. I’ve seen the movie without these scenes and it is even scarier that way. The studio wanted a more hopeful resolution — money people never like depressing stories. However, no matter what version you see, the movie works marvelously well despite a shoestring budget.
The film moves very fast so there is a sense of urgency that enhances the atmosphere of paranoia. The practical effects — the gooey doubles are icky! — still have the power to spook you. I also loved Ellsworth Fredericks’s (Sayonara and Seven Days in May) expressionistic camera work and Carmen Dragon’s (Dishonored Lady and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye) edgy music score.
The acting is good too. McCarthy is terrific — the actor conveys convincingly the proper amount of anxiety as he uncovers the mystery. Dana Wynter (Airport) and Carolyn Jones (Morticia, TV’s Addams Family) are excellent scream queens. Director Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs) has a bit as a gas man.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a great little movie to watch late at night with the lights out. Remade three times, so far: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Body Snatchers (1993), and The Invasion (2007). B&W, 80 minutes, Not Rated.