I thoroughly enjoy anniversary article-reviews, allowing the time to dive deeper into a certain film, and this was one I had circled a long time ago; it serves as an interesting time in cinema, so much occurring in life at that time. In addition, the movie clearly has influence with countless filmmakers, exploring interesting themes of control i.e., when is obedience not just mindless thought and then claustrophobia within one’s own space. The cinema landscape changed in the 50s, especially with the regard to sci-fi, studios often considered them low-budget b-movies, because of their fancy lingo or radical conceptual design, even though some movies had solid box office returns, it was overlooked as a fad. Then the onslaught started with It Came from Outer Space  with alien influencers using the human race to assist them and the worried danger of radiation in 1954 lead to Them! and Godzilla, followed by Tarantula ; but 1956 is when sci-fi became a fascinating world to intersect with the horror genre. It started with Invasion of the Body Snatchers in February; then Forbidden Planet in March and finally Earth vs. the Flying Saucers in July, while there were others these are all considered favorites among many folks.
While Jack Finney (Dead of Night ) was the author of the story, it was screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring who penned almost the entire script with an uncredited assist by Richard Collins (Cult of the Cobra ); Daniel admitted afterwards that he made subtle references to anti-McCarthyism and he had personal bouts with then Hollywood “Red Scare” witch-hunts. For those unaware, these efforts were to remove and ban on any American’s freedom of expression whether in association or thoughts to communist ideology. The mentality was freedom and individuality are permitted as long as they are all the same for everyone and promote idealistic family values. The production was directed by Don Siegel who made this great sci-fi cult movie, inspired a few remakes first came in 1978 which starred many notable actors, then again in 1993 called Body Snatchers and finally The Invasion  that starred Nicole Kidman, needless to say, this 1956 version is one that cinema and horror fans equally need to put on their must watch lists.
Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy (The Howling )) from Santa Mira, begins to narrate his story that about the week earlier he was told by his nurse Sally Withers (Jean Willes) he need to hurry back from a medical convention because of many patients filling his waiting room. Upon his drive to the office, he almost wipes out a neighborhood child Jimmy who doesn’t want to go to school and runs off. However, once he returns, there are no patients, except Jimmy and his grandmother arrive, he strangely says “not my real mom” the dear doctor calms him down but acts quite ignorant about these factors.
He happily meets an old flame, Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), who mentions she’s back from Reno, this writing technique was necessary to use the code-words for divorce and create a love-story subplot device; she asks Miles to see her cousin Wilma (Virginia Christine (The Mummy’s Curse )). Once he has the meeting with Wilma, she states the similar notion as Jimmy, that her Uncle Ira looks, acts, and has his memories, but that something is off about him. Miles dismisses it as an illness referring her to a psychiatrist. Occasionally, the voice returns with a growing sense of doom, it’s a strength of the script and film which places the viewer in Miles’ mind using rational concepts to define the obvious strange occurrences.
Miles and Becky attend a local popular restaurant, but it’s empty aside from a limited staff, but before dinner he receives an urgent medical call and heads to Belicec’s home. He learns there’s nothing wrong with them, but they, Jack (King Donovan (The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms )) and Teddy Belicec (Carolyn Jones (Eaten Alive )), but they show him a body lying on their pool table, partially formed with no fingerprints. Notwithstanding, a great story there’s an illogical moment here in the film, Bennell doesn’t ask how they found or why it’s there, it’s a common question or course even stranger is telling the husband-and-wife duo to watch over the body till morning. Perhaps the reasoning for (which some viewers and critics have debated, what would you tell the police and could your trust the authorities). Belicec flees in terror as they realize what is happening before their eyes, and head to Miles’ home. Later, after of series of curious happenings, namely Dr. Kauffman (Larry Gates) labels them all a form of mass hysteria, in the morning Charlie (Sam Peckinpah (The Visitor )), a gas meter reader, is in Miles’ basement and the dear doctor dismisses as a nonchalant event. However, it seemed odd, that a stranger even if you knew them casually to be working in basement. At a barbeque, these two couples gather outside a greenhouse, and suddenly noises startled their attention, and the adequate usage of practical effects in a one-take of the pods hatching in creepy bubbling diabolical manner, with lifeless replicates of them. Instantly, the panic, paranoia, sheer terror all rises, learning humanity faces possible extinction, freedom removed for one common goal – domination.
The film’s title was for a while in doubt, first considered “The Body Snatchers” after author Jack Finney’s novel of the same name but was dismissed because of director Val Lewton’s The Body Snatcher , also quickly passed on “They Come from Another World” because of The Thing from Another World , before settling the official title, this wouldn’t be the first time that the Allied Artists Pictures would infer with the production design. Originally slated to have a budget of $450,000 (in 2021 that equals $4.3 million) how the studio ordered the budget by $100k; their last tidbit was the ending, brought dissatisfaction, and lead to bracketed storyline to the beginning and ending, more on this in moment. It led to the elimination of any A-list stars and practically erased the special effects budget, as well as filming in a centralized northern California town, various places were used aiding to the nitpicking by some questioning the size of small-town USA. Siegel strived for a bleaker outlook on the conclusion of the film, where Bennell at the end is screaming in a mad frenzy at uncaring and impatient drivers on a highway about the invasion, and thereby wrapped its production. However, Allied Artists had other thoughts, since very unhappy with the ending, noting the end of America’s freedoms, therefore ordered Siegel to create a new ending with optimistic and hope. Hence for extra money and days to shoot the bracketed pick-up shots (which became known as the Framing Sequence], that started with Miles relaying his story both Dr. Bassett (Richard Deacon (Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy )) and Dr. Hill (Whit Bissell (Creature from the Black Lagoon )), who sadly were uncredited for their scenes. It ends with an ambulance driver informing the doctors of these strange pod things discovered in an auto accident, leading to calls to the police and FBI, a sigh of relief.
Some criticize the technical side of how these space-aliens form both pods and the transference into copy of the person, first we really don’t need to know, it’s scarier that way, that this advance culture travels in vacuum space and it works to find life to mate and overtake to hatch itself. However, to help, the 1993 versions assist in answering the transference problem clearly for those that are curious. The biggest flaw to the film is the framing sequence it feels disjointed from the rest of the film, rather Bennell screaming in all directions his alarmed sensibilities are now perceived as paranoia. An interesting aspect in film is the claustrophobia feature, when it has been used, often referring to a tight space i.e., a room or location, but this time as the invasion into one’s own personal space, the removal of freedom, in fact extending to the mind itself. Throughout the movie Siegel works with different askew angles to incorporate psychological impact of the growing isolationism for the lead actors. One cannot overlook some other points the movie makes to both mentality and moralistic ideology for that period in same ways still carries over to today. The backlash against a conformist style of the 50s, where the character Becky is either dragged or pulled along by Miles or she just screams in fright (it was very commonplace for many decades prior and post, sometimes justifiable.) The overall fear of the atomic bomb and the horrendous death to ensue, it led to the concept of ‘duck-and-cover’ and then the fear of science and namely secrets of space this factor more into a theology worrisome (if the human race reflects or creator then what unholy force crate other lifeforms.) I must not omit noting Carmen Dragon’s musical score assists in brilliant fashion to raise the tense situations, eerie references of paranoia, love found-caring- loss and loss of self, for a tension gathering movie.
I do enjoy this movie, always leads to wonderful discussions afterwards, and still very relatable, although, as I previously stated this movie has had few remakes, I prefer the remake (I know shocking) from 1978 the conclusion is far more fitting to the filmmakers’ original intention, and I’ll give a positive nod towards the 1993 version. The lasting contribution to cinema in general is acknowledged by the fact that the United States National Film Registry by The Library of Congress, selected this film on the legendary list in 1994. The film’s conceptual design has been told in other manners, for example The Brain Eaters  or more exactly a race of robot killers, with the goal to erase the human race, they are controlled by central hub and all think alike i.e., The Terminator . But why does the movie still clamor the attention? Simple, overwhelmingly people regardless of their nationality strive and savor their individuals, freedoms, vices, the loss of them it thoroughly scary, this movie makes it very to see them vanish while we sleep never to know they existed.
- The original Black & White classic
- Don Siegel’s Science-Fiction Shocker
- The original nightmare that threatened the world
- … there was nothing to hold onto – except each other.
- They come from another world!
- “Something is happening! Send your men of science quick!” The panic stricken cry went over the phone to Washington D. C. until the lines went dead!……
- Incredible! Invisible! Insatiable!
- Walter Wanger Creates the Ultimate in Science-Fiction!
- Collier’s Magazine called it “The Nightmare That THREATENS THE WORLD”
IMDb Rating 7.7/10
Baron’s Rating: 8.0/10
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Body Snatchers (1993)
The Invasion (2007)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Body Snatchers (1993)
The Invasion (2007)