Kevin McCarthy - Dr Miles J. Binnell
Dana Wynter - Becky Driscoll
Larry Gates - Dr Dan Kauffman
Carolyn Jones - Theodora "Teddy" Belicec
Whit Bissell - Doctor Hill
Sam Peckinpah - meter reader
Don Siegel - Director
Walter Wanger - Producer
Daniel Mainwaring - Screenwriter
Ellsworth Fredericks - Cinematographer
Carmen Dragon - Film Score
Jack Finney - Original Novel
One of the best (and best known) Science Fiction films of the fifties, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, though it has been read by many as an anti-Senator McCarthy tract (and by others as the classic example of an anti-communist film of the period for its handling of the take-over from within theme), is far better and far more complex than such crude reductions suggest. Indeed, the film , with its attack on conformity and lack of feelings and its defence of emotions, highlights the fact that at such a generalized level anti-McCarthy and anti-communist films are remarkably similar.
Of course, it's possible to read the movie along these lines but to do so is to omit consideration of the film's more pertinent concerns. In short, the strengths of Don Siegel's film are that it ceners not on the social and generalizeable, but on the specific myster of the difference between a human and an automaton-like existence. Rather than merely reflect America's paranoid fears of the times, in the manner of Philip Kaufman's 1978 remake which is best seen as a witty assault on the "me" generation, Siegel interrogates those fears.
Kevin McCarthy is the doctor who, on his return from a medical convention, finds his hometown disturbingly different and quickly discovers the cause, an invasion of parasite aliens (pods) that have the power to replace humans with soulless simulacra. Shot in Siegel's somber yet energetic style and using real locations for the fictional town of Santa Mira, the opening sequence creates a strong sense of unease that turns to terror in the second half as the good citizens of Santa Mira start to send out the pods across America.
The horror of the situation is all the more chilling for being so understated: a nurse, holding a pod, to another nurse, "Shall I put this in with the baby?", "Yes, then there'll be no more crying." At the heart of the film is the terrible mystery of the process of the take-over, marvellously realized in the sequence where McCarthy and his girlfriend, Dana Wynter, are shown by Belicec (King Donovan) and his wife (Carolyn Jones) the "blank" pod that will become him, if he goes to sleep. McCarthy frantically attacks the pods with a pitchfork, a scene made even more gruesome by the creatures' immobility and their closeness to humanity.
The result is one of Siegel's best films, despite studio interference. Against his wishes, in order to make the film more positive, a prologue and epilogue were added and much of the humorous dialogue of the first half of the movie (written by Sam Peckinpah who worked on the film uncredited) was exised. These alterations, however, don't diminish the power of Siegel's own ending, McCarthy staring wild-eyed into the camera shouting "You're next" as the cars and trucks with blank-faced drivers pass him by, taking no notice of his warning.
--PHIL HARDY, ed. from The Film Encyclopedia:
Science Fiction, 1984
A selection of Body Snatchers related films.
Find The Body Snatchers on eBay.com
A selection of The Body Snatchers in books.
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