As many of you reading this blog know, I do love some classic sci-fi movies. However, even though I have seen many of these movies, there are plenty of them that I don’t own. So this month I decided to watch and review some of those movies that have yet to make it into my collection and to start things off, let’s take a look at a movie that is on just about every must see list of sci-fi movies. Now a few years ago, I had reviewed The Invasion, which is the most recent remake of today’s movie that I picked up during the Blockbuster days, but though I have seen every version of this movie, I never got around to picking any of them up. One of these days, I am going to rectify that but for now, let’s sit back and enjoy today’s movie, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956).
The plot: Late one night, psychiatrist is called to the emergency room of a California hospital, where Dr. Bassett hopes he would look at a man that was just brought in. As they approach the room, the man tries to break free from the police officers restraining him, saying he has to warn them before it is too late. As Dr. Hill calms the man down and says he will listen to him, the man says his name is Dr. Miles Bennell and begins explaining what led him there. Last Thursday, Miles had returned from a two week medical conference to his home in Santa Mira and was met by his secretary/nurse Sally Withers. As they make their way back to his office, Sally tells him that several towns folk had been by the office wanting to see him, including his ex Becky Driscoll, but wouldn’t say what was the reason. Later in his office, Becky stops by as Miles is about to leave for lunch and tells him her cousin Wilma thinks that her Uncle Ira is no longer her uncle, though Becky had been by to see him and says he looks the same as always. Later, after dealing with a terrified young boy who says his mother is not his mother, Miles decides to stop by and see Wilma. As he talks with her, Wilma says that the person she claims is not her Uncle Ira sounds like Ira and has all of his memories, but lacks any emotion. Miles thinks she might just be imagining things and suggests she talk to Dr. Dan Kauffman, his psychiatrist friend, and she agrees but says it won’t help as she knows there is nothing wrong with her. As Miles and Becky go to dinner, they run into Kauffman, who tells them that several other people have claimed similar ideas as Wilma and the boy over the past few weeks and he chalks it up to some sort of mass hysteria. Miles and Becky head into the restaurant but before they can order, Miles receives a call that his friend Jack Belicec needs him to come to his place right away so the two head off. When they get there, they find Jack and his wife Teddy waiting for them and Miles asks him what is the problem. Jack takes him inside and asks that he take a look at a body on his table, one that looks like an unfinished copy of Jack. Miles wonders if this has something to do with the panic that seems to have infected some of the townsfolk recently and asks Jack and Teddy to keep an eye on the body during the night and let him know if anything changes, then he leaves to take Becky home, where they see her father coming out of the basement. Back at the Belicec home, Teddy is staring at the body and sees that it has become an exact duplicate of Jack, even down to a recent cut on his hand, and she screams out for Jack and they quickly leave the house. The two head over to Miles’ house and tell him what happened and Miles calls Kauffman and asks him to come over. When Jack asks about Becky, Miles gets worried about her and heads for her house. He starts to ring the bell but changes his mind and sneaks down into the basement, where he finds a copy of Becky in a container. Miles quickly heads upstairs and grabs the sleeping Becky, taking her out of the house and back to his place. After telling Kauffman and the others what happened, Kauffman says that he wants to see one of these bodies but when they get to Jack’s place, they find the body is gone, as is the one in Becky’s basement. Kauffman doesn’t believe them about the bodies, saying that they are suffering the same hysteria that the others are suffering from. The next day, Miles sees that Wilma and the boy both seem to have changed their minds over what was bothering them, but that makes him more concerned. That night, as Miles, Becky, Jack, and Teddy are cooking at Miles house, Miles discovers 4 large seed pods in his greenhouse. As the 4 people watch the pods burst open, they realize that this is how the bodies must have appeared and Teddy says they don’t take full shape until the victims fall asleep. Leaving Jack and Teddy to watch the pods, Miles and Becky go inside to try and call for help only to be told that they can’t get a connection to any of the outside lines. Miles tells Jack and Teddy to get in the car and leave while he stays by the phone, in the hopes that nobody will realize they have left. When Miles is still unable to get an outside line, he decides to go and find a place to stay safe. Miles decides to try and head to Sally’s place but when they stop at the gas station to phone her, Miles notices the attendant closing his trunk and quickly leaves. After getting out of sight, he stops the car and opens the trunk to find two pods inside, and he quickly takes them out and lights them on fire before speeding off. Miles heads to Sallys’ but when he sees all of the cars there, he tells Becky to get behind the wheel and he goes in alone to see if it is safe. Looking in the window, he sees Sally, Becky’s father, and some others discussing placing a pod in the room of Sally’s baby and when Miles is noticed, they try to bring him inside but he escapes and jumps in the car with Becky as she drives off. The police are ordered to detain Miles and Becky, with roadblocks put in place to keep them from leaving town, so Miles and Becky manage to hide in his office, using caffeine pills to stay awake. The next morning, they see the bus arriving and people that get off are quickly picked up by the police and taken away. Then, three produce trucks filled with pods arrive at the town square, and Miles realizes that they are being taken to the neighboring towns so the invasion can spread. Not wanting to wait for Jack and Teddy to show up with help, Miles wants to leave when he hears Jack outside the door. Miles quickly opens the door to grab Jack and tells him the whole town is taken over when Kauffman steps in and says that Miles and Becky still haven’t been replaced. Miles and Becky try pleading to Jack and the others to let them leave but they are locked in a room until the fall asleep, while two pods are placed in the next room and looked after. Miles manages to cause a distraction and then use a sedative on Jack and Kauffman, while Becky sedates the police officer with them, then they quickly flee. Pretending to show no emotions, they attempt to make their way out of town but when a dog is almost hit by a truck, Becky screams out, bringing attention to themselves. As the townsfolk chase after them, Miles and Becky manage to make it out of the city and into the desert until Becky collapses from exhaustion and Miles carries her into a cave. The two manage to hide from their pursuers and after they are gone, Miles and Becky try to figure out what their next move should be. When they hear some singing coming from outside, Miles goes to investigate only to discover the singing was from the radio of another truck being loaded with pods nearby. Returning to the cave, he goes to find Becky and is worried that she had fallen asleep and when he kisses her, he realizes that she had been replaced. Miles runs from Becky and manages to reach the highway, where he is screaming at the passing cars for help and when he sees a transport truck filled with pods that is bound for Los Angeles and San Francisco, he starts yelling out “You’re next!” before the police arrive. Back in the present, Dr. Hill and Dr. Bassett find Miles’ story hard to believe but when a truck driver is brought into the emergency room, who was in an accident and buried under giant seed pods that he was carrying, Dr. Hill and Bassett realize that Miles was right and Hill quickly orders a roadblock preventing any traffic in or out of Santa Mira, then contacts the FBI.
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956) was initially ignored by the critics, but has since become recognized as one of the most influential movies of it’s time, holding a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “One of the best political allegories of the 1950s, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an efficient, chilling blend of sci-fi and horror.” Despite Kevin McCarthy and author Jack Finney’s denials that the story is a statement against McCarthyism and Communism, director Don Siegel says the political references were almost inescapable, though he tried not to emphasize them. The original movie had a bleaker ending, that of Miles running on the highway screaming “You’re next!” but the studio wanted a happier ending to the movie, resulting in the additional scenes added to the opening of Miles telling his story to the doctors, and the end where the doctors realize he was telling the truth and calling the FBI. The move was a box office success, earning $3 million off of a $416,911 budget and would spawn several remakes while becoming highly ranked among the most influential and must see movies of all time. In 1994, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956) was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry while the term “Pod People/Person” would become an everyday slang term for an emotionless person.
Every bit of praise that is directed towards this movie is honestly well deserved because this is a fantastic movie. The acting was pretty good, with Kevin McCarthy (Miles) and Dana Wynter (Becky) doing great jobs displaying the multitude of emotions that the stress of their situation dictated while being surrounded by the emotionless townspeople trying to replace them. The story was great, bringing a different take to the alien invasion theme that was popular at the time. While they aren’t overly blatant, the political Cold War comparisons are kind of hard to miss in this as well. The special effects were minimal in this movie, mainly consisting of a few scenes of the pods opening up to reveal the duplicates inside, as the movie focused more on a large amount of suspense building up to the climax to carry it through to amazing effect. Every bit the classic movie it is dubbed and a movie that is worth seeing.
Rating: 5 out of 5