Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Dir. Don Siegel

“They’re here already! You’re next! You’re next, You’re next…!”

Great, fun film.  I saw Invasion of the Body Snatchers for the first time last night at a friend’s Halloween party.  On one level, it is an interesting film to watch as it is a product of its time, during the Cold War era…as well as being a commentary on McCarthyism, with the story of everyone emotions and feelings dissolving, and their memories being absorbed into copies of people born from space seed pods, essentially turning the planet into a fleet of mindless human drones.  Don’t go to sleep or your done for.  And of course the big question is, what happens to the original bodies once the copies are made?

Thankfully the film doesn’t veer too far into hokey science fiction, and the story manages to stay grounded and have its own sense of fun and humor.  There are some pretty funny lines:    
Becky: Is this an example of your bedside manner, doctor?
Dr. Miles J. Bennell: No, ma’am. That comes later.  

And some slightly unintentionally funny lines:
 Dr. Miles J. Bennell: I never knew fear until I kissed Becky.

For a film with a low budget, its a testament to the strength of the story that manages to hold its own.  There are some genuinely creepy moments in the film.  Like for example, the discovery of one of the human pod people being developed, and the discovery that the copy has no fingerprints.  There are also great moments of human intuition.  Where relatives of people who have been replaced become panicked when they know something is missing from their loved ones, but they can’t explain it, even though they appear to act and remember things like they always did.  And just for sheer goofiness, I love the scene where Dr. Miles and Becky have to walk through the town full of drones with a glass eyed stare pretending as if they have already been taken over.  Then Becky blowing their cover when she freaks that a dog is about to be hit by a truck.  I also liked the scene at the gas station where the gas station guys pretend to fix they’re car only to put two pods for them in the trunk.  

 At the end of the film, they do try to spin a somewhat hopeful ending (not necessarily a happy ending), but to show at least that what’s left of humanity will try to fight off the pod people.  Anyone who knows me knows I love a good dark ending.  But I suppose with the ending of this film, I can humanity trying to put up a fight, but if logic works the way it does in this film, I think it’s pretty inevitable that the Earth is screwed.

There’s some enjoyable performances in this.  Kevin McCarthy is great as Dr. Miles, as well as Dana Wynter who plays Becky.  I only really know Kevin McCarthy from his performances later in his career as an older actor, so it was nice to see what he did in his heyday.  Also enjoyable in this was Larry Gates as Dr. Kaufman, Dr. Miles’ comrade, who starts as his friend only to become a threat as a pod person.  His voice is familiar to me, thought I have trouble pin pointing where else I’ve seen him.  There’s also a couple of top actors and film professionals in smaller roles.  The great director Sam Peckinpah plays Charlie, the Gas man in a small role.  Also in the film is Richard Deacon, who is most famous as Dick Van Dyke’s boss on The Dick Van Dyke show.  He plays a small role as a psychiatric doctor in the beginning of the film, when Dr. Hill bursts in raving about the Pod people.  Oh yes!  And one other cameo appearence…if you’ve every been to Papoo’s Hot Dog Show in Toluca Lake (it closed unfortunately early last year), it appears in this film when it was just a Hot Dog stand!  

While its true the message of this film is primarily a product of its time, it still holds up pretty well.  It’s grounded with a good story, and for Halloween at least, its just good creepy fun.   

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