Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)


“You’re next! You’re NEXT!!”

That immortal line screamed by Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) as he runs through traffic is still chilling 56 years on.

The 101 Sci-Fi movies brought me to the utlimate tale of conformity versus indiviualism today with the 1956 classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Directed by Don Siegel, who would later direct the Clint Eastwood classic, Dirty Harry, the film is set in the small town of Sana Mira, where things seem to ge getting a little… weird.

Miles is summoned back to his sleepy little town by a phonecall, it seems most of the town has turned up at his office over the past two weeks asking to see him.

Getting back in town he begins hearing tales of sisters, uncles, husbands, brothers, wives not being who they are. There’s no physical indications, but something seems off.

Bennell is quite content to chart it up to delusion, to illness, but is also a little distracted by a former flame returning to town in the person of Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter). While the two of them try to get reacquainted more unusual incidents start to occur, including a half formed body found on a friend’s pool table.

Soon it becomes apparent that there is an almost silent invasion taking place.

And it happens to you when you are at your most vulnerable, asleep.

When you wake, having been incorporated and replaced by a pod-person, literally, hatched from a pod, you no longer feel anything, you simply are, but now live untroubled by things such things as faith, love, doubt, anger, all of it gone.

This was my first time with this version of the story, I always preferred the 1978 adaptation from Philip Kaufman featuring Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Goldblum, because that scream was creepy. That being said, this version is entertaining, and thrilling, setting you on edge as Smalltown U.S.A. falls victim, and knowing that other towns will follow…

Being presented in black and white this version seems a little more subtle in its storytelling, almost documentary-like, helped out by McCarthy’s narration.

As Bennell investigates he begins to realize he’s out of his element as it isn’t a medical problem, the people reporting these things aren’t crazy, they’re the last surviving humans, that is until they succumb to sleep, and wake up as part of the invasion.

I’ve heard it said that this was the ultimate cold war sci-fi film of the 1950s. That the people you knew, the people you called friends and damily could be the other, the threat, and yet, with all the conformity inherent in our culture and repetitive housing that makes up suburbia and big box stores… perhaps it was a cry against these things and the recognition for the need of individuality.

Either way, it’s still a great little sci-fi tale and one that has been revisited and remade a number of times since.

The 78 version was always my favorite, which one is yours?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dave Enkosky says:

    I actually like this and the seventies version equally.

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