Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Invasion of the Body Snatchersinvasion poster
Directed by Don Siegel
Written by Daniel Mainwaring from a serial in Collier’s magazine by Jack Finney
1956/USA
Walter Wanger Productions
Repeat viewing/My DVD collection
#324 of 1001 Moview You Must See Before You Die

Dr. Miles J. Bennell: In my practice, I’ve seen how people have allowed their humanity to drain away. Only it happened slowly instead of all at once. They didn’t seem to mind… All of us – a little bit – we harden our hearts, grow callous. Only when we have to fight to stay human do we realize how precious it is to us, how dear.

It is amazing how much horror can be created with with a simple story and limited special effects.

Dr. Miles J. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) has been called back to his small town practice urgently because of the large number of patients who insist on seeing him.  When he arrives, however, many of these have cancelled their appointments.  He does see one woman who believes the man who is occupying what her uncle’s body is not really her uncle. He refers this patient to a psychiatrist.  These stories seem not to be uncommon.  Miles already encountered a little boy who ran screaming from the woman who he said was not his mother.

A high point to Miles return is running into his old high school sweetheart Becky (Dana Wynter).  In the years since graduation, both have married and divorced.  They rekindle their relationship immediately.

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They don’t have much of a chance to enjoy a romance, though.  Miles is summoned to a friend’s basement where the friend has discovered a blank faced corpse lying on his pool table.  The corpse is beginning to look more and more like the friend.  Gradually, Miles discovers that the whole town seems to be infected by a mysterious ailment.  And something seems determined to add the doctor and his girlfriend to their number …

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This movie is everything science fiction should be, tight paced at only 80 minutes and creepily disturbing.  The script and direction always have me believing in the good doctor’s predicament.  There is an interesting sub-text but whether it is anti-Communist or anti-McCarthy is hard to work out.  It may just be a commentary on how social pressures can rob us of our humanity.  Highly recommended.

Trailer

6 thoughts on “Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

  1. I love this movie. Love, love, love it!

    The first remake is decent, but it lacks the punch and earnestness of this original version. What I find very interesting is that even with the cobbled bookends on the story, this is much darker than the original novel.

    There’s a good amount of real horror in this, of truly scary moments, and as you say, it does this with not much of an effects budget. It’s surprising how much fear can be invoked by a glance or a deadened stare.

    If you get the chance, the original story is really worth your time.

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