Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Release Year: 1956
Director: Don Siegel
Writers: Daniel Mainwaring (screenplay), Jack Finney (based on his Collier’s magazine serial)
Starring: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones, Jean Willes, Ralph Dumke, Virginia Christine
A small-town doctor learns that the inhabitants of his community are being replaced by alien duplicates.
Don Siegel’s 1956 sci-fi horror Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a strong contender for the title of the epitome of the 1950’s sci-fi movie. The genre flourished in that decade; after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world had now entered the atomic age, and with the space race just about to take off, science and outer space was both exciting and terrifying. Invasion of the Body Snatchers falls very much in the latter category. It is a genuinely spooky film, dealing with fear of the unknown and of the creeping invisible enemy from without. It is easy to read lots of political undertones in the film, but the fact is that the film is first and foremost a thriller and works well as such. It doesn’t try to be smarter than it is and that is frankly quite refreshing. McCarthy (Innerspace, 1987) is good as the handsome, well-liked doctor, who proves to be resourceful once he begins to realise what is happening. Siegel (Dirty Harry, 1971) does a great job with both the slow creepy scenes and the more thrilling chase scenes. The musical score is excellent, and the ending is quite memorable. All around a great 50’s sci-fi horror and a good place to start if you are new to the genre.
Both actor Kevin McCarthy and author Jack Finney denied that there was any veiled criticism of the McCarthyism in the story. Director Don Siegel, however, saw the connections as inescapable but he tried not to emphasize it in the film.
The film almost called The Body Snatchers as Finney’s original, but it was thought to be too close to The Body Snatcher (1945). Other title suggestions were Better Off Dead, Sleep No More, and World in Danger, before the studio finally settled on Invasion of the Body Snatcher.
The movie was filmed in just 19 days. It went three days over schedule in order to secure some night scenes that the director wanted.
Picture Copyright: UIP