INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is a classic science fiction movie from 1956 by Don Siegel. Based on a novel by Jack Finney, the movie tells the story of a young doctor in a small California town. The doctor discovers that emotionless, totalitarian pod people from outer space are replacing the townspeople’s souls and bodies while they sleep. The question becomes: Can the doctor and his girlfriend stay awake long enough to escape the evil, emotionless pod people and warn the rest of the country?
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is one of the most chilling, spellbinding science fiction movies ever made. The climax near the end is one of the most devastating scenes in movie history. The best film scholars believe that the movie is an anti-communist allegory from the 1950s. However, the story can also be viewed on a more personal, psychological, theological, universal level. Thus, it can be seen as a warning about losing one’s emotions, individuality, compassion, and moral conscience to a cold, pitiless, robotic, or pseudo-intellectual conformity. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is a brilliant movie.
(BBB, ACACAC, V, A, DD, M) Very strong moral, worldview that’s also a very strong anti-communist allegory; no foul language; some scary violence includes giant intelligent pods from outer space steal the souls and bodies of people while they sleep, one of the pods gets stabbed by a pitchfork, people run away from the alien pod people, woman stumbles and falls while running away, little boy says his mother is not really his mother, but then he too is replaced by a pod person, man runs out onto the highway to warn people in their cars, “You’re next!”; no sex but some kissing; no nudity, alcohol use; smoking and heroes use amphetamine drugs to keep themselves awake so that they won’t get taken over by alien pod people; and, cold-hearted villains try to hold people against their will so they can steal their souls and bodies, or remove their souls and kill their original bodies.
Before he started doing major Hollywood releases with Clint Eastwood like COOGAN’S BLUFF and DIRTY HARRY, Director Don Siegel was a master of B movies like THE BIG STEAL (1949), RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 (1954), EDGE OF ETERNITY (1959), HELL IS FOR HEROES (1962 with Steve McQueen), and FLAMING STAR (1960, a B western with Elvis Presley). In 1956, he filmed one of the best, most memorable science fiction movies of all time (despite its B movie pedigree), INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.
Based on Jack Finney’s classic novel of the same name, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS stars Kevin McCarthy as Miles, a young doctor in a small California town who finds some of the people in the town acting weirdly unemotional. The story starts with a little boy who suddenly says his mother is not really his mother, but a monster. Just as suddenly, however, the little boy says nothing’s wrong.
Eventually, Miles and his girlfriend, Becky, discover that the people in the town are being replaced by alien “pod people,” who replace the townspeople’s souls and bodies while they sleep. The question becomes: Can Miles and Becky stay awake long enough to escape the evil pod people and warn the rest of the country?
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is one of the most chilling, spellbinding science fiction movies ever made. The climax near the end is one of the most devastating scenes in movie history.
The studio made Siegel tack on a prologue and a happy ending to lighten the relentless terror in the story. Though Siegel was opposed, MOVIEGUIDE® thinks the new ending provides a needed catharsis for viewers. Also, the ending Siegel wanted seems a little hokey.
Many have debated the meaning behind INVASION OF THE BODY SNACTHERS. Some say the alien pod people are supposed to represent the “red baiters” who stopped communists from taking over the USA in the 1950s. However, a more likely scenario is that the alien pod people are more like the “intellectual” leftist communists and totalitarians that brainwash people and deprive them of their individuality. Thus, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS can be viewed as anti-communist.
To Director Don Siegel, however, the movie has a personal and psychological meaning, not a political one. “I felt that this was a very important story,” he said in an interview (Interview with Don Siegel in Alan Lovell: Don Siegel. American Cinema, London 1975). “I think that the world is populated by pods, and I wanted to show them. I think so many people have no feeling about cultural things, no feeling of pain, of sorrow.” Thus, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS can also be viewed on a more personal, psychological, theological, and universal level. For example, it can be seen as a warning about losing one’s emotions, individuality, compassion, and moral conscience to an arid, cold, empty, pitiless, robotic, and pseudo-intellectual conformity and despotism.
Siegel’s more personal interpretation became a theme in many of his other movies. For example, in DIRTY HARRY, Clint Eastwood’s iconic policeman, Harry Callahan, is a man who has withdrawn emotionally from the world (Don Siegel’s archetypal pod person) after his wife was killed by a drunk driver who “crossed the yellow line.” When Harry encounters a mad killer based on the “Zodiac Killer” in San Francisco (portrayed brilliantly by Andy Robinson from television’s STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE), Harry regains his emotional equilibrium and humanity, but he crosses the line in the final famous scene. In that scene, Harry deliberately and emotionally goads the mad killer so that he can justifiably kill him and make sure the killer can’t hurt another human being ever again. The last shot of DIRTY HARRY shows Harry throwing away his badge because he realizes that even he has crossed a yellow line from which he can never return.
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is a must-see movie for fans of science fiction movies and fans of more tasteful and more intelligent movies in the horror genre. It’s a brilliant piece of cinema for mature audiences with great historical, political, psychological, moral, and spiritual significance. Best of all, it’s a darn good story! What more could you possible want?
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