May 7th, 2011: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Cast and Crew: Whit Bissell, Sam Peckinpah

What It’s About: When Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) returns to his small town practice, he encounters patients who believe their loved ones are somehow different-and at their most paranoid, replaced by impostors.  When Dr. Bennell’s friends Jack (King Donovan) and Teddy Belicec (Carolyn Jones) discover a half-formed body in their root cellar, he begins to suspect there is more afoot than mass hysteria.  Can Dr. Bennell figure things out and warn the outside world before it’s too late?

Why Watch it Today?: Both the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the Jack Finney story it is based on are often seen as 1950s paranoia about Communism, but another reading is a reaction to the creeping sameness and conformity of suburbia.  That forerunner of today’s suburban sprawl, the most famous of the early post-war enormous housing developments full of nearly identical houses, Levittown, was announced today in 1947.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers was an early film from future action director Don Siegel, with a sensational performance from lead Kevin McCarthy and a tight, Film Noir influenced look and style.  The story has been ripped off  and spoofed hundreds of times since, including 3 direct remakes, each of which attempts to place the paranoia into the context of its era.  Siegel’s film is still the best, even with its film and horror fan hated, tacked on, somewhat hopeful ending.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers effectively and efficiently taps into our fears of insanity and isolation, and that our close family members, friends, and lovers could some day just wake up different, , not to mention our anxieties about how society molds us and just how much free will anyone really has.

Where to Get ItYour local library, iTunes, Netflix (rental only), or Amazon

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