Scary Movie Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Title: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Release Date: February 5, 1956
Director: Don Siegel
Production Company: Walter Wanger Productions

A lot of times ideas about iconic movies in the popular imagination (especially when that movie spawns remakes and sequels) don’t quite hold up when you go back and watch the original film.  Today the idea of “pod people” is that they have vacant expressions and show no emotions.  But while the pod people of Invasion of the Body Snatchers don’t form attachments, they do remain expressive and startlingly similar to the humans they replaced, which makes them more scary in my mind.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers could be a metaphor fold Cold War America’s fears of communist infiltration.  Or it could be the complete opposite, satirizing the conformity of 1950’s America brought on by anti-communist hysteria.  It’s entirely possible that it’s a just a scary story of seeing everyone you know and love replaced by something alien.  Probably because I’m watching this in the midst of a global panic, but I feel that the pod people are like a viral infection.  It has no purpose but to reproduce and survive, taking advantage of its hosts (in this case, human sociability) to propagate.

Kevin McCarthy plays the small-town doctor Miles Bennell who slowly uncovers the mystery of people being replaced by exact replicas. Assisted by his love interest Becky (Dana Wynter) and friends Jack (King Donovan) and Teddy (Carolyn Jones), they soon find all of Santa Mira aligned against them. The movie has a framing device of Miles telling his story to a psychiatrist in Los Angeles, but I remember seeing this as a kid without the frame and think the ending with Miles standing on a freeway shouting a warning at passing drivers is much more effective.  While the movie is low budget and feels more like a tv show (perhaps a long episode of The Twilight Zone) I found it holds up very well and builds a menacing feeling of suspense.

Rating: ***1/2

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