31 Horror Films #5 Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956 Dir. Don Siegel

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956 Dir. Don Siegel

Post World War II America had a lot of things going on, their was unprecedented prosperity, the suburbs, the baby boom. However, there was also a hell of a lot of paranoia. Senator Joseph McCarthy was spreading a message of panic and fear across the U.S. that communist spies had infiltrated our country and that they must be stopped. This was a time when the slightest off handed comment could wind you up in from the HUAC board to explain your liberal leanings.

This climate inspired several works of fiction. The Crucible by Arthur Miller preaches the horrors of witch hunts, Sartacus gave a voice to those being suppressed. However, in the world of science fiction horror, the title that readily comes to mind is Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Based off of the 1954 Jack Finney novel, "The Body Snatchers", the film follows the account given by Dr. Miles Bennell. Bennell is held in a psychiatric hospital and relays the story in which the small town of Santa Mira, California has been taken over by impostors. Dr. Bennell interviews several of his patients speaking of this phenomena. A series of mounting evidence leads Bennell to the realization that his town (and maybe the world) has been seized by aliens creating copies of each of us. Kevin McCarthy crazed and sweaty pleas for help are now iconic. McCarthy even had a small cameo in the 1978 remake playing essentially the same character.

However, there are some who say that this film is in fact a pro-McCarthy piece about the dangers of infiltrating communist spies. I don't know if I buy that thematic explanation especially when the director Don Siegel gave an interview in 1975 where he spoke frankly about the film saying:

"…I felt that this was a very important story. 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. …The political reference to Senator McCarthy and totalitarianism was inescapable but I tried not to emphasize it because I feel that motion pictures are primarily to entertain and I did not want to preach."

There have been several films that have remade Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or stories that have taken inspiration from it. While each of these have been met with varying success, the original remains just as terrifying, dark and poignant today as it did back in 1956.

See the trailer HERE

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