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Movie Review – Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 – United States)
"They're coming; you're next!"
It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.
"Don't just stand there fitting me for a straight jacket, do something!" Kevin McCarthy's character demands near the end of this utterly chilling 1956 masterpiece of (I'd say justified) paranoia. The problem is, there's nothing they CAN do, they or anyone else, because the pods have already taken over—and I don't mean just in this picture! Released soon after the Communist witch-hunt era of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R. Wisconsin, 1908 – 1957), and superior in every way to the 1978 remake, McCarthyism is the most commonly sited reference point for this film, but it has always seemed to me to resonate on much deeper levels than that.
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The scary thing about the people transformed by the pods (they kill and disappear you, then replace you with a creepy doppelganger) is their soulessness. And soulessness is no Cold War anomaly, it is, instead, the current status quo. Pop culture deifies soulessness, for it ultimately resides in that all-powerful Bottom Line.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is therefore the anthem of artists, dissidents, the disenfranchised and oddballs everywhere. Watch this movie understanding that Allied Artists forced the creative team to tack on the softening bookends (It originally ended with the doctor's anguished freeway-side warning) and then ask yourself, how many pods do you know? Your boss? His boss? What about our politicians? Huh? Pods, the lot of 'em! If there is a single cry that echoes down through all of human history, that applies to every era, and that has reached its crescendo in our own times, it is without doubt the doctor's hysterical freeway cry: "They're coming! You're next."
Copyright © Roberta Lee 2012. All rights reserved.
(I am an artist and the author of the Suburban Sprawl series of novels as well as two nonfiction books. Find out more about my work at RobertaLeeArt.com.)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Classics, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Running time: 1 hr. 20 min.
Directed By: Don Siegel
Written By: Geoffrey Homes
Based on a novel by: Jack Finney
Kevin McCarthy - Dr. Miles Bennel
Dana Wynter - Becky Driscoll
Larry Gates - Dr. Dan Kauffmann
King Donovan - Jack
Whit Bissell - Dr. Hill
Jean Willes - Sally
Ralph Dumke - Nick