Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

This is how I looked as a 10 year old watching the 1978 version with Donald Sutherland. I seriously loved that movie – how terrified I was and not from a “jump-em-out” kind of jolt but from the potential of unrealized danger afoot. It was the psychological aspect of the monster(s) being right here among us and no one believing what our lead man is saying!

iMDB Synopsis: A small-town doctor learns that the population of his community is being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates.

“It looked the same but it wasn’t. Something evil had taken possession of the town.”

I am really glad I decided to watch this original version. It was really well done. The acting, for the time, was spot on. I felt my nerves start to build right along with Miles, our lead actor.

Best line of the movie came from an exchange between Miles and Becky when she asks “Is that an example of your bedside manner?” and he responded with “No, that comes later.” I see you playboy! Second favorite line: “I didn’t know fear until I kissed Becky.” Ha! Just a solid line!

Watching the Classic Horror Flicks – this one coming in at an hour and twenty minutes and my being fully entertained – I am left asking: why is it that nowadays I have to commit to a three hour time commitment for a movie?

I would suggest this one for old scary movie lovers like myself. It held up well in its suspenseful nature and being a solid old thriller.

Now, for some trivia….

Cast And Crew
Don Siegel: Director
Daniel Mainwaring: Screenplay

Kevin McCarthy: Dr. Miles J. Bennell
Dana Wynter: Becky Driscoll
Larry Gates: Dr. Dan ‘Danny’ Kauffman
King Donovan: Jack Belicec
Carolyn Jones: Theodora ‘Teddy’ Belicec
Jean Willes: Nurse Sally Withers
Ralph Dumke: Police Chief Nick Grivett
Virginia Christine: Wilma Lentz
Tom Fadden: Uncle Ira Lentz
Kenneth Patterson: Stanley Driscoll
Guy Way: Officer Sam Janzek

Production designer Ted Haworth came up with a fairly simple and inexpensive (about $30,000 total) idea for creating the pods. The most difficult part was when the pods burst open, revealing the likenesses of the actors. The actors had to have naked impressions of themselves made out of thin, skin-tight latex. Making the casts, which involved being submerged in the very hot casting material with only a straw in their mouths to breathe through, was grueling for the actors, especially Carolyn Jones, who was claustrophobic. Dana Wynter recalled, “I was in this thing while it hardened, and of course it got rather warm! I was breathing through straws or something quite bizarre, and the rest of me was encased, it was like a sarcophagus. The guys who were making it tapped on the back of the thing and said, ‘Dana, listen, we won’t be long, we’re just off for lunch [laughs]!’ In the end, we had to be covered except for just the nostrils and I think a little aperture for the mouth.”

Filmed in 19 days. The cast and crew worked six days a week with Sundays off. The production went over schedule by three days because of night-for-night shoots that director Don Siegel wanted.

The scene in which Miles and Becky are pursued up a long, steep outdoor staircase was shot in Bronson Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. The head grip came up with the idea of building a small dolly with wheels that rode the top of the staircase’s iron rails ahead of the actors.

Screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring had brushes with Hollywood “Red Scare” witch-hunts, which lends credence to the theory that the film is a subtle statement against McCarthyism. Dana Wynter agreed with that sentiment, although she didn’t recall the mention of any political statements on-set. Kevin McCarthy believed the film to be an attack on “Madison Avenue” attitudes. Director Don Siegel joked that the pods represented movie industry executives.

In the decades since the film’s release, the term “pod people,” which was inspired by the transformed characters in the film, has become a popular phrase signifying people who are emotionally and creatively dead.

The film originally ended with Miles J. Bennell on the highway shouting to the people driving by, “You’re next, you’re next!” However, the studio wanted a happier ending that would assure the audience that the hero’s efforts were not in vain, so scenes were added to the opening to show Miles in a hospital recounting his story to two other doctors and to the end when the other doctors find out about the pods and one of them contacts the FBI. Players Whit Bissell, Richard Deacon, and Robert Osterloh, who appear prominently in these framing episodes, did not receive screen credit, because their scenes were added after the rest of the film, including the opening credits, had already been completed.

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