Science Fiction Challenge Part 2 – Invasion of the Body Snatchers

5 Nov

This is part two of my personal science fiction challenge.  And for this edition I watched the original (that means 1956) version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Lara decided to join me in this part of the challenge because she had never seen this either.  So you’re blessed today to get to hear from both of us on a movie we should have seen years ago.  If knowing that we’re just now seeing this classic hasn’t totally destroyed your faith in us, then by all means proceed to see what we thought about it.

David’s Review

The first thing I thought when Invasion of the Body Snatchers ended was, “That was awesome.”  The second thing I thought was, “How have I never seen this before?”  I’m twenty-five years old.  I have had twenty-five years of chances to see this movie and I never did.  What was wrong with me?

In case you can’t guess what a movie called Invasion of the Body Snatchers is about, I’ll tell you.  The story follows young doctor Miles Bennel (Kevin McCarthy) who begins to notice some strange behavior in his small town.  Many of the locals are claiming that their relatives are not their relatives any more.  Uncle Ira has been replaced by something that smokes the same pipe, has the same slow voice, and remembers all the little details just like Uncle Ira did, but it lacks the twinkle in his eye – his feelings.  The doctor is pulled further and further into this mystery, along with his dreamy love interest, Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter).

This may sound like a pretty basic film concept.  And it is, but that’s really the beauty of it.  The film takes a simple idea, one that doesn’t require many special effects or crazy visuals, and turns it into something terrifying.  The idea that someone we love could be replaced by something that looks and acts exactly like them is just as scary today as it was in 1956, evidenced by the fact that the film has been remade three times, and parodied countless more.  The most recent remake was released just two years ago.

This concept is bolstered by an incredible cast and crew.  Don Siegel went on to direct such classics as Hell is for Heroes, Dirty Harry, Escape from Alcatraz, The Shootist, and many more.  His talent is easily seen in this film as well.  The close-ups on panicked faces.  The shadows.  The angles.  Everything fits together terrifyingly.  Nothing jumps out and scares you, and there’s no guts and gore, but you’ll still be sitting on the edge of your seat till the very end.

This review wouldn’t be complete without me fawning over the movie’s two lead actors a little longer.  The story is great and the directing makes everything look wonderfully frightening, but the story is truly carried by Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter.  McCarthy is totally convincing.  His transformation from rational doctor to frenzied survivor is one the great performances of classic cinema.  And the incredibly beautiful Dana Wynter helps him all along the way.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything else with her in it, but I will now.  This is a classic actress who has just as much talent as she does beauty.  She held her own next to McCarthy, and that couldn’t have been easy.

Basically, I loved this movie.  If you haven’t seen this, you should.  If you have seen it, go watch it again.  I plan on watching it many times in the future.  As for whether Invasion of the Body Snatchers deserves the number nine spot on the American Film Institute’s list of the ten best science fiction films, I say yes.  Absolutely yes.  I would actually put it a lot higher than nine.


Lara’s Review

I would like to start by pointing out that this is the only film on AFI’s top ten science fiction movies that I had never seen before. Yes, I know, I am a hero among men. But my heroism was not fully reached until tonight’s viewing of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Invasion of the Bodysnatchers is what an episode of The Twilight Zone would have looked like under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock. It is has the great cinematography and thrilling scenes of a Hitchcock film, with the eerie, sci-fi elements of the fifth dimension. However, I do not wish to discredit director Don Siegel. Even with a very low budget, he crafted a brilliant piece of cinema. A piece of cinema that fifty-three years after it had been made had a twenty-one year old on the edge of her seat, praying to get one more look at the oozing pods.

The film was not intended to begin and end the way it did, and that fact is fairly palpable. (SPOILER) The original version of the film ended in a very Soylent Greenesque way with Miles on the freeway, screaming frantically “They’re here already! You’re next! You’re next!” to no avail. However, the studio thought this conclusion was not optimistic enough and ordered a prologue and epilogue, which showed Miles in a hospital room warning others about the pod people. With these bookends to the plot, the film has sporadic narration that feels forced, redundant, and unnecessary. In fact, the domineering voice-over was my only complaint about the film, and now I know it was a production afterthought it certainly makes more sense. I would very much like to see a director’s cut of the film without these last minute additions.

So once again we bring ourselves to the question: does Invasion of the Body Snatchers deserve to have the ninth spot amongst the best science fiction films? I’m not quite sure. There are certainly other films I might personally put above it. And, while I watched it, my two viewing companions went to their respective rooms as they found the film to be too boring. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is suspenseful, it is creepy, and it has space pods — what more could you want in a science fiction movie?



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