Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Release Date: February 5, 1956
Cast: Kevin McCarthy as Dr. Miles Bennell
Dana Wynter as Becky Driscoll
King Donovan as Jack Belicec
Carolyn Jones as Teddy Belicec
Larry Gates as Dr. Dan Kaufman
Virginia Christine as Wilma Lentz
Length: WS BW 80 minutes
Director: Don Siegel
Producer: Walter Wanger
Cinematography: Ellsworth Fredericks
Screenplay: Daniel Mainwaring
Music: Carmen Dragon
Distributor: Allied Artists Pictures Corp.
Budget: $382,190

Interesting Tidbits

Invasion of the Body Snatchers started out as a low budget B-movie. Of that amount, only $15,000 was budgeted for special effects. It however went on to become a cult classic.

Surprisingly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers made $1 million in its first month; it subsequently went on to generate over $2.5 million in 1956.

This movie was so popular, that there have been no less than three remakes. The first was released in 1978 starring Donald Sutherland as Dr. Miles Bennell - the role played by Kevin McCarthy in the original. The second remake was named Body Snatchers in 1993. The third and last remake entitled The Invasion was done in 2007 and starred Nicole Kidman.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers was based on a novel by Jack Finney named The Body Snatchers and serialized in the Saturday Evening Post.

This movies was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, ans aesthetically significant" in 1993; the American Film Institute (AFI) made it its ninth best film in the science fiction genre in 2008. Time Magazine placed Invasion of the Body Snatchers on its list of 100 all-time best movies.

In Jack Finney's novel, the invasion by seed pods from outer space took place in Mill Valley, a town just north of San Francisco. Upon scouting this location however, it was found to be too expensive. Allied Artists executives instead used Sierra Madre, Chatsworth, Glendale, the Los Feliz neighborhood and Bronson and Beachwood Canyons in California - all of which comprised Sana Mira in the movie.

Originally planned for a 24-day shooting schedule, it was downsized to a more financially manageable 20-day schedule.

Producer Walter Wanger considered Gig Young, Dick Powell, Joseph Cotten and others for the lead of Dr. Bennell. For the role of Becky, he considered Anne Bancroft, Donna Reed, Kim Hunter, Vera Miles among others. But with a reduced budget, these initial choices had to be abandoned. He instead cast two relative newcomers - Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter.

The Plot

In the fictional town of Santa Mira, California, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy), a local doctor, finds a rash of patients accusing their loved ones of being impostors. Another patient is a former sweetheart of his; recent divorcée Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), who tells him that her cousin, Wilma, has this same strange fear about Uncle Ira.

Assured at first by the town psychiatrist, Dr. Dan Kaufman (Larry Gates), that the cases are nothing but "epidemic mass hysteria," Bennell soon discovers, with the help of his friend Jack Belicec (King Donovan), that the townspeople are in fact being replaced by perfect physical duplicates, simulacrums grown from giant plant-like pods. The Pod People are indistinguishable from normal people, except for their utter lack of emotion. The Pod People work together to secretly spread more pods - which grew from "seeds drifting through space for years" - in order to replace the entire human race.

The film climaxes with Bennell and Driscoll attempting to escape the Pod People, intending to warn the rest of humanity. They hide; Driscoll fights an overwhelming urge to sleep, but when she briefly drifts away, she is instantly subverted, becoming one of the Pod People. With the Pod People close behind, a seemingly crazed Bennell runs onto the highway frantically screaming about the alien force which has overrun Santa Mira to the passing motorists and (in a moment that is considered a breaking of the Fourth Wall) looks into the camera and yells, "They're here already! You're next! You're next!"

Finally, Bennell is picked up by the police and questioned in a clinic. The policemen in charge do not believe his account — until they receive news of an accident in which a truck carrying strange giant bean pods is opened. The police are quick to alert the authorities; the message has been received, but the actual end of the story is left open.

The Wrap-up

This film is a classic; I have thoroughly enjoyed it from the outset. I thought the scene where Kevin McCarthy ran along the highway trying to warn people about the danger was a little hokey. But, that aside, it's an excellent movie.