Today in cinematic history, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) was released in theaters. In Don Siegel’s hot-headed paranoia B-movie, the killer aliens from outer space duplicate humans.
The aliens spawn up a frothy mess from super-sized seed pods.
Filmed entirely in southern California, Invasion is set in a sleepy nondescript California town. The Eisenhower-era commiesploitation film noir focuses on the fear of depersonalization and the claustrophobic constraints of conformity.
Significant plot hole aside, Invasion is a concise (80 min.) and dramatic thriller that succeeds at creating a sustained sense of suspense.
Special effects are kept to a minimum.
The plot’s premise is emphasized through Siegel’s classical compositions, mise-en-scene, and crisp night-time photography.
When the film was first previewed, wholesome audiences thought the ending was a bit of a downer. Originally, the main character was left yelling and waving his arms madly about in the middle of the highway, desperately trying to warn folks of the dangerous pod people. To give the film a happy ending, the studio added opening and closing sequences that imply help is on the way.
If your preference is the more ambiguous ending, there’s a work-around. Start the movie at scene three and end with scene twenty-four. The other alternate for a better ending is to watch the 1978 remake starring Donald Sutherland.
Either way, Invasion is the ultimate in science fiction. Available on Netflix and streamable ($0.00) via Amazon Instant Video.