Saturday, January 5, 2013
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)
(February 1956, U.S.)
Over the past year, I started watching DVD binges of CBS' THE BIG BANG THEORY (laughing my ass off!). Since then, though, I'm almost hesitant to get into any sort of discussion or blogging of any science fiction or fantasy film without sounding like some sort of Comic-Con nerd (bless their hearts!). Imagine how I'm going to feel when I inevitably get to the STAR TREK and STAR WARS films! I suppose when that feeling hits me, I need to simply remind myself that I'm exploring such films not only in terms of their content, but perhaps their place in cinema and world history.
So, with history as the key word here, let's discuss a very popular sci-fi classic that hit movie theaters during the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Even back in the 1950s, Hollywood knew just how to market itself and rack up the ticket sale grosses based on American fear and paranoia (Hollywood continues to do just that in our time ever since 9-11). The original black and white film version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS depicts an extraterrestrial invasion in a small California town. And even if you've never actually seen this film before, if you're a sci-fi film enthusiast, you've likely seen this popular still photo of the heroes running for their lives...
The alien invaders proceed to replace human beings with duplicates that appear identical on the surface but are devoid of any human emotion or individuality. The local town doctor, Miles Bennell (played by Kevin McCarthy) uncovers what is happening around him and tries to stop the invasion and takeover. The duplications come in the form of some rather freaky looking sea pods (freaky even in black and white 1950's cinema). Slowly and systematically, the town is being taken over by these "pod people" and it's ultimately up to the one man who stands alone against the potential threat. Unlike many other cheap 'B' science fiction films of the era, the invaders are not necessarily defeated in the end. In fact, the ending resolution of the entire threat is left very vague and unanswered. Will mankind win or be taken over in the end? Perhaps that's not even the point, but rather that the hero of the film will triumph in getting other human beings of reason, rational and emotional response to believe his story and join him in the fight against an alien invasion.
Kevin McCarthy is an actor I know hardly anything about beyond this classic and a the brief homage cameo he has in the 1978 remake (coming next on this blog!). Despite his extensive career, this is the role he'll be most remembered for. Not a bad thing at all. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS serves as one of the quintessential sci-fi films that only marks great cinema of its own style, but also a time in our American history when we allowed our fears of the unknown, whether from foreign countries or from "somewhere out there" to get the better of us. More than six decades later, we haven't come very far, in my opinion.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Becky Driscoll: "They're like huge seed pods!"