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Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Alternate Title: The Body Snatchers
Director: Don Siegel (Dir)
Release Date:   5 Feb 1956
Production Date:   23 Mar--27 Apr 1955
Duration (in mins):   80
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Kevin McCarthy (Dr. Miles Bennell)  
    Dana Wynter (Becky Driscoll)  
    Larry Gates (Dr. Danny Kauffman)  
    King Donovan (Jack Belicec)  
    Carolyn Jones (Theodora "Teddy" Belicec)  
    Jean Willes (Sally)  
    Ralph Dumke (Nick)  
    Virginia Christine (Wilma)  
    Tom Fadden (Ira)  
    Kenneth Patterson (Driscoll)  
    Guy Way (Sam)  
    Eileen Stevens (Anne Grimaldi)  
    Beatrice Maude (Grandma Grimaldi)  
    Jean Andren (Aunt Eleda)  
    Bobby Clark (Jimmy Grimaldi)  
    Everett Glass (Dr. Pursey)  
    Dabbs Greer (Mac Lomax)  
    Pat O'Malley (Baggage man)  
    Guy Rennie (Proprietor)  
    Marie Selland (Martha Lomax)  
    Sam Peckinpah (Charlie Buckholtz, gas meter reader)  
    Harry J. Vejar    
    Whit Bissell (Dr. Hill)  
    Richard Deacon (Dr. Harvey Bassett)  
    Robert Osterloh (Ambulance driver)  
    Frank Hagney    

Summary: In California, at the request of Dr. Harvey Bassett, psychologist Dr. Hill is brought in to confer about Dr. Miles Bennell, who has been admitted to the hospital as a mental patient. Although highly agitated, Miles convinces the doctors to listen to his story, which began a few days before, when Miles left a medical conference early, at the urgent request of Sally, his nurse: Although the small town of Santa Mira seems unchanged when he arrives, Sally reports that his waiting room is filled with patients. Driving to his office, Miles narrowly escapes hitting young Jimmy Grimaldi, who darts into the street. Grandma Grimaldi explains to Miles that Jimmy is afraid to go to school and, when Miles notices that her successful vegetable stand is closed, she says her husband lost interest in it. At the office, Miles finds few patients waiting, but, later, Becky Driscoll, Miles’s former girl friend, comes to consult him about her cousin, Wilma. Becky, who has until recently been living in England, explains that Wilma insists someone is impersonating their uncle, Ira. After Miles offers to see Wilma, he and Becky chat and discover that they have both recently divorced. As Miles walks Becky outside, he speaks with a policeman who asked Sally for an appointment but now says it is unnecessary. Near the end of the day, Grandma brings in Jimmy, who says someone is pretending to be his mother. After talking to Jimmy, Miles, who is intrigued by the similarity of his and Wilma’s claims, proceeds to Wilma's house and determines that Ira is not an imposter. Wilma disagrees, saying that the imposter looks like Ira and has his memories, but lacks emotion, and Miles tactfully refers her to a psychologist, Dr. Danny Kauffman. That evening, Miles and Becky go out together and encounter Kauffman and another doctor, both of whom believe that mass hysteria has stricken the townspeople. Later, Miles and Becky find that a once-popular restaurant is empty of customers and has been for the last two weeks, according to the proprietor. An emergency call from Jack and "Teddy" Belicec prompts Miles and Becky to visit them. At their home, the couple shows them a mysterious, half-formed body, without facial lines or fingerprints, found lying inert on their billiard table. When Teddy points out that the height and build are similar to Jack’s, her husband is startled into dropping a drinking glass that cuts his hand. Miles suggests they watch the body until morning. He then takes Becky home, where he checks out an unsettling noise caused by her father working in the basement. During the night, Jack dozes as Teddy notices that the body has a cut on its hand in the same place as Jack’s. Screaming, she awakens Jack and they drive to Miles’s house. Miles calls Kauffman and then, acting on a premonition, rushes to Becky’s house, breaks into the basement and discovers a double of her forming there. He rescues the real sleeping Becky and takes her to his house. Accompanied by the skeptical Kauffman, Miles and Jack return to the Belicecs and discover that the body is gone. They also find Becky’s double missing. When Becky's father, having heard them in the basement, calls the police station, a policeman, Nick, responds to check out the house. When Miles tells him about the mysterious body at Jack's house, Nick says that it belonged to a murder victim later found burning on a haystack. The next morning, Wilma tells Miles that she feels better and withdraws her allegations about Ira. Grandma and Jimmy come to Miles's office and inform him that the boy is back to normal, prompting Miles to wonder why the strange ailments have mysteriously disappeared. While making dinner at Miles's house that night, Miles, Becky and the Belicecs discover four pods growing in the greenhouse. Horrified, they watch as one body pops out of a foaming pod. Miles guesses that the pods create a double of a person while he or she sleeps, after which the original body is either destroyed or disintegrates. It then occurs to Becky that her father has acted strangely since her return and is one of the pod people. Miles attempts to call the FBI in Los Angeles, but an emotionless telephone operator claims that she cannot get through. Increasingly frantic, Miles asks her to try Sacramento. While waiting, Miles discusses with his friends whether the pods might be caused by an atomic reaction or alien organism, and how the new bodies take over the person’s mind. As they wait, one of the pods forms a double of Teddy. Sensing immediate danger, Miles asks Jack to take the women to safety, but Becky insists on staying with him. Miles kills the bodies with a pitchfork and leaves with her. At a gas station, the attendant slips two pods into his trunk, which Miles finds and burns later. Hoping to rescue Sally, Miles and Becky drive to her home, where Miles learns that she, too, has been transformed. Nick, whom he now realizes has been transformed all along, corners him, but Miles escapes with Becky, after which Nick alerts the police to search for them. Abandoning the car, Miles and Becky hide in his office, planning to rendezvous with the Belicecs there. After giving himself and Becky a shot of a drug stimulant to keep them awake, Miles says that, in his work he often sees people slowly grow callous and lose their humanity, and is troubled how they do not seem to mind. The next morning, Miles and Becky watch through the window as farmers distribute to their emotionless neighbors pods that are destined for other towns. Then Jack and Kauffman appear, both transformed, and place pods in the office for Miles and Becky. Kauffman explains to them that the solution to humanity’s problems has come from space seeds. The pods from these seeds reproduce an exact likeness of any form and painlessly absorb its mind, so that the being awakens into an “untroubled world.” Although Becky and Miles argue that they prefer to have love, Kauffman points out that life is simpler without it. After tricking the men, Miles injects them with sedatives, then flees with Becky. On the street, they hide their emotions, pretending to have changed, but Becky shrieks when a truck almost hits a dog, thus giving them away. Pursued by the townspeople, they run up a hill and into an old mining tunnel, where, exhausted but fighting sleep, they wait until nightfall. The sound of beautiful music coming from outside the cave gives them hope that others have survived. Miles leaves Becky to investigate it and learns that the music is coming from a car radio. When he returns, Miles kisses Becky but, to his great shock, realizes that she has been changed, having fallen asleep in his brief absence. Panicking, Miles runs toward the highway after Becky alerts the others, but the townspeople let Miles escape, presuming that no one will believe him. Through the dense, slowly-moving traffic Miles runs, screaming warnings, but the drivers think he is either drunk or crazy. When seed pods fall out of a truck, Miles yells, “They’re here already! You’re next!” At the hospital, Miles ends his tale, aware that the doctors will not believe him. Then, an ambulance delivers casualties from a highway accident, in which victims were buried under large pods that fell from a truck. Upon hearing that the truck originated in Santa Mira, the doctors call the FBI and police, to the relief of the exhausted Miles.  

Production Company: Walter Wanger Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Allied Artists Pictures Corp.  
Director: Don Siegel (Dir)
  Richard Maybery (Asst dir)
  Bill Beaudine Jr. (Asst dir)
  Don Torpin (Asst dir)
Producer: Walter Wanger (Prod)
Writer: Daniel Mainwaring (Scr)
Photography: Ellsworth Fredericks (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Edward Haworth (Prod des)
Film Editor: Robert S. Eisen (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Joseph Kish (Set dec)
Music: Carmen Dragon (Mus comp and cond)
  Jerry Irvin (Mus ed)
Sound: Ralph Butler (Sd)
  Del Harris (Sd ed)
Special Effects: Milt Rice (Spec eff)
Make Up: Emile LaVigne (Makeup)
  Mary Westmoreland (Hairdresser)
Production Misc: Allen K. Wood (Prod mgr)
  Irva Ross (Scr supv)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs:
Source Text: Based on the serial story The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney in Collier's (26 Nov--24 Dec 1954).
Authors: Jack Finney

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Allied Artists Pictures Corp. 16/1/1956 dd/mm/yyyy LP5766

PCA NO: 17567
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  b&w:
  Widescreen/ratio: SuperScope

 
Genre: Horror
  Science fiction
 
Subjects (Major): Alien invasions
  California
  Physicians
  Small town life
  Transformation
 
Subjects (Minor): Automobile accidents
  Caves
  Chases
  Children
  Divorce
  Drugs
  Fathers and daughters
  Freeways
  Grandmothers
  Hospitals
  Hysteria (Social psychology)
  Police
  Psychologists
  Romance
  Telephone operators
  Uncles

Note: The working titles of the film were The Body Snatchers and They Came from Another World . According to a modern source, director Don Siegel considered using the title Sleep No More . Except for the opening and ending sequences, the story is told as a flashback, with intermittent voice-over narration by Kevin McCarthy portraying “Dr. Miles Bennell.” According to modern sources, these sequences and the narration were added to the script, at the insistence of the studio, and shot a few months after principal photography was completed. According to a 1969 Films and Filming article, Siegel claimed that Allied Artists studio heads also wanted to edit out some other moments from the film, but it is unclear whether this was done.
       The title of the film was changed from The Body Snatchers , which was the title of Jack Finney’s three-part serial, to avoid confusion with RKO's 1945 production of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Body Snatcher (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). Finney’s story, which was published in Collier’s in Nov and Dec 1954, was published as a novel in early 1955. Popular horror novelist Stephen King is quoted on a website as saying that The Body Snatchers "set the mold for what we now call the horror novel." Although only Daniel Mainwaring is credited onscreen as the scriptwriter of the film, some modern sources state that future director Sam Peckinpah, who portrayed “Charlie Buckholtz,” worked on script revisions.
       According to a Mar 1955 HR news item, portions of the film were shot in Chatsworth, Sierra Madre and Woodland Hills, CA. Several locations in the Hollywood Hills and Bronson Canyon were also used, among them, the corner of Beachwood Canyon Drive and Belden. An Apr 1955 HR news item claimed that thirty-eight location sites were used for the film and that only four days of interior shooting were planned. A website dedicated to the locations for the film adds shooting sites in Glendale, Hollywood, Los Feliz, the San Fernando Country Club, Chatsworth railway station and Mulholland Drive at the Hollywood Freeway.
       Although, as a May 1955 HR news item stated, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was the first Allied Artists film to be shot in SuperScope, The Return of Jack Slade (see below) was the first Allied Artists film shot in that process to be released. According to an Apr 1955 HR news item, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was one of the first pictures to come under a new Los Angeles smog control regulation concerning the shooting of fire scenes and other special film effects. To schedule the shooting of scenes involving fires, the script first had to be approved by the Air Pollution Control District. According to the news item, Los Angeles County also requested script approval of fire scenes.
       According to a Jan 1956 HR news item, the film was to premiere in Detroit, MI, although no date was given for the performance. Invasion of the Body Snatchers was unusual for a horror film, in that it portrayed no violence, and special effects were kept to a minimum. According to Siegel in the Films and Filming article, he and producer Walter Wanger had intentionally agreed to do this. As noted in the LAT review, the film ended on an “unresolved note” and the review added, “it seems, the first time [Miles] goes to sleep, he, too, will become a vegetable.”
       One complaint against the film, as noted in the DV review, is that the “film would have benefitted through more explanatory matter to fully illuminate the scientific premise.” The LAT review reported that the film never explained how “these devilish pods found their way into a small California town.” The HR review summed up the film: “While the mechanics of the plot gimmick are rather sketchily handled…the actual telling of the story…contains a great deal of solid emotion and suspense.”
       In later eras, Invasion of the Body Snatchers would be analyzed as a product of the Cold War, dramatizing either America’s fear of Communists or a response to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. However, contemporary reviews mention neither and seem to provide a more general interpretation. The LAEx review stated, “lurking close to the story surface is the suggestion that maybe, in these hectic times, we have subconsciously been hoping for some way out.” According to the HR review, Mainwaring and Finney “seem to be saying that modern man, tired of facing the mental problems of our intricate age, is prone to welcome the irresponsible life of a human vegetable.” As for Finney’s intention, his 1995 NYT obituary reported that he “maintained that the novel was nothing more than popular entertainment."
       A 1978 remake produced by Robert H. Solo, also titled Invasion of the Body Snatchers , was directed by Philip Kaufman and starred Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams as “Matthew Bennell” and “Elizabeth Driscoll.” In that production, which was set in San Francisco, Siegel and McCarthy made cameo appearances: Siegel as a taxi driver, and, in an homage to the earlier film, McCarthy appears briefly, slamming onto the windshield of Sutherland’s car, during which the surprised movie audience was able to recognize him. He yells, “They’re coming! They’re coming! You’re all in danger!,” then runs off down the street, where he is killed by a car. Warner Bros. set a third version of Finney’s work, the 1993 Body Snatchers , on a military base. That version was directed by Abel Ferrara and starred Gabrielle Anwar and Terry Kinney.
       In the decades since the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatcher ’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. According to many modern writers and film historians, the picture, which was in its time a low-budget, B-movie, is now regarded as a leader in the horror film genre. Where previous horror films frightened the audience with monsters, Invasion of the Body Snatchers psychologically terrorized them with the potential darkness inside themselves.
 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   25 Feb 1956.   
Daily Variety   16 Feb 56   p. 3.
Film Daily   28 Feb 56   p. 10.
Films and Filming   Feb 1969   pp. 49-50.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Mar 1955   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Mar 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Mar 1955   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Mar 1955   p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Apr 1955   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Apr 1955   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Apr 1955   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Apr 1955   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Apr 1955   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   19 May 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Sep 1955   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Nov 1955   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jan 1956   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Feb 56   p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner   1 May 1956   Section II, p. 6.
LA Mirror-News   1 Mar 1956.   
Los Angeles Times   2 Mar 1956.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   25 Feb 56   p. 794.
New York Times   17 Nov 1995.   
Variety   29 Feb 56   p. 6.

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