Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Of the horror movies that grew from the 50s, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is probably one of the most well known. It came well before "Night of the Living Dead" and started a craze that can still be traced to today. This is no zombie movie; but it's only a hop, skip, lunge, creepy walk, or jump away.
Keeping in theme with noir madness, the movie begins with a question of sanity. Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) is being held by policemen as two doctors question him, trying to judge on whether he's insane or not. He has one hell of a story to tell them; but they don't seem to keen on listening. But as he talks, we go back in time with him to see the events leading up to his quasi-incarceration.
Dr. Bennell is the doctor of a small town in California and he's returning home from a trip. As he gets back into his routine, he is informed that half the town seems to have melted into some sort of hysteria. People make all sorts of appointments to see him and then cancel just as quickly, showing up only hours later completely fine, showing no symptoms of illness whatsoever.
One of the first things that Bennell notices is a boy who is deathly afraid of his mother, this is followed by a friend who doesn't think that her uncle is really her uncle. One of Bennell's colleagues, Dr. Kauffman—the town psychiatrist—thinks that this mass hysteria can be logically explained and doesn't worry too much about the ramifications of an entire population slowly losing their collective mind.
As the days home continues, Bennell starts to court Becky Dricsoll (Dana Wynter) and his thoughts are momentarily distracted by her beauty and charm. It's only when he thinks that Becky might be in danger does he start to reconsider the events of the town in a different light.
The arrival of a cadaver brings around the final straw for Bennell. This body has no identifying marks and it seems to be trying to reproduce one of the good doctor's friends. This has gone too far.
Things start to be uncovered and the truth may hurt just as much as the lie.
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is by no means a great twist of narrative strength. Even its title, corny and unashamed, sort of gives away the entire plot of the movie. There are body snatchers who invade...the end.
Not so fast.
The movie's thrills come with the suspense, because even though we aren't surprised by the larger plot movements, it's the smaller scenes of wondering who's going to get it next that make up it.
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is beautifully shot and remarkably well-paced. It's not a long movie and quickly dances from one important moment to the next, never letting itself settle. Because of this, the movie feels like it's being whipped around, spinning at an incredible speed and that sense of adrenaline and momentum is hard to capture.
Don Siegel's direction brought him a sense of fame that he later duplicated in "Dirty Harry" but beyond that, his films seemed to have slipped through the cracks. There is a lot of ease to the terror of the movie, which is never frightening enough to make your hairs stand on end; but it is well-orchestrated. While it may suffer from a larger sense of doom and perhaps predictability, its cliched commentary on assimilation and individuality is actually quite enjoyable.
What can I say? It's exactly what you'd hope it would be.

Score: ★★★


  1. Great review of a horror classic, Micah...have you ever seen the 1978 remake with Leonard Nimoy? I actually like that one even better than the original...

    1. I've actually not seen the remake, but it is on my list.