A small-town Californian doctor finds strange things are going on among his patients.
Recognised as a Science-Fiction classic, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is much more than a movie to put in the realms of the likes of STAR WARS or BLADE RUNNER. Unlike many movies, this is a film for its time. Its overtly anti-communist feelings might be overseen by some viewers, but in this reviewers opinion it is relevant even by todayís standards.
The protagonist here is Dr Miles Bennel (McCarthy). He begins to notice that a number of his patients start accusing their relatives of not being who they presume to be and have actually changed The local psychiatrist puts this confusion down to good olí plain hysteria. But Bennel is not the dumbest of folks, and starts to find out what the heck is going on. He meets a former lover called Becky (Wynter) who says that even her own family have their suspicions about a certain Uncle Ira. As Miles has known her for some time, then surely she would not be foolish enough to be a part of this hysterical crowd?
As Bennel delves deeper into the issue, he finds answers to questions he should never have to ask himself. The people are not what they used to be, and discovers that everyone in the small town Miles lives in is being taken over by pod people; creatures that can replicate human beings perfectly. No, not politicians. Much more gruesome than that.
At the time of its release, America was in mass-hysteria. Its fear of Communism was finding itself across what seemed in all Americans. Reds under the bed and so forth. The Cold War too was difficult to hide from, with the threat of Nuclear War ever so present. Even here in the UK were the fears present too. Hollywood was in a complete and utter mess as well. Joe McCarthy was accusing good, hard working folk of being communists in his idiotic and downright stupid HUAC. People had been blacklisted from ever working in Hollywood again; fear was rife and it was difficult not to be depressed about the then-current political climate.
In this movie, the fears are so evident that they seem to hit you in the face with its bare faced lies and deceit. The Communists of the film being the pod people, once they have been taken over their emotions and well-being quickly disappears. They are no longer people, but followers of a cause. McCarthy, the protagonist of the film and not the real-life namesake, is not calm at all having found that his friends and patients are changing forever. Even his former lover is someone he wishes to escape from the pod people.
Despite originally being made as a B-Movie, to be shown alongside titles that probably included THE THINGÖ. or THE HORRIBLEÖ it has qualities that should be applauded for demonstrating such qualities that even mainstream Hollywood would be envious of. McCarthy, again the protagonist and not the man who ruined many lives due to his blatant lies, shines here in what is his finest hour in a role he was born to play. At the beginning of the film, he is the coolest looking doctor since, well, ever. But as the events of the movie progress, his emotions become more erratic and looks on in horror as his loved ones change to these soulless beings. The mark of a fine actor, thatís for sure.
Other members of the film should be applauded, such as Dana Wynter as Becky, but is the director who steals most the limelight here. Having worked in the heyday of the Hollywood Studio system, directing the opening sequence of CASABLANA for example, it is no wonder that Siegel had an illustrious and successful career. Despite it being made for less than $500,000, it is due to Siegelís direction that he makes the movie look it was made for ten times that amount due to his great use of camera angles, amazing interpretation of the scenes lighting and getting the best out of his actors and actresses.
Too many movies made these days try to offer some social commentary on the times in which they were released, but fail. With the exception of CHARLIE WILSONíS WAR and, at a stretch, MUNICH, the current crop of social commentary movies lack the zing, buzz even, which their 1950ís contemporaries seemed to have in abundance. When watching this movie, it really is quite shocking how different it was in the 1950ís. With the threat of nuclear war, as well as the possibility of your career being ruined by some strange and insane man named Joe McCarthy who really should have been sectioned, it really wasnít the best times of all to live. With INVASION OF THE BODYSNATCHERS, this is captured perfectly. And I salute that.