🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1956 – Part Three! Invasion of the Body Snatchers: I didn’t know the real meaning of fear until… until I had kissed Becky

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Don Siegel’s Science-Fiction Shocker– The original nightmare that Threatened the World!

… there was nothing to hold onto – except each other.– They come from another world!



”I’ve been afraid a lot of times in my life-but I didn’t know the real meaning of fear until-until I’d kissed Becky.”

“The dark secret behind human nature used to be the upsurge of the animal… The threat to man, his availability to dehumanization, lay in his own animality. Now the danger is understood as residing in man’s ability to be turned into a machine.” – Susan Sontag

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956 took an ambiguous turn for many who still endeavor to analyze the film directed by Don Siegel, which was inspired by a well-known series in Collier’s magazine printed in three parts in 1954 from Jack Finney’s novel released in 1955. Siegel’s iconic film included a screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring.

Producer Walter Wanger so impressed with Finney’s story, bought the film rights before the third part had been published. Wanger discovered Don Siegel through his 1954 prison noir Riot in Cell Block 11.

The director also considered Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the favorite among his notable films. Body Snatchers has attained its status as one of the most influential alien invasion films and a signature science fiction narrative of the 1950s, that tapped into the cultural and historical zeitgeist of that decade. And although Siegel’s film can be seen as an intellectual film, ”it derives its strength from a nightmare situation – the sort of nightmare which a child tearfully explains as ‘It was like you, only you were horrible!” (Raymond Durgnat -The Subconscious: From Pleasure Castle to Libido Motel 1958)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers features a great ensemble of actors including Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones, King Donovan Larry Gates, Jean Willes, Virginia Christine, Ralph Dumke, Tom Fadden, Everett Glass, and Dabs Greer.

Sam Peckinpah acted as dialogue coach and Carmen Dragon’s evocative film score has influenced both filmmakers and television directors alike. You can hear Dragon’s ethereal piano in such television shows as The X-Files and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.

Ultimately in 1994, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was among the 25 ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films’ that are annually anointed as part of the US National Film Registry at the Library of Congress under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act of 1988.

The film plants the seed for the theme of paranoia, fear of ‘the other’, and invisible invaders who can swiftly replace individualism and individuals and transport them into a hive mind, a collective of unemotional, hollow pod people. The essence of this truly resonated with the sweeping anxieties of 1950s American culture.

On the set of Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956.

Siegel’s protean ‘Invasion’ film sparked a range of political and social analyses of the alien ‘infiltration’ sub-genre of Science Fiction films, one that emphasizes the ‘take over’ where ‘we’ would no longer have a soul or any spark of humanity. It triggers for us… the fear of the death of ‘self.’ and the death of the ‘soul.’

Other classic Science Fiction with alien ‘infiltration’ themes of being ‘taken over’ is the most notably Invaders from Mars (1953), It Came from Outer Space (1953), I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) and The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1963).

“Made in 1956 in the middle of the decade, peopled by men in gray flannel suits, the silent generation, the status seekers, Senator McCarthy, and the lonely crowd, Siegel’s science fiction thriller was a cry of frustrated warning against the conformity and uniformity of a society that was blissfully living in the best of all possible worlds.” (Vivian Sobchack cites Charles Gregory)

Don Siegel managed to complete the shooting of the film within a tight schedule of just 19 days. To enhance authenticity, all the exterior scenes were filmed in natural locations around Los Angeles, specifically selected to resemble the small Northern California suburban town of Santa Mira. The city square featured in the film was located in Sierra Madre, east of Pasadena, while the chase sequence up the hill and staircase took place in a section of Hollywood known as Beachwood.

The 1950s witnessed a significant surge in mass migration to newly developed suburban areas, which in turn only strengthened the process of conformity, unrestrained with a vampirism of the soul creating an atmosphere that ‘bred apathy. (Kier-La Janisse) What writer Bernice M. Murphy called  ‘Suburban Gothic.’

Invasion of the Body Snatchers thrives on its ability to skew what is ordinary about American life in the 1950s and impregnate the screen with an unsettling narrative of paranoia and fear.

Paranoia was symptomatic of the late 40s and 50s postwar American science fiction ‘invasion’ films. We saw the perceptible tropes of the internal invasion of our human bodies that were transformed into imperceptibly altered bodies in a world plagued with suspicion, distrust, and paranoia.

“The imperceptibility of the altered body is a staple of the paranoiac world. Daniel Paul Schreber’s Memoirs of My Nervous Illness 1903 became the most famous paranoiac text, due to Freud’s analysis of it in his 1911 essay “Psychoanalytical notes Upon an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides) Within Schreber’s paranoiac system he perceives himself surrounded by replicant humans he terms ‘fleeting improvised men.’ Creatures resembling ordinary humans but who, in his view, are souls put down temporarily on earth by divine miracle.’’ (From Cindy Hendershot’s article From the Invaded Body: Paranoia and Radiation Anxiety in Invaders From Mars, It Came From Outer Space and Invasion of the Body Snatchers)

Siegel manages to make the tedious, hint at the terrifying, which reverberates in a seemingly normal scene; for instance when Miles and Becky go to visit her cousin Wilma played by Virginia Christine. “Memories or not, he isn’t my Uncle Ira.” Uncle Ira is missing ”a special look in his eye.”

Becky is haunted by the sense that her Uncle Ira (Tom Fadden) is not really her Uncle anymore. It is all very unremarkable as he affects the role of a suburban everyman mowing the lawn, mouth straddling his pipe as he leisurely remarks about the weather.

 “But Miles, there’s no emotion—none. Just the pretense of it. The words, gestures, the tone of voice, everything else is the same but not the feeling.” 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers reveals the terrors hidden within the mundane everyday world. If nothing else, that is the most horrifying of all. What lurks beneath the surface of the ordinary, is often dismissed and disbelieved due to its very nature of normality. Body Snatchers allegorizes an America that is being poisoned and transformed in its sleep in the safety of suburbia.

Siegel’s intention throughout the film was to cultivate a sense of normalcy, and his deliberate choice of real, unremarkable locations played a pivotal role in achieving this atmosphere. ‘suspense is nothing happening.’ (Lawrence Alloway)

What betrays the aliens, revolves around the story frames’ inverted behavior – the absence of an action: an unuttered gasp when the dog is nearly hit by the car, a kiss not answered back as Becky does not return Miles’s passionate kiss in the cave.

Production designer Ted Haworth who worked closely with Siegel was instrumental in the creation of the film’s visual landscape and the sprawling Los Angeles locations that seamlessly transform into a seemingly tight-knit and homogenous small town.

He was also responsible for designing the monstrous pods that played a central role in the narrative. His aesthetic vision brought these mysterious and eerie objects to life. Furthermore, Haworth collaborated closely with director Siegel to refine the special effects, working together to achieve the desired impact on the screen, creating the queasy spectacle of the frothy mixture resembling dish soap that bubbles and streams out of the rotten alien cabbages.

The film is set in the tranquil town of Santa Mira, California, the invasion unfolds as the alien pods emerge, possessing the ability to replace humans with emotionless replicas. These alien life forms fully develop out of these giant seed pods, looking like their human counterparts but in contrast, they are emotionless imitations.

Stephen King called the pod people ‘A marching horde that preaches.’ King also felt that the message reached past McCarthyism believing that Finney might have been alluding to the threat of Nazism and the way it took over the German people.

By the late 1940s, the threat of Soviet spies posing as ordinary citizens was habitually conjured for the collective consciousness of ordinary Americans. Invasion of the Body Snatchers has definitely served as an allegory, raising the question of whether the extraterrestrial presence symbolizes the communist takeover of the United States, also articulating the dehumanizing malevolence of 1950s conformity, or perhaps both.

“The emotionless pods work for a collective mentality and threaten to undermine America, a local family, the Grimaldis, now pods have closed up their produce stand, which Miles observes had been the most successful in the area because they no longer have capitalist desires to succeed.” (Barry Keith Grant)

The dehumanization of the ‘friendly people next door’ proves to be a lot more startling than other low-budget SF films featuring anthropomorphic space aliens where these ‘others’ are dressed in our clothing and appear readily familiar, and do not act abnormal or exhibit outrageous behavior. More terrifying and disturbing is the idea that the threat emanates from the ordinariness and the ways these aliens remain camouflaged in plain sight. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the deviation of the safe and familiar subverted into something dangerous and corrupted.

“The ultimate horror in SF is neither death nor destruction but dehumanization, a state in which emotional life is suspended, in which the individual is deprived of individual feelings, free will, and more judgment. .. this type of fiction hits the most exposed nerve of contemporary society; collective anxiety about the loss of individual identity, subliminal mindbending, or downright scientific political brainwashing. “ (Carlos Clarens)

Although the film has been faithfully recognized as an iconic Neo-realistic science fiction masterpiece, Siegel’s thriller also possesses several mechanics and tropes of noir, such as the framework of the narrative flashback, voiceover, and the aesthetics of noir lighting.

“Siegel economically adds an increasingly menacing atmosphere to his depiction of the initially pleasant suburb of Santa Mira. The image of Miles and Becky running down an alley in the dark of night, looking for a place to hide, evokes such classic outlaw-couple noirs as You Only Live Once 1937 and They Drive By Night 1949. As in Frank Capra’s, It’s a Wonderful Life 1946, the town changes from a Norman Rockwell vision of idyllic small-town America to a noirish nightmare.” (American Cinema of the 1950s Themes and Variations edited by Murray Pomerance
-Barry Keith Grant: Movies and the Crack of Doom)

What might give weight to the interpretation that the story is a condemnation of McCarthyism is how it hits close to home for screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring who had his own brushes with the Hollywood witch-hunts of the 1950s.

John Whitehead essentially points out that screenwriter Mainwaring was the one who delved into the pessimistic undertones present in Finney’s paranoid delusion. He cites Al LaValley’s analysis of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Mainwaring’s desolation reflected the sentiments of a former staunch leftist confronted with the America of the 1950s.“There was no overt anti-Communist message in the film. To Mainwaring, we are the villains. And Communism was a scapegoat, an imaginary villain reflecting the fears and tensions of the Right.” (Whitehead) If the pods in Invasion seem to incarnate the popular image of a communist totalitarian state, it is only because the government-dominated, bureaucratic, and conformist fifties was itself creating an America like this picture of Soviet Russia.” (LaValley)

A pervasive blacklist was enforced, compelling everyone to sign a loyalty oath resembling the pod ethic, in order to prove their allegiance to the nation and distance themselves from subversive Communism. For the sake of form, the science fiction metaphor of the film was essentially giving over your soul to the hive mind.

The political interpretations could be viewed by both the right and the left. Conservatives saw the film as a warning against Communism, while progressives saw it as condemning McCarthyism or autocratic fascism.

Hollywood succumbed to an eerie conformity akin to pod-like homogeneousness. You couldn’t take any risks of exposing yourself to persecution therefore serious social themes could only be explored indirectly within the genres of crime and science fiction. ”The lure of complacency is strong and the efficacy of indoctrination palpable even without the threat of alien infiltration.” (Kier-La Janisse: essay At First Glance, Everything Looked the Same. Identity Crisis in Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers)

Siegel’s film inspired 3 cinematic re-imaginings – Philip Kaufmann’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978 with Donald Sutherland, Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers 1993, and Oliver Hirschbeigel’s The Invasion 2007.

The initial two adaptations can be interpreted as extensions that further develop the infiltration mythology and scenarios established in the Siegel film. Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version, widely acclaimed as the superior retelling, relocates the invasion from a small town to the more big city/urban activity of San Francisco, delving into the pervasive fears the 1970s, gave rise to including new age movements and religious cults. On the other hand, Abel Ferrara’s 1993 version, titled “Body Snatchers,” unfolds within the confines of a military base and centers around themes of unquestioning faith in the government and the impacts of militarism.

As a low-budget genre film Barry Keith Grant summarizes – “the film’s enduring popularity derives in large part from a combination of a central metaphor for the monstrous that, like the vampire or zombie, is sufficiently flexible to accommodate multiple interpretations with a style and structure that is admirably economical even as it is highly expressive.”

Despite its humble status and a constrained budget, Body Snatchers showcased an impressive ensemble. The producer, Walter Wanger, commanded respect in the independent film industry, despite facing personal hardships such as a prison sentence resulting from an altercation with his wife’s lover. Wanger had been married to actress Joan Bennett.

After reading Finney’s Collier’s series “The Body Snatchers” in 1954, Wanger, a producer who had worked at various studios, saw the potential for it to become a compelling, low-budget film under Allied Artists. Siegel, recognizing its extraordinary nature, praised Wanger as the sole individual at Allied who shared this vision.

Among Wanger’s other notable films are Mamoulian’s “Queen Christina” (1933) featuring Greta Garbo, Lang’s “You Only Live Once” (1937), Scarlet Street” (1945), directed by Fritz Lang, John Ford’s “Stagecoach” (1939), Hitchcock’s “Foreign Correspondent” (1940), and Robert Wise’s “I Want to Live!” (1958).

Director Siegel had been establishing a reputation for himself with his action-packed film noirs like The Big Steal 1949 starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, and in 1954 – Private Hell 36 starring Ida Lupino, and Riot in Cell Block 11, and 1958 the highly charged The Lineup.

31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure you in! Part 4 The last Killing in a Lineup of unsung noir

Don Siegel had previously collaborated with Wanger on the critically acclaimed prison drama “Riot in Cell Block 11” (1954) which drew its inspiration from a serialized novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, published in “Collier’s” magazine, the screenplay was crafted by Daniel Mainwaring, renowned for his work on the iconic film noir “Out of the Past” (1947).

Upon its initial release, Invasion of the Body Snatchers made its debut in the immersive SuperScope widescreen format. Cinematographer Ellsworth Fredericks (Mr. Buddwing 1966, The Power 1968) and art director Edward “Ted” Haworth masterfully crafted a somber and oppressive noir landscape for the film by constructing enclosed spaces to disrupt the expansive visual canvas and creating a sense of darkness and claustrophobia, with disorienting Dutch tilt camera angles to give the spectator an uneasy feeling. From Miles’s office window, Fredericks’s camera captures high-angle long shots, vividly portraying the subtle transformation of the once quaint, Norman Rockwell-esque town.

The film meticulously portrays the pursuit of normality down to the most minor details. Every aspect, from the choice of natural locations to the cinematography, works in harmony to reinforce a sense of familiarity and realism. Throughout the film, the natural settings are carefully employed, resonant with an unchanged environment. These locations serve as a backdrop, highlighting the normalcy that Miles desperately clings to, even as the sinister events unfold. The dramatic yet naturalistic cinematography further enhances this notion, capturing the essence of everyday life with that sense of realism.

As the film progresses it becomes increasingly desolate and more menacing thanks to Ellsworth Fredericks’s expressionist camerawork. This shift is mirrored in the story’s movement toward its more confined spaces, where the characters find themselves trapped. Starting from Becky’s basement, moving to the cramped closet in Miles’s office, and finally culminating in the narrow hole within the mineshaft. The visual narrative takes us deeper into an atmosphere of encroaching darkness.

The utilization of both internal and external space creates the perfect sphere for the outlier protagonist’s anxiety to play itself out. Throughout the film, Siegel effectively employs internal space to visually depict the infiltration of alien spores into the realm of domesticity.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers story is that of the covert transmutation of small-town citizens who become soulless ‘pod people,’ setting up the moral duality between the diminishing human protagonists and their alien doppelgängers. Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) becomes an outcast when he refuses to become part of the ‘pod society.’ This ‘pod society; represents the disruption of humanity, gender, and sexuality. America of the 1950s was conflicted about domestic conformity.

Miles’s sexual desire is intruded upon several times during the story; for instance, when he delivers Becky home, he attempts to set up the scene for sexual conquest when he thrusts the room into darkness but she puts the lights back on and offers him a transferred kiss on her gloved hand instead, until her father whose shadowy figure emerges from the basement interrupts their flirtatious goodnight banter. Throughout the film Miles’s sexual desire is thwarted by the alien situation.

Once their courtship begins, after their own separate divorces, they become sexual individuals as they spend the night together emerging in the morning they are the archetypal heterosexual married couple, performing domesticity in a middle-class scene.

She slips back into gender conformity as a homemaker – making Miles coffee and frying up an egg, comfortably wearing his clothes from the night before. The film is conflicted about normative domestic life. (source: Rashna Wadia Richards)

The quiet takeover of the pod people unfolds in the fictional town of Santa Mira, nestled in Southern California (with location shooting in Sierra Madre). The tale begins as the doctor returns to town by train, urgently summoned from a medical convention due to an unexpectedly overwhelmingly crammed schedule. Troubling reports surface as people share their concerns about their loved ones, who have inexplicably transformed into unfamiliar versions of themselves.

However, their worries are swiftly extinguished as they too become taken over while they sleep, by the insidious influence of the seed pods. The story reaches its grim conclusion with Miles Bennell, the town’s sole remaining human, bearing witness to the pod people’s vast greenhouse operations, where they cultivate countless pods.

Naturally, the movie explicitly aligns itself with the cause of humanity. It leaves no doubt in the viewer’s mind as the pod people’s initially composed justifications for the takeover gradually morph into aggression, violence, and the unwavering pursuit of dominance and the ascension of their life form.

These nefarious entities are subsequently dispatched across the Earth via trucks, destined to seize control. In a desperate attempt to warn humanity, Miles escapes to a highway, positioning himself amidst the frenzied flow of traffic. There, he raises his voice, unleashing a cry filled with anguish and warning: “You’re next! You’re next!”

This rendition of events presents a significantly bleaker scenario compared to the source novel.

According to writer/critic Bill Warren:

“From the moment that Miles and Becky take refuge in the cave, the photographic style of the film changes. It becomes highly stylized and laden with chiaroscuro. Intense sweaty close-ups fill the screen. The purpose is to take us inside Mile’s terror but the result is actually that we are dragged away from it; we suddenly become spectators in the movie, not participants in the horror. This is a factor that led the studio to insist on an at least somewhat upbeat ending, or so the writer suspects. The audience is no longer ‘within’ the film, the horror had receded. And McCarthy’s screaming into the camera itself that “you’re next’ became funny rather than arresting.”

Invasion of the Body Snatchers attained an iconic stature in the realm of critical analysis and conventional assessment due to its distressing chimeric framing of Cold War anxieties surrounding Communist infiltration, atomic warfare, hyper-conformity and the terrifying notion of alien-bred dehumanization, depersonalization, and alienation.

Though many of the perceived tropes appear to be unambiguous Finney asserts: “For years now, I’ve been amused by the fairly widely held notion that The Body Snatchers has anything to do with the Cold War, McCarthyism conformity, Pellmanism, or Fletcherism. It does not. I was simply intrigued by the notion of a lot of people insisting that their friends and relatives were imposters. What was the explanation? Well, as I usually do in writing a book, I assumed I would think of an answer during the course of writing it, and I thought of the pods. The book isn’t a Cold War novel or a metaphor for anything. I wrote it to entrant its readers, nothing more. I was not out to instruct them and my book is a ‘metaphor’ for nothing: it is pure entertainment. And, I visit, if that is true of the book it must also be true of the picture, which derives directly from it. I suspect that when the picture was made that is exactly what (the filmmakers) had in mind also. Later, when people began seeing meanings which aren’t really there, I think maybe some of the people concerned with the picture blushed modestly and didn’t deny.”

“Some regarded it as palpably anti-Communist, as the pod people reject individualism (and, in the case of an abandoned vegetable stand, pointedly capitalist endeavor) in favor of collectivism and the elimination of behavioral or economic difference. A more popular interpretation thought it to be anti-McCarthyist, in its depiction of individuals betrayed by former friends and hunted down by a united majority in order to assert the supremacy of the dominant political system.” – (Deborah Allison: Great Directors issue 32 2004) and
(Peter Howden, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, The Movie, vol. 4, chapter 39)

“In Body Snatchers, the pod people, who, like McCarthy and the other red-baiters, look like typical, fine upstanding Americans, search out rebels like Miles who refuse to conform to what has been newly defined as the “American Way”—just as McCarthy and HUAC destroyed the lives of those who refused to knuckle under to their directives. The mob hysteria, the sense of paranoia, the fascist police, the witch hunt atmosphere of the picture certainly mirrors the ills of McCarthy’s America.” – (John W. Whitehead – Invasion of the Body Snatchers A Tale of Our Times- Gadfly Online)

Tracy Knight posits that Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of those pictures that have ‘Rorschach plots.’  These are fictionalized inkblots that leave open the meanings within the film and allow us – the spectator – to interact while imbuing it with our own personal beliefs. It is the film’s very explicit ambiguity that solicits our own identification and biases within the story.

The crucial question remains: is Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers an allegory? And about what? Let’s shed some subjective light.

One of the poetic virtues of early science fiction work is rather than taking on social issues (in particular Hollywood’s blacklist during the 1950s) within a realist methodology, they tend to leave behind a murmur of clues through their symbolic narratives.

Taken as a straightforward science fiction tale, we listen to the words of Dr. Miles Bennell after he is horrified by the discovery of the humanoid seed pods that retain the physical characteristics of humans – yet devoid of their personalities.

Miles delivers the central message in his soliloquy to Becky: “In my practice, I see how people have allowed their humanity to drain away…only it happens slowly instead of all at once. They didn’t seem to mind…. All of us, a little bit. We harden our hearts…grow callous…only when we have to fight to stay human do we realize how precious it is.”

“So much has been discovered these past few years that anything is possible. It may be the results of atomic radiation on plant life, or animal life … some weird, alien organism … a mutation of some kind.”

Within the central conflict between individuality in jeopardy and creeping conformism, there exists a wide range of diverging commentaries and interpretations of Siegel’s film.

According to critic Andrew Sarris, Don Siegel’s notable films primarily focus on characters that effectively portray the ‘doomed peculiarity’ (Ronald Wilson from Film Noir: The Directors edited by Silver & Ursini) of the alienated social outcast. Similarly, Alan Lovell asserts that any analysis of Siegel’s films should commence with the fundamental premise of a man existing on the fringes of society.

“It’s been read as an allegory of the communist threat during the Cold War but also as a commentary on McCarthyism, the alienating effects of Capitalism, conformism, post-war radiation anxiety, the return of the brainwashed soldiers from the Korean War, and masculine fears of ‘the potential social political and personal disenfranchisement of postwar American hegemonic white patriarchy.” (Katrina Mann )

Could the film also be a subtle criticism of postwar America and the oppressive climate of a competitive society suggesting that individuals seek release from their burden? Once Miles’s psychiatrist friend Mannie (in the novel) is transformed into a pod person, he enlightens Miles, “Santa Mira was like any other town. People with nothing but problems. But pods drifted down from outer and offered solutions. Love. Desire. Ambition. Faith. Without them, life’s so simple, believe me.”

Miles tells Danny (in the film) now a pod, “We’re not the last humans left. They’ll destroy you.” Yet Danny smiles a little more accommodating than one would think of an emotionless pod “Tomorrow, you won’t want them to. Tomorrow you’ll be one of us. There’s no need for love. No emotions, no feelings, only the instinct to survive.”

But Miles debates with Danny, “You can’t love or be loved,” Danny replies, “You say that as if it were terrible. Believe me, it isn’t. You’ve been in love before. It didn’t last, it never does Love, desire, ambition, faith. Without them, life is so simple.”

“The desire to rid ourselves of the disruptive, unreasonable animal within and the simultaneous need for the good aspects of that animal which includes the ability to love.’’ (Vivian Sobchack from Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film)

Danny’s new personality tells Miles “Once you understand, you’ll be grateful. It’s like death. Sleep is a little death. Once asleep you won’t wake up again.’’

But Kevin McCarthy quotes Macbeth – “Sleep no more! Macbeth hath murdered sleep!”

Siegel liked the reference to the concept of Macbeth for the film and at one point was going to use the title, “Sleep No More.”

Actress Dana Wynter wagered that the film expresses an anti-McCarthyite message, “caught by those with the wit to catch it,” though she does admit that she “never heard any mention on the set of political implication.” (From Dana Wynter, “Wynter’s Tale”, The Movie, vol. 4, Chapter 39)

One of the pervasive theories is that of the familiar Cold War-style cautionary tale, warning against a communist ideology that transforms friends and neighbors into virulent, monstrous parasites.

However, not only has Invasion of the Body Snatchers been imagined as a meditation on postwar American anxiety about communism, and the cause for alarm with the looming nuclear war at that time, but it can also be seen as a parable for the impending threat to America’s reigning patriarchal privilege, ‘whiteness’ and ‘ideal white citizenry.

It also challenged the notions of ‘masculinity,’ ‘national manhood,’ and the dominant white patriarchal society in film and the existing outward projected dominance in real life. There was an uncertainty during mid-1950s America reflected back at us through Siegel’s film which offered the face-off between preservation or annihilation, creation and harmony, and the erasure of postwar male hegemony.

The pod people’s mission was to bring about what they viewed as a utopian society, a world without conflict, hatred, or strife, but the paradox – it would bring about a world without creativity, family, or love.

In an interview, actor Kevin McCarthy explains that, in his mind, ”the body snatchers represented not McCarthyism (as is typically assumed), but the conformity typified by the era’s Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.” (Steven Cohan, Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties 1997.)

McCarthy offers a bit of an extra interpretation of the film’s condemnation of Madison Avenue’s influence on the American consciousness, “as an attack on or satire of Madison Avenue attitudes. The whole idea of programming us to eat the same foods, drink the same beverages, conform to certain modes of behaviour” (From John McCarthy, “An interview with Kevin McCarthy 1999)

The film identifies patriarchal white men as the embodiment of ideal power and explores how the alien invasion jeopardizes not only society’s concept of national manhood but also its technocratic (scientists, researchers, doctors, etc.) systems and the role of women, in particular, Dana Wynter’s character Becky, who has been liberated sexually by her pre-existing marriage and the sensuality she entices Miles with. Not only that but the initial supposition that women are inherently the source of hysteria is quickly shattered when Miles himself becomes unhinged by the threat of the alien insinuation.

Katrina Mann suggests “What would otherwise seem like perfectly consistent desires-love and children-are estranged in the context of the pod invasion, especially since the aliens seem to offer a much more efficient means of reproduction than what is offered by the bungling human male. In heightened contrast to Miles’s impotence/sterility/ incompetence, the aliens dispense with the happenstance of sexual reproduction altogether.”

The film either consciously or unwittingly demonstrates a metaphor emblematic of the reproductive dread and panic – during the fleeing couple’s escape, seeking refuge sets up the opportunity in the womb-like cavern for Becky to ultimately fall asleep and is essentially bred as one of the ‘pod society.’

In Finney’s novel, Miles’s need to perpetuate his male privilege, patriarchal authority, and control depends on restraining women within the confines of marriage. Therefore his resistance to Becky’s suggestive behavior leads to his victory over the pod people and an implied future matrimony. However, the film diverges from this narrative.

In both versions, Becky has evolved into an independent, confident, and sexually aggressive woman compared to her earlier college days with Miles. Now, she possesses sexual expectations. Becky protests, “I don’t want a world without love or grief or beauty.”

Miles succumbs to Becky’s advances, there is no promise of marriage and just as significant, he fails to defeat the aliens. His anxiety in the novel stems from Becky’s “degenerative allure” which is linked to a “loss of Mile’s personal autonomy.” (Katrina Mann)

In contrast, the film presents a more intricate portrayal of Becky’s threat. Her danger lies less in her destructive sexual appeal or aggression and more in her uncertain sexual allegiance following the alien assault. Miles struggles to navigate between the ideas of sex and love from reproduction, while Becky manages to make the distinction, echoing postwar concerns regarding female sexuality and reproduction.

In the novel Miles confronts Mannie, “‘No emotion.’ I said it aloud, but wonderingly, speaking to myself. ‘Mannie,’ I said as it occurred to me, ‘can you make love, have children?”‘

But Miles understood – the aliens can create life without the aid of procreation, thereby making the driving force of sex and sexuality unnecessary.

Within popular postwar discourses about the ‘erosion’ of male power and the liberation of white female sexuality, the nature of Becky’s betrayal posed three related problems: ”independent female sexuality, reproduction divorced from sexuality and patriarchal investment, and sexuality/ reproduction divorced from white paternity…{…}

Given the historical and cultural context, it is difficult to ignore the correlation between the ambivalent reaction to postwar reproductive technologies and the sense of horror that Invasion of the Body Snatchers registers in response to the fantastic reproductive processes of the film’s aliens.” (Katrina Mann)

The alien force is representative of an asexual world. When surrounded by the pods, The inquisitive Miles says, “Then you have no feelings, only the instinct to survive.” People are literally being turned into vegetables.

A lesser focus has zeroed in on in terms of the alien invasion cycle, is how the science fiction genre used recognizable tropes of racial and sexual difference to convey the similarity between these distinctions and the disruptive alien ‘others.’

Invasion of the Body Snatchers amplifies deep-seated concerns about male potency and female reproductive capabilities that resonate with broader anxieties prevalent in postwar society, and on a micro-level, Santa Mira represents the traditional notions of patriarchal sexual dominance and participation in reproduction dismantled by the alien invaders. Individual resistance proves futile once the aliens outnumber real humans.

Some academics have theorized that Becky’s infidelity is not merely seen as an extraterrestrial form of adultery but also as a form of miscegenation, highlighting the film’s suspicion that ‘white women’ are complicit in the town’s harrowing interbreeding with ‘others’ during the process of disordered assimilation.

Miles’s nightmare articulates a sense of conspiracy by white Becky and the pods (alien others), who attempt to banish Miles from the reproductive equation. Miles passionately expresses his love for Becky, and in response, she declares, “I want to have your children.” However, the hope for the perpetuation of thriving human sexuality and reproduction is abruptly ended once Becky goes through her transformation.

It is during Becky’s transformation that Miles’s impotence becomes horrifyingly apparent, reducing him to the helpless little boy (little Jimmy Grimaldi) he had previously admonished in the film.

After kissing Becky, now adapted by the pods, Miles exclaims, “So I ran, I ran! I ran as little Jimmy Grimaldi ran the other day.”

The events involving young Jimmy earlier in the film are mirrored as Miles runs frantically through traffic, eventually being apprehended by authorities who take him to a doctor— in 1950s America the psychiatrist – is a symbolic witch doctor at that! Now reduced to a ranting and hysterical figure plagued by “women’s troubles,” Miles becomes a ‘hysterical’, emasculated man, recounting a seemingly absurd tale of uncanny doppelgängers.

The alien take-over quickened through osmosis, spreads through Santa Mira, and is characterized by mindless labor, hyper-diligence, duplicity, and the essence of its purpose – conformity. “the menace of alien invasion lay … in the obliteration of paternal inheritance and the triumph of mass society. (Michael Rogin)

Santa Mira’s psychiatrist Dr. Danny Kauffman demonstrates the postwar patriarchal movement to demonize women and was a “crucial architect of social activity and values, [whose] hegemonic status was in no insignificant part dependent upon psychiatry’s perceived ability to address the ‘problem of women’- the projection of social problems onto the personal problems of individual women.” (Janet Walker, Couching Resistance: Women, Film, and Psychoanalytic Psychiatry)

We see this evidence during a conversation between Miles and Dr. Kaufman (Danny); Miles jokes, “I’ve got a mixed-up kid and a woman who need a witch doctor.” Miles shows little respect for psychiatry, but still, he deems it a necessary social function in the containment of “mixed-up” women and children. Mannie/Danny refers to this collective contagion as ”an epidemic of mass hysteria,” which has always carried with it the gendered diagnosis and which Miles invokes as “women’s troubles.” (Mary Ann Doane, “Clinical Eyes: The Medical Discourse,” in The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s). It also invokes the spreading Red Scare and its subversives like pod people lurking everywhere.

Dr. Danny Kaufman (the name from the book is now changed to Danny in the film from Mannie in the novel), the psychiatrist spokesman for the pods, explains the inception of the takeover to Miles:

“Less than a month ago, Santa Mira was like any other town. People with nothing but problems. Then out of the sky came a solution. Seeds drifting through space for years took root in a farmer’s field. From the seeds came pods that had the power to reproduce themselves in the exact likeness of any form of life. There’s no pain. Suddenly while you’re asleep, they’ll absorb your mind, your memories and you’ll be born into an untroubled world.”

In the postwar era, there was a growing belief in the spread of psychic contagion, which was the belief that familiar people had somehow become imposters. Invasion of the Body Snatchers portrayed a malady similar to Capgras Syndrome, a strange condition named after a French doctor who reported it in the 1930s. While not widely known, Capgras Syndrome had some familiarity through odd tales in popular magazines and newspapers. This phenomenon, like a postwar urban legend, may have resonated with audiences and sparked speculations about its origins. The film’s depiction is likely connected with reports of communist brainwashing during the Korean War.

Another facet of the rise of Hollywood science fiction is how it paralleled white flight that gained momentum in postwar America and how the genre showcased not only the cultural anxieties about political unrest and sexual deviants but “also captured white preoccupations with the increasing visibility of the alien Other… Within the changing racial geography of the postwar, postindustrial metropolis the urban science fiction film provided a cultural arena where Suburban America could measure its whiteness against the image of the alien Other.” (Eric Avila, “Dark City: White Flight and the Urban Science Fiction Film in Postwar America,” in Bernardi, Classic Hollywood, Classic Whiteness)

Siegel’s film employs familiar postwar discourses of difference, namely racial masquerade, alien immigration, and sexual deviance, in its hyperbolic dramatization of the potential social, political, and personal disenfranchisement of postwar America’s hegemonic white patriarchy.

Santa Mira is an ideal suburban haven infiltrated by the postwar American city and …. “was not a benign metropolitan space in the popular imagination of the 1950s. As evident in the spotlight poster, the city was a space from which decent people fled, a place imagined to be similar to cities depicted in film noir-dark and seedy and teeming with criminals, whores, perverts, immigrants, and minorities.” (Source: Katrina Mann “YOU’RE NEXT!” Postwar Hegemony Besieged in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers-Cinema Journal 2004)

While Invasion of the Body Snatchers doesn’t fully bring into the open the nefarious intricacies of the aliens, it relies on the notion that their mere difference is sufficient as a warning and evokes a palpable sense of panic and fear.

When Becky finally succumbs to sleep, her apparent lack of emotion for Miles is equated with a complete absence of passion, suggesting a state of frigidity from a Freudian perspective. Siegel highlights the intriguing aspect of playing with the idea that as a pod, there is no experience of passion.

In an interview with writer Stuart M. Kaminsky in 1974, Siegel told him, “I am sorry to say I have kissed many pods… To be a pod means you have no passion, no empathy, you talk automatically The spark of life has left you.”

Thus, when Miles attempts to awaken her with a tender human kiss upon his return to the cave, he instantly realizes her lifelessness and recognizes her as having been seduced and subsumed by the pods. This moment, where Becky exhibits no passion for Miles, represents the height of terror in the film. After the disheartening kiss, Miles flees the cave and laments through a voice-over, expressing that he had never truly understood the meaning of fear until that moment when he kissed Becky. Becky now metamorphosized into a pod person, terrifies Miles not because his kiss doesn’t come off, it is that she is devoid of expressing human emotion, emphasized by the look of hopeless terror on his face as the camera does a shot-reverse-shot, highlighting the blank dead stare as Miles becomes invisible to her.

If entertained as a commentary on sexual politics, Invasion of the Body Snatchers can be viewed as a very feminist reading of Becky’s transformation could easily be divined by male dread of women’s power and internalized misogyny, which reasons that Miles is perhaps terror-stricken over Becky’s transformation because he has lost control over her. According to Barry Keith Grant, it is “intimately bound up with the dread of sexual difference and of female sexuality.” Becky’s refusal to accept his kiss is the ‘monstrous embodiment of the more independent woman in postwar America.” However, Jennifer L. Jenkins argues “Becky is now the dowdy rural housewife.”, not the glamorous, sophisticated divorcée who first entered the story. (Jenkins: Lovelier the Second Time Around: Divorce, Desire and Gothic Domesticity in Invasion of the Body Snatchers The Journal of Popular Culture 2012) Yet, once again the film’s system of thought is ambiguous.

Don Siegel recounts “What I thought was quite delicious was our playing with the fact that as a pod you don’t feel any passion. So, when [Miles] comes back to the cave and she falls, he tries to kiss her awake in a delicious non-pod way but she’s a limp fish and he knows immediately that she is a pod.” (Stuart M. Kaminsky, Don Siegel: Director (New York: Curtis Books, 1974) Katrina Mann points out that it was not simply her lack of sexual response that was alarming but the patriarchal and paternal loss it signaled.

According to Thomas Byers, in his essay on misogyny in 1950s science fiction: Miles loses it [the fight for Becky] when another “sleeps with her,” as it were, possessing her body and implanting in it (that the threat is from seed pods is no accident) another life, a life of which Miles is neither father nor master. The protagonist has lost control both of the woman’s sexual allegiance and of the reproductive process.”- (Thomas Byers, Kissing Becky: Masculine Fears and Misogynist Moments in Science Fiction Films 1989)

Recalling Jack’s initial encounter with the pod doppelganger we understand that the pod requires close proximity to its human subject in order to assimilate their victim. The simulation/dynamism sparks during sleep, resulting in two distinct bodies: the replicated living form and the dead original. Oddly, are we left to believe that the protean process has transformed in Becky’s case there is only one body, and the alien essence seems to have originated from within her body.

The pods’ enigmatic and corporeal asexuality is one of the most in the blood shivers of Invasion of the Body Snatchers as we witness Becky’s deep black eyes like bottomless wells that stare right through Miles as he kisses her. It is the consummate moment of terror in the film next to the shocking scene when the foursome discovers the sexless/wombless embryonic pods that emerge, birthed from the primordial suds in the apropos greenhouse.

The story is told in flashback:

The film’s framing sequence opens with the blaring wail of a siren as the story unfolds with Dr. Miles Bennell frantically raving at a hospital ward met by Dr. Hill (Whit Bissell)  Miles pleads hysterically, making bold claims about Santa Mira, the small town outside of Los Angeles where he has his family practice, has been ‘taken over.’ “Doctor, will you tell these fools I’m not crazy! Make them listen to me before it’s too late!”

On the urgent appeal from his nurse Sally, ( played by Jean Willes – one of the stranded diner inhabitants in the 1961 Twilight Zone episode ‘Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up’) Miles Bennell returns to his hometown of Santa Mira from a medical society conference to find his office crowded with patients who share a similar story: their loved ones are now imposters, and have changed somehow, lacking an essential quality that made them who they are, despite outwardly appearing the same. Yet just as soon as they warn that their loved ones are imposters, they suddenly seem to change their minds and are now fine.

Miles is faced with a young boy who insists that his mother is not his real mother, naturally, this strikes him as odd. However, as the story unfolds, he realizes that this bizarre complaint has become an outbreak, with numerous people expressing similar doubts about their family members.

He initially dismisses their concerns as mass hysteria, referring them to psychiatrist Danny Kaufman. Meanwhile, Miles reconnects with his old flame Becky Driscoll, who has returned to Santa Mira after ‘visiting Reno’ a 1950s term for divorce and they rekindle their romance.

Even Becky eventually confesses that her own father does not seem like her true father anymore. Running parallel to and reinforcing Miles and Becky’s romantic narrative is the harrowing tale of the creeping terror engulfing the town of Santa Mira.

As the story progresses, Miles and Becky’s date is interrupted when they get a phone call from Jack and Theodora Belicec, (King Donovan and Carolyn Jones), old friends of Miles who urge him to come quickly to their house.

They stumble upon a nearly faceless not-quite corpse – a half-formed body that is somehow not ‘finished’, lying on the pool table. It bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Jack yet it has vague features and no fingerprints. Trusting something isn’t right they spend the night at Miles’s house.

Convinced that something more sinister is at play and rejecting the idea there is an epidemic of mass hysteria, Miles and Becky realize that people remain unchanged as long as they stay awake and that the transformation only takes place while they’re asleep.

The following day, psychiatrist Dr. Danny Kaufman, (portrayed by Larry Gates), tried to persuade the four panicked friends that their experiences are merely figments of their imagination.

Later that night, in Jack and Theodora’s garden, Miles hears strange noises coming from the greenhouse. they stumble upon a shocking revelation  — bizarre giant seed pods burst opening to reveal vaguely humanoid forms emerging from a repulsive, foamy substance, each resembling one of them. The pods are giving birth to exact duplicates of themselves.

Once Miles and Becky leave, the enigmatic body stirs and its eyes open. It also features an identical cut that Jack had on his hand. Jack and Teddy flee, however, the body on the pool table vanishes, and the authorities attempt to cover it up.

Jack and Theo meet up with Miles at his home. Suddenly he realizes that there could be a replica of Becky and races to her house only to confirm his suspicions. There is a duplicate of Becky morphing in her basement, where her imitation father had placed it.

With their attempts to contact the outside world futile, and the ominous pods spreading everywhere, Miles and Becky desperately try to escape and come to a chilling realization that the Santa Mira police force, now transformed into pod replicas, is hunting them down. In a race against time, they find refuge in Miles’s office, hoping to evade their relentless pursuers.

Miles sends Jack and Theodora for help while he and Becky are determined to stay awake all night. The following morning, Jack arrives back at Miles’s office accompanied by psychiatrist Danny Kaufman.

After a harrowing night, Miles and Becky are relieved to greet them, however, they soon realize that Jack and Danny are no longer themselves, it’s already too late—both of them have succumbed to the transformation and have become pod people appearing identical in every way except for a lack of personal identity and emotions. Danny tells them that it is ‘better now,’ and that the people’s personality and the old way does not serve us but only hinder us.

In Kier-La Janisse’s excellent essay on Siegel’s film, he cites the work of German-American psychologist Erik Erikson (1902-1994) whose landmark book Childhood and Society published in 1950 focused primarily on the ‘Identity’ crisis. He defined the individual’s identity as ” (a) conscious feeling {…} based on two simultaneous observations: the immediate perception of one’s ‘self-sameness’ and continuity in time; and the simultaneous perception of the fact that others recognize one’s own sameness and continuity.” Erikson later went on to include: “unconscious strivings for continuity of personal character when the sense of self-sameness came under threat.”

Invasion of the Body Snatchers certainly touched a raw nerve when it would tap into this disturbing story of a ‘pod society’ that endangered what would become a concept – ‘identity’ that would find its way into the American vernacular.

Miles and Becky are cornered by pod people Jack and Dan Kauffman, who insist the two of them just need to go to sleep to be, “reborn into an untroubled world.” Miles tells them, “Where everyone is the same? and you can’t love or be loved, am I right?”  Dan responds blankly. “You say that as if it were terrible, believe me, it isn’t. You’ve been in love before. It didn’t last. It never does. Love, desire, ambition, faith. Without them, life’s so simple, believe me.” Miles doesn’t want any part of their brave new world but Danny’s line is perhaps the most chilling of the film, “You have no choice.” 

Perhaps overtly anti-communist the Soviets were commonly perceived as a cold sheet of glass, devoid of emotions, yet projecting an outward facade of peace while imposing strict authoritarianism. The ‘pod society’ is outwardly peaceful but very authoritarian and emotionless. Many Americans even considered Russians a different species who, because of their disbelief in God, were soulless, inhumane, and detached and wanted to destroy Americans or turn them into Communist clones. The film’s villains and the public’s view of the Communists presented limitless parallels.

“Invasion works as a cautionary tale about secret, robotic communists hiding among unsuspecting, passionate Americans and initiating a cultural revolution.” – (Rashna Wadia Richards from The Cine-Files)

The following morning, a disconcerting sight greets Miles and Becky as they witness the entire population of Santa Mira gathering in the square below. To their horror, they realize that the pods, now being transported on trucks, are being distributed by the townspeople themselves – spreading the reflexive contagion. Miles fears that the pods are, “a malignant disease spreading through the whole country.”

In the town square, the pod people gather, drawn together by an enigmatic silent signal, orchestrating their conspiracy to distribute hidden pods to neighboring towns and cities. Miles remarks, “It’s like a disease spreading through the countryside’’,  As Becky peers through the window she watches in horrified disbelief, “It’s just like any other Saturday morning.”

Film critic Noel Carroll characterizes it as ’the quintessential Fifties image of socialism.” Before long, the pod people assume control over law enforcement and communication networks.

Heading into the bright light of daytime is no less terrifying than the dark in Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Becky and Miles pretend they’re ‘pod’ normal…

Jack insists that resistance is futile, as the painless transformation has already begun in Santa Mira and will soon extend to neighboring towns and ultimately the entire planet. Danny and Jack attempt to coerce Becky and Miles into joining them as emotionless replicas. Desperate to survive,  the resourceful duo manages to elude their former companions and embarks on a risky plan.

They decide to masquerade as pod people in a desperate bid to escape the town’s clutches. For a while, they manage to maintain their facade, cautiously navigating their way through the sea of conformity.

Nevertheless, their cover is shattered when Becky’s true emotions betray her after witnessing a near-tragic incident involving a dog and an oncoming car.

Her scream pierces through the facade, exposing her as a human amidst the emotionless pod beings. Realizing they have been discovered, Miles and Becky instinctively flee, pursued relentlessly by the entire town, now united against them.

In a scene that produces a creeping sense of dread, Miles attempts to rescue his nurse but discovers that her body has been snatched, when off in another room he hears a baby crying and his nurse played by Jean Willes wonders if she should place a pod in with it. She is told by another pod person ‘Yes, then there’ll be no more crying.”

The ordeal has secured Miles and Becky’s love and resolve, refusing to succumb to the dangerous sleep that threatens their existence. As the film’s protagonist, Miles is shown as the champion of humanity, even his profession as a doctor is dedicated to helping people. When it comes down to it, he makes the decision to sedate not destroy his two friends who are now pod people, still refusing to accept that they are not still his old friends.

In the climax, the entire town gives chase to Miles and Becky up a winding stairway into the hills, accompanied by the foreboding wail of the town’s warning siren. Pursued by a vengeful mob of body-snatching townspeople, they seek refuge in the nearby hills. Hiding in an abandoned mine, they manage to elude the search party, which eventually breaks up.

Amidst the newfound silence, they hear delicate music drifting from the hills. Miles goes off in search of the music leaving Becky behind, they are both exhausted, but he prays that the music will point the way to a safe place.

As Miles follows the melody, he discovers that it’s coming from a truck radio. Within the truck is a harvest of hundreds of pods being loaded by the humanoid worker drones. Its destination is other surrounding cities.

Overwhelmed with despair, Miles returns to Becky, looking for solace from the one person left that he loves and trusts.

But she remains unmoved when his lips meet hers in what should have been a passion-filled kiss. Becky’s cold black eyes are devoid of feeling, they are just two empty voids. She has fallen asleep and joined their ranks which serves as a chilling testament.

”I went to sleep, Miles.”

“They weren’t people it was more of ‘them.”’

“Stop acting like a fool Miles and accept us!”

“No Never!”

“He’s in here!!!!”

Don Siegel referred to the cave scene revelatory kiss with McCathy’s ‘bulge-eye closeup’ as ‘delicious.’

As Becky starts to cry out for the townspeople, Miles breaks free and manages to reach a freeway leading to Los Angeles.

Small-town America was undergoing a radical metamorphosis and a further unsettling aspect is amplified when Miles reaches the nearby highway, underscoring the horrifying reality that this unearthly invasion was happening so close to the world at large.

A swarming crowd, of townspeople, echoing Becky’s call, remains on the highway’s edge, certain that no one will believe Miles’s terrifying story. Cars zoom past him on the freeway, and in a desperate bid to save himself, he jumps into the back of a truck headed for LA. To his horror, the truck is filled with pods. Overwhelmed by terror, Miles turns towards the camera and screams.

‘’Look! You fools! You’re in danger! Can’t you see? They’re after you! They’re after all of us! Our wives…our children…they’re here already! You’re next!’’

The film comes full circle with Miles at the hospital telling his story to psychiatrist Whit Bissell who doesn’t believe him and is about to have him committed for observation. Richard Deacon who plays the emergency room doctor diagnoses Miles as ‘mad as a March hare.”

However, Allied Artists, the studio, insisted on a scene returning to the hospital, where Miles desperately tries to convince the skeptical psychiatrist to believe his account. Just as it seems like Miles won’t be taken seriously, an injured truck driver is rushed into the emergency room on a stretcher. He had an accident with his truck heading out of Santa Mira. An ambulance attendant informs the staff that he sustained serious injuries and was found buried under some weird-looking pods left spilling out onto the road.

Ambulance Driver: We had to dig him out from under the most peculiar things I ever saw.

Dr. Hill: What things?

Ambulance Driver: Well, I don’t know what they are; I never saw them before. They looked like great big seed pods.

Dr. Hill: Where was the truck coming from?

Ambulance Driver: Santa Mira.

Miles’s strange and frightening story is confirmed and the doctor tells his staff to get the FBI and the President on the phone assuring us that the human race will fight off the menace of alien invasion. But regardless of the studio’s desire to leave us with a more upbeat ending, the threat lingers.

The conclusion of the film diverges significantly from the ending depicted in Finney’s novel. While in the book, Miles sets fire to a field of sprouting pods, forcing the unburnt ones to retreat back to space, the resolution remains notably inscrutable.

“I’m sorry we didn’t get to end the picture at the point I wanted to with Miles pointing his finger at the audience and yelling, “You’re next!” I don’t care where you are, what country you are in, sitting in the theatre, or reading a book about Hollywood. There are pods and they are going to get you. (Kaminsky)

Don Siegel and producer Walter Wagner initially intended to conclude the film at the point in which Miles frantically attempts to stop cars.

The studio felt that Siegel’s alternate ending was too downbeat for audiences to accept the notion that we could all be doomed to become pod people. Miles clings to the hope that the town remains unaffected, desperately yearning for normalcy to prevail. He mourns the rapid transformation of small-town America into an impersonal postwar space overtaken by modernity.

This commitment to evoking normalcy persists until the climactic chase sequence near the end. It is at this point that the film’s visual style takes a stunning turn, reflecting the escalating tension and chaos. Miles wishes to preserve his sanity amidst the encroaching darkness.

Siegel and writer Mainwaring skillfully employ their vision to create Santa Mira as a seemingly normal small-town atmosphere, intricately woven together by the lives of its townspeople yet there is a sense of perishing humanity that is slowly slithering through the town. The subtle insidious disruptive transformations and the sense of unease are palpable.

It leaves the audience on edge, intrigued by the unfolding mystery and increasingly aware of the encroaching change that looms over Santa Mira and quite definitely – the world.

Invasion of the body snatchers


*Katrina Mann ”You’re Next!”: Postwar Hegemony Besieged in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” Cinema Journal, Autumn, 2004
*Eric Avila “Dark City: White Flight and the Urban Science Fiction Film in Postwar America,” in Bernardi, Classic Hollywood, Classic Whiteness)
*Michael Rogin: Ronald Reagan, the Movie, and Other Episodes in Political Demonology
*Mary Ann Doane Clinical Eyes: The Medical Discourse,” in The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s)
*Steven Cohan, Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties 1997)
*Stuart M. Kaminsky, Don Siegel: Director 1974 
*Thomas Byers, Kissing Becky: Masculine Fears and Misogynist Moments in Science Fiction Films, Arizona Quarterly 1989
*Deborah Allison: Sense of Cinema: Great Directors Don Siegel 2004
*John McCarty, “An interview with Kevin McCarthy” in Kevin McCarthy and Ed Gorman (eds.), ‘They’re Here…’ Invasion of the Body Snatchers: A Tribute, New York, Berkley Boulevard, 1999
*Ronald Wilson from Film Noir: The Directors edited by Silver & Ursini
*Bill Warren Keep Watching the Skies
*Vivian Sobchack from Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film
*Cindy Hendershot’s article From the Invaded Body: Paranoia and Radiation Anxiety in Invaders From Mars, It Came From Outer Space and Invasion of the Body Snatchers
*Kier-La Janisse: At First Glance Everything Looked the Same: Identity Crisis in Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers
*Gerald Izenberg: Identity; The Necessity of a Modern Idea 2016
*Jenkins: Lovelier the Second Time Around: Divorce, Desire and Gothic Domesticity in Invasion of the Body Snatchers The Journal of Popular Culture 2012)

Keep Watching the Skies: The year is 1956!

See Part One Here:

See Part Two here: Forbidden Planet

This is you EverLovin Joey sayin’ hope this post didn’t put you to sleep!

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