According to Hollywood lore, the cast and crew of this film decided to play a practical joke on actress Carolyn Jones during the filming: while she was out of her bungalow, they slipped in and left one of the large seedpods made for the film on her bed. They received a more memorable response than they expected, for when Jones returned to her bungalow for a nap and found the pod she ran screaming out into the street.
And such is the power of this film. There are no major special effects, and for the most part everything looks the way it should in small town America of the 1950s. But the idea it presents and the paranoia it creates is a remarkable, tangible thing.
Loosely based on the novella by Jack Finney and directed by Don Siegel, THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS was just a little black and white horror film--but it exploded within America's 1950s subconscious with all the force of an atomic bomb, tapping into fears of everything from Cold War-era communism to a decreasing sense of community to the notorious House Unamerican Activities Committee. And in the process it became one of the most influential horror films ever made, a motion picture that would exert a strong pull on every one from novelist Stephen King to filmmakers like Wolf Rilla.
The story has been told in no fewer than three film versions, but while the Donald Sutherland and the Meg Tilley versions are each quite fine in their own ways, the original remains the most powerful. Dr. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) returns to the small California town of Santa Mira from a medical convention--only to discover that several members of the community have developed a strange form of hysteria: they have become convinced that certain friends and relatives are being impersonated by exact duplicates. Bennell brushes this aside as an oddity, but he soon realizes there is more to this than mere hysteria. The people of his small community are indeed being replaced by duplicates--duplicates being spawned by a strange plant-like alien lifeform.
Everything about this film is remarkably fine. The direction is first rate, the script is sharp and intriguing, and the film has a remarkable "everyday" look to it that is gradually subverted by increasing darkness and unexpected camera angles. And the cast is extremely, extremely good. Kevin McCarthy, the beautiful Dana Wynter, King Donovan, and Carolyn Jones all give truly amazing performances in the leads, and the overall ensemble is every bit their equal.
The DVD offers the choice of widescreen and standard ratio; apparently it was filmed in standard ratio but later converted to widescreen when that format became the norm. I must say that it works well in either version. The bonuses are slight, including only a brief interview with McCarthy, but it is quite interesting. And the transfer to DVD is extremely good. Even if you already a VHS version of this film, you may find it worth the cost to replace it with this DVD. Recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
Don Siegel's film of Jack Finney's classic novel "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" remains a seminal, powerful science fiction classic. Seen as something of a political allergory by many critics in retrospect, director Don Siegel and producer Walter Wagner created a classic film that has continued to influence the genre even six decades later.
Small town doctor Miles (Kevin McCarthy who is marvelous)returns to his hometown after a medical meeting to find that a little boy claims his mother isn't his mother. This isn't an isolated case as his former girlfriend Becky (the stunning Dana Wynter)returns to town to visit her father and tells Miles that her cousin is claiming the same thing about her father. It's almost like a mass delusion is gripping the town (although not identified there is a condition called folie à plusieurs i.e.,"madness of many" a shared delusion that takes root and is passed on). Miles goes along with that explanation until his writer friend (King Donovan)and his wife (Carolyn Jones) FIND a body without finger prints and, while not dead, he isn't alive either. Miles begins to suspect something darker is going on when he begins to notice the change in behavior of his friends.
Olive Films which has adopted lesser known and older Paramount titles for release has done an exceptionally good tranfer for the film. Presented in black & white on a 25g disc in the original Superscope widescreen presentation (which the producer was against...something you might find out IF there was a commentary track by a film scholar or fan of the film), there is some inherent softness to some shots that can't be avoided (it's partially due to the post-production conversion process to the widescreen anamorphic process), but, on the whole, the film looks pretty darn good with nice sharpness and clarity. The encoding here is quite good.I didn't note any problems with flickering.
There is some minor print damage noticeable but the print used for the transfer looks very good aside from those few moments. Even with the minor print damage, "Invasion" has never looked quite so good. Blacks are very good throughout in this presentation and the Blu-ray improves on the previous DVD release.
Audio sounds quite nice with dialogue very clear. I didn't detect any overuse of noise reduction or at the least there's no noise reduction artifacts that I noted.
There aren't any subtitles which is a surprise in this day and age.
The one area that "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is very disappointing is the lack of special features. "Invasion" is a classic film and deserves a commentary track that focuses on the making of the film, the political meaning of the film (as interpreted by various groups over the years). The Republic Pictures DVD included an interview with the late actor Kevin McCarthy (it might have been nice if Olive Films had licensed the interview for this set) and the original theatrical trailer. We get nothing not even the theatrical trailer which is a missed opportunity.
I am happy that Olive Films has taken up many of these films that the major studios have neglected or forgotten about for Blu-ray but I would like to see a greater effort to include some special features either produced for their Blu-ray editions or licensed from other sources. Don't get me wrong without Olive Films I doubt it would have been likely that this film was releasesd on Blu-ray so soon (or at all)but it would be nice to see a bit of extra effort put into these releases.
Recommended for a very nice high def transfer and for the film itself but if you have the previous DVD (which this blows away in terms of image quality)you may want to hold on to it if you're attached to the extras for that edition.
on June 17, 2004
This is a remarkable movie in many ways. With a relatively small budget a very interesting Sci-Fi / horror film is made. No big visual effects, no Big Stars in the cast, black n' white photography and still a griping story. There are two remakes of this story, they can't stand against the original one, even if they were produced with a bigger budget and known actors.
This is the plot: Dr. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) returns to his small home town ready to attend patients. Different consultants tell him of a paranoid syndrome: their relatives seem somehow changed. A couple of days after that, they return to his office and tell him "Everything is OK".
Dr. Bennell and her old times girl friend Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter) soon realize the town is being subject to an alien invasion plot. Huge seed are "planted" in basements or garages and evolved in a duplicate of a person (a clone will be called today). As soon as the victim fells asleep is "transformed". The tension grows up as time pass and the characters need to sleep.
Some comments issued around the film pointed out that it may be taken as a parable of the Cold War raging at the time it was released (1956). I think that there are more films of that period, alluding the frightful issue of "They are like us but they are NOT us and they are dangerous", as in "The Thing from another World" (1951) or "I Married a Monster from Outer Space" (1958).
The actress Carolyn Jones (later best known by her impersonation of Morticia at the "Addams Family" TV serial) play a short, but very well enacted, role
A very enjoyable film to be seen.
Duration: 80 minutes.
Reviewed by Max Yofre.
I happened to have watched this particular film the year that it came out. My parents, while quite liberal in their attitude as to what I read, were rather cautious when it came to movies. I was allowed to see this film and of course forked over my .25 cents with my friends, bought my .05 cent bag of popcorn, .05 cent candy bar (A Thee Musketeer if I remember right), and my .05 cents for a coke. The "short" that day was a Three Stooges and the cartoon was about the adventures of Daffy Duck. I do not remember what was showing on the news reel as that was something we all completely ignored and talked and hit each other during.
This was my first viewing of this movie and at the time I did not have a clue that it could possibly have had any political or social message to offer. Even if I had, I could have cared less. I just knew it was suppose to be scary and I wanted to be scared!
Well, I got my wish. This movie scared the crap out of me! For weeks after seeing this film, my friends and I were quite sure that our other friends, teachers, parents, siblings and folks on the street most certainly had pea pods stashed back in their homes or offices. (As a matter of fact, I was not to sure about even my best friend...I was sure he was acting sort of "funny" and kept a close eye on him!) I can remember nudging each other and whispering "pod person" every time we felt someone was acting a bit out of character.
I have watched this movie several times over the years and I have to tell you that my fascination for it has continued over the years. I am no longer terrified after I watch it (well, maybe a little suspicious, and I most certainly keep a closer eye on my wife, kids, grand kids and neighbor) but I can now be a bit less shivery when I see it.
When you watch this movie you must keep in mind when it was made. In 1956 we simply did not have all the special effects we have today. Special effects back then were pretty primitive and to be honest, when they were used, they looked so phony that they usually were a distraction rather than an enhancement. No, what you saw was what you got and that was especially true in this film.
I like this film then and I like it now. I suppose tastes have changed and the public has demanded more and more over the years and in some ways this is a good thing, but then and all.....
on August 11, 2006
For those people out there who have not seen this film (or read the excellent book it was based on) a classic sci-fi treat lies in wait to take over your lives and endow you all with a driving need to conform and obey. Or maybe just replace you with a carbon copy replica.
That's right, long before the fear of cloning and internet derived identity theft, the fear of being replaced with a doppleganger consumed the masses, driving them to the brink of hysteria. And moviegoing, let's not forget the rampant moviegoing.
Before the advent (and allowance) of gore and excessive violence film makers were forced to rely on actual storytelling and directing skill to make movies. Case in point: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a film that succeeds because it takes its premise and runs with it, full bore at the audience, and provides one heckuva case of the screaming heebie jeebies.
While this movie is almost always categorized as a sci-fi film I personally view it as a Horror film that takes the "What If?" notion to a still very scary degree.
What if you found out that your friends, neighbors, and loved ones were all being methodically replaced for no apparent reason?
What if you found out that a vast and far reaching conspiracy existed and the conspirators knew that you knew of their existence?
What if you were being hunted?
And finally, the terrifying humdinger that pushes you over the brink: What if no one believed you?
All of these questions are addressed in this film with a flair that was probably more a reflection of the times (need proof, just watch the remake with Jeff Goldblum and Donald Sutherland) then the studio's desire to produce what can be rightfully called a genre masterpiece.
So for anybody who appreciates film and its history, or for anyone who likes to actually be scared by a movie seek out this film.
P.S. Expect a new, better edition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with more bells and whistles in the future, it's long overdue.
on October 28, 1999
Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers proves to be a classic of the science-fiction genre. Usually bored to death of sci-fi films, I quite enjoyed this film of pods taking over and transforming themselves into the citizens of Santa Mira, while they sleep, in the hopes of soon engulfing the entire world. Brilliantly acted by Kevin McCarthy in the role Miles Bennel, and Dana Wynter as Becky Driscoll, with a wonderful supporting cast, the film is easily believable. With Milt Rice in charge of special effects, the entire collaberation is a marvel for its time. Upon returning home from a trip, Miles finds the Santa Mira townspeople to be acting a bit unusual, but little does he know that one by one the townspeople are being taken over by pods from another world. Miles and Becky, Miles' girlfriend, attempt to warn the town and save the others, but it soon proves to be no easy feat for them to save themselves. The two drive, and then literally run, for their lives through the California hills. If they can make it to the highway and then to the neighboring town, perhaps they and the world can be saved. With impressive cinematography by Ellsworth Fredericks, notably the highway scene late in the film, and a striking musical score by Carmen Dragon, this film has quickly become one of my favorites. To occupy a place on the shelves amidst my usual favorites is not an easy thing for a film to do, especially for one that is science-fiction, but this brilliant sci-fi film, which hints a bit at McCarthyism, is a can't miss for any film lover.
on August 9, 2009
The DVD transfers are very good remasters with both wide screen and full screen versions included in the package. (Watch the wide screen version).
From the opening scene with Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) screaming, "You've got to believe me, I'm not insane" to the horrifying conclusion, this film wastes not a single frame away from the pace that never stops.
Dr. Bennell is finding that his patients are behaving strangely, they keep telling him that a loved one is no longer that person. Bennell is trying to be just a country doctor rekindling a spark with his high school sweetie, Becky Driscol (Dana Wynter) but the oddities continue and at an alarming rate. Good friend, Jack Belicec (King Donovan) calls the Doctor to come over and see what's he's got. It's a partially formed human body which looks a lot like Jack. Jack wife, Teddy (Carolyn Jones of TV's Adams Family fame) is hysterical over the situation. Even Becky's father (Kenneth Patterson) seems changed and he's placed another strange body resembling Becky in the basement of their home. Then we see the cause; giant seed pods opening to expose the lifelike contents, all growing to look like someone close by. Pretty soon, the whole town is changed with only the good doctor and Becky left to flee for their lives.
The gripping script (Daniel Mainwaring) was taken from a magazine serial by Jack Finney. Director Don Siegel's vision is close to perfection and the ensemble cast is excellent.
This "B" movie is too good to keep its "B". This is an "A". You know it's good when Hollywood keeps remaking it. The special effects are kept simple so they are believable. This film works as well today as it did in 1956 and it's much better than the remakes with bigger name stars (like Nicole Kidman
'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' is a classic Sci Fi and a must have for anyone collecting or interested in this genre of film.
Highest recommendation for: Sci Fi fans, suspense and thriller fans, Dana Wynter fans and anyone who wants to take a roller coaster ride while watching a film. A little parental guidance for kids under 8 is probably required.
on May 16, 1999
I saw the 1978 remake first but when I finally did see the original, a few years later, I was bowled over by how good it was. There is something much more threatening about living in a small town to suddenly find that everyone you knew has changed. From the true beginning of the film when Dr Miles Bennell (McCarthy) arrives in town and he encounters a few people who don't think relatives are who they seem to be, all the way through to the true ending as the battered and bruised doctor wanders along the highway trying to make people stop and help. Who can forget that moment as he shouts out "They're here. You're next!"? Evidently not the director of the remake as McCarthy gets to utter those lines once more.
There is a feeling to this film that perhaps seems even more relevant today, as people seem cold and distant. Who knows, is uncle Bob still uncle Bob...?
This is a good DVD transfer too, good picture and it is a pleasure to see it in widescreen. The only downside is the interview with Kevin McCarthy focuses more on the interviewer - the latter talks for about 70% of the interview hardly allowing McCarthy a chance to truly reminisce on the film.
Get this one if you enjoy old movies.
on December 3, 2006
Taking place in Santa Mira, California, Excellently directed by Don Siegal with its cold war paranoia communist message this film excells on suspense and finding a resolution. Kevin McCarthy almost makes you swear he is the real Dr. Bennell, along with other brilliant performances by Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones and Larry Gates, and let me not forget a veteran of many films (The Thing 1951 as reporter Ned Scott) of this genre and other 1950s films, Douglas Spencer. The end scene when Dr. Bennell trying to convince authorities of seed pods from space taking over humans in Santa Mira had me yelling at my tv set trying to convince the authorities myself. This film gets you into writer Jack Finneys plot and Daniel Mainwarings screenplay. This may be a no-frills dvd but you get to view it in wide or full screen and pan and scan. You also get a facinating 1985 interview with actor Kevin McCarthy and a Body Snatchers movie trailer. The film to dvd transfer of this film is really crisp and clean for a black and white film. The sound is really clear and has been cleaned up. The one element that made it for me with this movie was the music score by classical music writer Carmen Dragon. This is a brilliant music score and it stood with me well after I first saw this movie. Body Snatchers really captures America in the cold war days of the 1950s, and it shows in this film. This movie did not need alot of special effects, it played on plot and suspense and some convincing acting not only from McCarthy but from the whole cast. Body Snatchers had a low budget with limited special effects and director Don Siegal relied on great acting a great music score and guts and above all a dream. Don Siegal and crew pulled this off brilliantly as Body Snatchers has stood the test of time even 50 + years later. It might be dated to some but its suspense and story line hold up well even into the 21st century. A true sci fi masterpiece to be enjoyed by film fans of all genres. This film still scares me with wonder. Highly Recommended!!!!!!!!!!
on March 4, 1999
In an era where horror films exposed the menace early in the procedings and usually with a complete lack of subtlety, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" proved different. This story unravels at a leisurely pace, and the viewer is prone to ambivalence: Is there a real terror, or is it really a "mass neurosis" as the town's psychiatrist suggests? First you see it, then you don't. You're not sure until the greenhouse scene, midway through the film. The conspiracy of the townfolk, the open acceptance of the alien life form, and the inability of Dr. Bennell and Becky to escape their destiny make for a truly terrifying film. I have a suspicion that the story was so powerful and the acting so believable that the producers felt it necessary to add the prologue and epilogue to leave the viewers with a sense of hope. Kudos to Mr. McCarthy for his believable portrayal of the small town doctor. Watch as his character's outlook evolves from disbelief to skepticism to amazement and, finally, to stone cold terror. His performance can only be described as brilliant. Who could ever forget the look in McCarthy's eyes when Dr. Bennell discovers that Becky (played by the exquisitely beautiful Dana Wynter) has become one of "them," a creature now bent on Bennell's destruction? The acting of the entire ensemble is flawless. Don Siegel's superb direction, Carmen Dragon's wonderfully haunting score, the list goes on and on. I'm so impressed with this movie that I'm willing to place it on my list of ten favorite movies of all time. Enjoy the movie, but don't look in the closet..... [There is one note of interest that I'd like to pass along: In the scene where the townfolk look for the lead characters into the cave, if you look closely you'll see the third guy step in between the floor boards (beneath which McCarthy and Wynter are hiding) and start to fall flat on his face. Siegel cuts the scene quickly to a view from below the boards up at the mob, but the cut doesn't come quite fast enough. I thought I'd like to share that with you.]