For the End of the World Blogathon: 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers

I hadn’t seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers in a long time, last time having viewed it as a high school student.  When I saw the post about this blogathon, hosted by MovieMovieBlogBlog and Midnite Drive-In, I decided to participate  with a look at the 1956 film.  Be sure to visit either of the two hosting blogs to read more interesting  entries about the End of the World in films.

The plot of the film is simple, yet pretty fantastical to try and believe it could happen.  In fact, that is the main problem of the protagonist, Dr. Miles Bennell.  At the film’s opening scenes, we discover a frantic, hysterical Dr. Bennell, trying to explain what has happened in the town of Santa Mira, CA.   He is trying to explain the strange happenings to the police who have called in a psychiatrist and no one will believe what Dr. Bennell is trying to explain to them.  If they won’t believe him, it could prove to be the end of all humankind!

Dr. Bennell trying to get the psychiatrists to believe him.

The film then jumps to a long flashback to show us what Dr. Bennell has witnessed and  has caused him to become so hysterical.   Dr. Bennell was away at a medical convention and is greeted by his practice’s nurse,Sally, who picks him up at the train station and drives him back to his office.  On the drive, a young boy runs out in front of the car, crying and yelling at the adult woman who is giving chase.  Dr. Bennell stops the car and he and Sally get out to ask the woman what is going on?  The woman explains that her son has been acting hysterical saying that she is not his mother and refusing to go to school or to stay in the house with her.  Dr. Bennell finds this very odd and advises the mother to bring her son by the office when she gets a chance.  After getting to the office, Dr. Bennell finds a lot of the appointments made for that day have all been cancelled by the potential patients, and then his old girlfriend, Becky, arrives.  She tells him that her cousin Wilma is insisting that the uncle she lives with,Uncle Ira, is an imposter! Dr. Bennell agrees to make a housecall to talk with Wilma.  A bit of a side plot: Becky lets Dr. Bennell know that she has just returned from Reno and a fast divorce.  Dr. Bennell reacts with surprise and gladness and welcomes Becky to the club, he himself recently divorced.   Becky agrees to a dinner date with the good doctor and we can tell that they have a lot of “chemistry” with one another.

Glad that Becky is back in town.

Giving the distraught Jimmy a sedative, as he keeps insisting his mom isn’t his mom.

Wilma is close to becoming hysterical when she explains to Dr. Bennell and Becky why she doesn’t believe Uncle Ira isn’t Uncle Ira.  Dr. Bennell sees Uncle Ira in action, mowing the front yard and doubts what Wilma is telling him.  At the restaurant for dinner with Becky, Dr. Bennell runs into Dr. Dan Kaufman who says the same: he has had a rash of patients cancel appointments, and there has been an “outbreak” of patients claiming family members aren’t really their family members.  Dr. Kaufman shrugs it all off and sums it up as a  “mass hysteria”.  As Becky and Dr. Bennell are about to sip their martinis, there’s a phone call summoning Dr. Bennell to his friends’ home.  Off he and Becky go, to discover a hysterical Teddy(Theodora) and a worried Jack.  On the pool table is a human body, covered with a sheet.  Teddy and Jack don’t know who this person is but found it lying on their property.  The unknown person appears to be dead and  the body has no finger prints.  With assurances that Dr. Bennell will think of something before the police are to be called, he and Becky leave.  Teddy and Jack decide to keep watch over the body and sometime during the night they discover that the body  has turned into an exact copy of Jack!  This is just to much to stand so the two of them flee for Dr. Bennell’s house.

Examining that weird body at Jack and Teddy’s

Santa Mira has become a secret hiding place for giant seed pods.  If a pod is examined closely, it will contain a human form that will end up looking exactly like a resident of Santa Mira.  The duplicate can’t take over for it’s human counterpart until the human is asleep.  Dr. Bennell and Becky decide they have to get out of town to a bigger city to warn the authorities and the rest of the film is suspenseful as the plot follows the couple’s frantic escape attempts as the alien pod people have overtaken Santa Mira.

Those horrible seed pods!!

Running for their lives!

I was going to try and compare this first version of “Body Snatchers” to the version made in 1978, but as preparing for an overseas trip took up more of my life, I had to put that other film version on hold and hope to view it when my jet lag is gone!

For a well-crafted and great sci fi classic film, with a type of end-of-the-world motif, seek out The Invasion of The Body Snatchers.  Cast: Dr. Bennell-Kevin McCarthy, Becky-Dana Wynter, Dr. Kauffman-Larry Gates, Jack-King Donovan, Teddy-Carolyn Jones, Sally-Jean Wiles, Wilma-Virginia Christine, Uncle Ira-Tom Fadden.  Directed by Don Siegal, screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring.  The actual story idea was written by Jack Finney, for a Collier’s magazine serial.

 

 

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Hey Jenni. I’m just wondering what’s happened to your post for the Bette Davis Blogathon? I have you on the roster.

    Reply

  2. This has always been a favorite. If the 1978 version had any redeeming quality is was Kevin McCarthy in the beginning.

    Reply

  3. Good review. Such a creepy and unnerving film. I love this version, but the 1978 one is my favourite and I think it’s more scary.

    Reply

  4. Sadly, I haven’t seen this version. I did see the 1978 version, which I enjoyed, but it would be really good to see this one for comparison.

    By the way, hope you have (had?) a wonderful trip!

    Reply

    • Oh I had a wonderful trip. Our daughter teaches in Thailand so my husband & I went to visit her during my spring break. I saw the 1956 version via Amazon’s instant rent.

      Reply

  5. Nice review! I’ve always regarded this movie as a bit overrated (and Kevin McCarthy’s performance as kind of snarky, at least at the beginning), but you did a good critique of its virtues. Thank you for contributing to the blogathon!

    Reply

  6. […] – Invasion of the Body Snatchers […]

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