The Great Unwatched #5: Invasion of the Bodysnatchers

Warning: If you pay enough attention, this trailer features spoilers, as does my review below.

Although it didn’t perform particularly well upon its initial release, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1956) is one of those films that has seeped into the public consciousness through television repeats, remakes and parodies. Indeed, when I finally got around to watch it I pretty much knew what to expect. This might explain why I was a little dissapointed by this, one of the most highly acclaimed science-fiction films ever made.

Returning to his hometown after a trip away, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) is confronted by a number of patients convinced that their relatives are somehow not the people they seem. At first this  is attributed to some sort of mass hysteria but when a good friend of the Doctors stumbles across his own sinister duplicate the race is on escape the town and let the world know that the earth is facing an invasion of pod people.

There are aspects of this film I liked a lot, the cast in particular are universally excellent and director Don Siegel turns in some really creepy moments and suspensful chases. In fact the film as it originally stood under his vision is an effective Twilight Zone-ish parrable of cold-war paranoia. What is really unfortunate though, is that the film was tampered with by nervous studio executives. Originally the film ended with McCarthy, the last of the townspeople not to be replaced by a duplicate, frantically running between traffic on a freeway trying desperatley to alert somebody, anybody, of the threat posed and for all intents and purposes looking like he has lost his mind.  Wary that such a pessemistic ending would isolate audience members , executives at Allied Artists tacked on a prologue and epilogue that framed the film as a flashback told by Miles to his psychiatrists in a mental institution. What this served to do however, was to undercut a lot of the film’s suspence. Why should we worry about our main character when we know from the outset that he escapes the clutches of the villains? Even worse, the film’s epilogue sees the FBI being alerted to the danger of the pod people and the plans for the domination of earth presumably being thwarted.

As it stands in its theatrically released form Invasion of the Bodysnatchers is a good film; had it been left untampered I speculate it would have been near-great.

For more information of the film you could do no better than making a trip over to the ever intreaging Trailers From Hell where Joe Dante offers his thoughts on the film.

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One Response to “The Great Unwatched #5: Invasion of the Bodysnatchers”

  1. For all the reasons you state and more, I prefer the 1978 version with Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum. The dog/man still haunts me.

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