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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956) [RePoPo]

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956) [RePoPo]

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Name:Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956) [RePoPo]

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)
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Technical Information
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Type..................: Movie
Container file........: AVI
Video Format..........: H.264
Total Bitrate.........: 2438 Kbps
Audio format..........: AC3 192Kb/s (Untouched)
Audio Languages.......: English (2.0 Mono)
Subtitles Ripped......: Spanish
Subtitles in Subpack..: French, Spanish
Resolution............: 640x320
Bits/(Pixel*Frame)....: 0.455
Aspect Ratio..........: 2.00:1
Original Aspect Ratio.: 2.00:1
Color.................: B&W
FPS...................: 23.976
Source................: NTSC DVD (No speedup)
Duration..............: 01:20:12
Genre.................: Science-Fiction, Drama, Suspense
IMDb Rating...........: 8.0
Movie Information.....: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049366/

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Release Notes
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Plot Synopsis by Mark Deming (Allmovie.com)

Don Siegel's classic exercise in psychological science fiction has often been
interpreted as a cautionary fable about the blacklisting hysteria of the
McCarthy era. It can be read as a political metaphor or enjoyed as a fine
low-budget suspense movie, and it works well either way. Kevin McCarthy stars as
Miles Bennel, a doctor in the small California community of Santa Mira, where
several patients begin reporting that their loved ones don't seem to be
themselves lately. They look the same but seem cold, emotionally distant, and
somehow unfamiliar. The longer Miles looks into these reports, the more stock he
places in them, and in time he makes a shocking discovery: aliens from another
world are taking over Santa Mira, one citizen at a time. Emissaries from a
distant planet have sent massive seed pods containing creatures that can assume
the exact physical likeness of anyone they choose. When Santa Mirans go to
sleep, the pod creatures take on the shape of their victims and then destroy
their bodies. The aliens may look the same, but they possess no human emotions
and, like plants, are concerned only with propagating themselves and eventually
subsuming the earth. Needless to say, Miles and his friends are terrified, but
since it's hard to tell who's a person and who's a pod, they're at a loss for
what to do, especially when it seems that there are increasingly more aliens
than humans. Invasion of the Body Snatchers builds tension slowly and steadily,
dealing not in the shock of bug-eyed monsters common to other 1950s
science-fiction movies but in the unnerving possibility that the enemy is among
us -- and impossible to tell from our allies. The ultra-paranoid conclusion of
Siegel's original cut was softened by Allied Artists, who added a framing device
that suggested help was on the way. This coda was as effective in blunting the
film's grim conclusion as giving a Band-Aid to a beheading victim; few films of
the era make it more painfully clear that for these people (and maybe for
ourselves), there's no turning back and no way home. Keep an eye peeled for a
bit part by soon-to-be-legendary Western director Sam Peckinpah, who plays a
meter reader and also (uncredited) helped write the screenplay. Based on a novel
by Jack Finney, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was remade in 1978 by Philip
Kaufman and in 1993 by Abel Ferrara (as Body Snatchers); and its influence can
be felt from The Stepford Wives (1975) to The X-Files.
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CAST
Kevin McCarthy - Dr. Miles Bennel
Dana Wynter - Becky Driscoll
Larry Gates - Dr. Dan Kauffmann
King Donovan - Jack
Carolyn Jones - Theodore
Whit Bissell - Dr. Hill
Jean Willes - Sally
Ralph Dumke - Nick
Virginia Christine - Wilma Lentz
Tom Fadden - Uncle Ira Lentz
Kenneth Patterson - Driscoll
Guy Way - Sam Janzek
Eileen Stevens - Mrs. Grimaldi
Beatrice Maude - Grandma
Jean Andren - Aunt Eleda Lentz
Everett Glass - Pursey
Dabbs Greer - Mac
Pat O'Malley - Man Carrying Baggage
Guy Rennie - Proprietor
Robert Clark - Jimmy Grimaldi
Richard Deacon - Dr. Harvey Bassett
Don Siegel
Harry Vejar - With Man Carrying Baggage

CREW
Don Siegel - Director
Walter Wanger - Producer
Jack Finney - Book Author
Daniel Mainwaring - Screenwriter
Ellsworth Fredericks - Cinematographer
Carmen Dragon - Composer (Music Score)
Robert S. Eisen - Editor
Edward S. Haworth - Production Designer
Joseph Kish - Production Designer / Set Designer
Ralph Butler - Sound/Sound Designer
Emile LaVigne - Makeup
Milt Rice - Special Effects
Allen K. Wood - Production Manager
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SOME REVIEWS

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David Wood (BBC, 1st May 2001)

In the small American town of Santa Mira, the initially sceptical local shrink
Dr Binnell (McCarthy) gradually becomes concerned by increasing visits from
townsfolk complaining that their nearest and dearest are simply not themselves.
Moreover, that they are in fact imposters. As a sense of paranoia gradually
spreads, Binnell's investigations reveal that the complaints are not mere
delusion and that the previously peaceful town is in fact being taken over by an
alien force, doppelgangers who resemble their earthly counterparts in almost
every way, save for a lack of human emotion.

Adapted from Jack Finney's taut novel, Siegel's low-budget science fiction is
one of the true masterpieces of the genre. Driven by Siegel's customary pacy
direction and his ability to move chameleon-like between genres, the film is
elevated above its counterparts by a rich intelligence, and screenwriter Daniel
Mainwaring's subtly integrated subtext and allegorical ambiguity. The sense of
post-war, anti-communist paranoia is acute, as is the temptation to view the
film as a metaphor for the tyranny of the McCarthy era.

Wonderfully performed and imbued with a genuine sense of trepidation and unease,
the film was remade to decent effect by Philip Kaufman (original director Don
Siegel had a small cameo role) in 1978, and by Abel Ferrara in 1993, proving the
inherent longevity in a tale about the loss of individuality. Incidentally, the
original features Sam Peckinpah in a blink-and-you'll-miss-him role. Provocative
fare.
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By Steve Biodrowski (Cinefantastiqueonline.com) (August 15, 2007)

The original 1956 film version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is widely
regarded as a classic, one of the great science fiction films of all time, and
with good reason: it’s a powerful black-and-white portrait of individuals losing
their humanity as they are taken over and replaced by emotionless duplicates
(commonly called “pod people” because they emerge from pods grown from seeds
from outer space). And yet, throughout most of its existence, this film has been
a mixed bag, one that raises interesting questions about how we judge films: do
we value them according to what’s actually up on screen, or do we employ some
more nebulous system, a combination of rose-colored memories and the author’s
intentions (whether fully realized or not).

The movie works in large part because, despite the science-fiction label, it has
few visible genre elements. Instead, director Don Siegel films the events as if
he were making a film noir thriller, concentrating on the characters’
increasingly frantic reactions to the gradually escalating conspiracy, which
eventually engulfs them like an unstoppable nightmare.

Things begin calmly enough with Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) returning to
his practice in the small town of Santa Mira after being away at a convention.
There seems to be a strange syndrome spreading through the community: people
convinced that their friends/family/neighbors are no longer really their
friends/family/neighbors but duplicates. At first Bennell dismisses these
complaints, until one of his old friends discovers duplicate bodies growing from
pods in his hot house. Bennell and his old flame, recently divorced Becky
Driscoll, try to warn the town, but it’s too late: everyone’s already been
snatched. They sneak out of town by acting as if they, too, have been taken
over, but they betray themselves when they react to the sight of a dog almost
being run over. They run to the hills and hide in an old mine shaft, but Becky
falls asleep (the final step that allows the duplicates to replace the original)
while Bennell is looking for help. Bennell manages to get to the main highway,
but his cries for help are seen as the ravings of a lunatic, and he catches a
glimpse of a truck carting pods toward the big city…


This is a neat, compact little thriller, without a lot of fat. Without much in
the way of production values or visible horror, Siegel manages to wring an
enormous amount of suspense out of the script(written by Daniel Mainwaring). The
one overtly graphic moment occurs when the seed pods are discovered, disgorging
their duplicate bodies amidst a gurgle of gooey bubbles; it’s mild by modern
standards but still effective enough to make you queasy.

Otherwise, the film relies on the old stand-by: audience empathy. We fear for
the characters, and that’s what makes the film scary. The cast is strong, even
when the characters sometimes seem to be a bit slow reacting to the initial
stages of the invasion (for example, after discovering an anonymous body —
actually, a half-formed pod person — they decide to wait and see what happens,
instead of calling the police immediately). McCarthy and Dana Wynter (as Becky)
make a great on-screen couple, and it not only frightens — it really hurts —
when she is “snatched” near the end.

The climactic shots of McCarthy running down the main highway futilely trying to
warn drivers speeding past is a stunning piece of filmmaking that reaches a
fevered pitch of near hysteria. “They’re here already! You’re next” he cries,
while cars whizz by, ignoring him as if he were nothing but a hopeless nut-case.
There have been two remakes (and the 1978 version with Donald Sutherland is not
bad), but neither one comes close to achieving the excellence of the original,
which remains one of the great paranoid nightmares of cinema.

Unfortunately, the film is not quite as perfect as it might have been…


STUDIO INTERFERENCE

BODY SNATCHERS is a compromised film. The studio that financed it did not like
Siegel’s original downbeat ending, with Kevin McCarthy helplessly running down a
highway, unable to divert disaster. A prologue and an epilogue were added, along
with a voice-over narration so that the whole story unfolds as if Miles Bennell
is telling the story in flashback to the police psychiatrist (Whit Bissell).
Afterward, the shrink is prepared to dismiss him, until a convenient piece of
evidence pops up to confirm Bennell’s story, implying that the alien invasion
will be nipped in the bud.

As if this bogus happy ending were not bad enough, the narration is over-wrought
and melodramatic, making the film feel more like a bad B-movie than the expert
little piece of craftsmanship that it is. In particular, audience laughter
inevitably follows one of the film’s most disturbing moments. Miles Bennell
returns to Becky in the mineshaft and realizes she is not really Becky anymore
when he kisses her passionately — even desperately — and gets no emotional
response from her. The look of horror on his face, contrasted with her pitiless
contempt, tells us everything we need to know. But then the narration ruins the
moment with these words: “I had been afraid many times in my life, but I never
knew real terror until I kissed Becky.” Even respectful viewers are hard-pressed
not to titter.

For decades, everyone knew there was something wrong with the finished version
of the movie (including Siegel himself, who objected to the revised ending and
the narration, but directed the material anyway, instead of allowing another
director to take over). Yet critics insist on ignoring the flaws — most
recently, for example, when Time magazine’s Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel
placed the film on their joint Top 100 Best Films list.

Why is this? Because we all know what director Don Siegel’s intentions were, and
that is what we take away from the film when we leave the theatre. The feeling
we carry around in our heads after seeing the movie leaves the studio-enforced
alterations mentally erased, as it were.

Whatever its unfortunate flaws, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS was always worth
seeing, because enough of Siegel’s original survives on the screen to make the
film a genuinely creepy experience — a horror film not about death and bloodshed
but about the loss of personality — the loss of one’s very self — which may in a
sense be the ultimate horror, even worse than death: a sort of emotionless,
zombie caricature of one’s former existence, drained of everything that gives
life joy and meaning.

Therefore, BODY SNATCHERS remains a classic, even a masterpiece. Too often we
hear older films praised for being made with low budgets in the days before
computer-generated imagery and graphic special effects, but BODY SNATCHERS is an
example where the praise rings true. Don Siegel’s resources may have been
limited, but he managed to direct a film that works emotionally and dramatically
on its own terms, so that there is never a moment on screen that makes you
think, “If only they had a little more money…”

The film’s portrait of human beings gradually assimilated by an alien invasion
of emotionless duplicates creates a profoundly disturbing sense of paranoia that
seems somehow rooted in reality. Despite lip service to the science-fiction
genre (a few dialogue references to seeds from outer space), this is a great
piece of film noir that plays out like a Kafkaesque nightmare or a TWILIGHT ZONE
episode expanded to feature length. Even today, frightened viewers cannot be
blamed if, after seeing the film, they feel an irrational urge to check under
their beds and in their closets, making sure no pods are waiting to snatch them.

TRIVIA

The highway the leads out of Santa Mira in the film was actually shot at an
overpass where the Hollywood Freeway heads north through the Hollywood Hills,
just past the Hollywood Bowl, on the way to Universal Studios.

Despite being considered a classic, the film has an obvious plot hole: When
Miles (Kevin McCarthy) returns from leaving Becky (Dana Wynter) alone in a mine
shaft, he kisses her and realizes she has been “snatched” (i.e., she is now a
pod-person duplicate, not the original) The problem is that no alien “pod’ was
nearby from which the duplicate could grow, and even if one was hidden out of
sight in the mine somewhere, there was not enough time for the pod-duplicate to
destroy the original Becky’s body and put on her clothes. Of course,
thematically, none of this matters: the mechanics of “body-snatching” are not
important; the film derives its horror from the fear of losing one’s identity
and turning into an emotionless pod-person, however that is accomplished. (The
1978 remake worked harder to justify this scene on a narrative level, showing
Becky’s body disintegrate while the duplicate version appeared nearby, naked.)

According to the Internet Movie Database, the unwanted prologue and epilogue
were removed from the film in 1979, yet the prints available for revival houses
and film schools around this time continued to include these scenes, as does the
DVD and the 35mm print struck for a tribute screening at the Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences’ tribute to Don Siegel in 2005.
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