Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an American motion picture, directed by Don Siegel and released in 1956. It stars Kevin McCarthy as Doctor Miles Bennell, Dana Wynter as Becky Driscoll and Larry Gates as Doctor Dan Kauffman.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a science fiction movie that portrays an alien invasion and its effects on a small Californian town. The film is told in flashback by Bennell, who is being tended by a psychologist. According to Bennell’s story, alien plant spores have landed on Earth and grown into person-sized seed pods. These pods are capable of reproducing individual people, including their bodies and memories – but not their emotions. This process is completed while the person is asleep. Once the reproduction is finished, the victim is replaced by the emotionless copy.
The film’s narrative depicts Bennell and his friends as they learn of the alien invasion and what is happening under cover of darkness. As the townspeople are replaced by the duplicates they become dismissive of Bennell’s story. When Bennell and his friends attempt to warn the outside world of what is happening, they are obstructed by the alien replicas. When they drive to a nearby town, they find the entire population replaced with emotionless alien clones.
The full extent of the invasion is revealed when Bennell observes trucks carrying hundreds of alien seed pods to other towns and cities. Two of Bennell’s friends, who have been replaced by aliens, tell him of the advantages: “Love, desire, ambition, faith – without them, life’s so simple, believe me”. Bennell continues to resist, however, and he eventually attempts to flee with his friend Becky.
On the surface, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a well-made example of B-grade science fiction from the 1950s. There are obvious political subtexts and references within its plot. The alien infiltration of society reflects Cold War paranoia about spies and secrecy. The stripping away of individuality and the emotionless conformity of the ‘pod people’ reflects American views about life under Soviet communism.
Conversely, some have interpreted Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the hysteria of Bennell’s character, who may or may not be insane, as a criticism of McCarthyism. The film’s director, Don Siegel, later acknowledged the existence of a political subtext in the script. Other science fiction films of the era, such as The Thing from Another World (1951) and The Blob (1958), contain similar themes and political allusions.