Starring: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates
Director: Don Siegel
Running Time: 80 mins
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is an American film about a doctor from a small Californian town who discovers that the residents are being replaced by emotionless alien beings one by one…
It may be quite cheesy, and effectively just a display of anti-Communist Red Scare propaganda, but this film is so entertaining and exciting to watch that that made no difference to me. It’s got the look of a terrible 50s horror B-movie, but has the story of a fantastic sci-fi thriller, with some excellent directing and cinematography, a well-paced structure and great performances.
Let’s start with the fact that this is in effect a propaganda film. In the paranoid anti-Communist climate of the 1950s, there were hundreds of these sort of films churned out to display the threat of Communism to the USA (the appalling Plan 9 From Outer Space immediately springs to mind), but this is at least done well, perfectly combining the fear factor that you can’t trust anyone with an oddly believable and intriguing story. And you’ve got to admit that the Americans really know how to do propaganda, don’t make it informative or realistic, just make it exciting!!!
Away from that major theme, the story in this film is absolutely fantastic. As I said, it’s strangely convincing, largely due to the fact that the film is so down-to-earth. The low budget means that everything is very simplistic here, but it does the trick of making it even more believable and therefore a whole lot more scary to see this invasion of these body-snatching aliens.
And anyway, even though the fact that this film is relatively dated makes it not particularly chilling, it was still hugely tense and exciting. One of the main reasons for that is the excellent pacing that there is in this very short and snappy film. It’s not a typically slow, dialogue-heavy mystery story, although it seems to borrow some characteristics from classic film-noir, but has a fantastic snowball effect throughout, whereby it starts relatively slowly, and gradually picks up the pace as the stakes are raised, with the final sequence having me on the edge of my seat and biting my nails for about half an hour.
Now, this may have been a relatively low-budget, small production, but it’s got some genius directing and cinematography that really adds to the tension of the story, while the central performances by Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter were fantastic, being two of the most supportable sci-fi heroes I’ve ever seen on screen.
Overall, then, this gets an 8.3, because it had such an exciting, fun story that shied away from some of the irritating 50s B-movie clichés, jam-packed with genius directing, acting and pacing.