Dr Miles Bennell returns his small town practice to find several of his patients suffering the paranoid delusion that their friends or relatives are impostors. He is initially skeptical, especially when the alleged dopplegängers are able to answer detailed questions about their victim's lives, but he is eventually persuaded that something odd has happened and determines to find out what is causing this phenomenon. This film can be seen as a paranoid 1950s warning against those Damn Commies or, conversely, as a metaphor for the tyranny of McCarthyism (or the totalitarian system of Your Choice) and has a pro- and epilogue that was forced upon Siegel by the studio to lighten the tone. Written by
Mark Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As the posse runs through Bronson Cave, after the policeman
stops on the planks, says his lines, and then runs ahead, look closely for the man in the white shirt: it looks like he fell down onto the planks before the shot ended. See more »
A Very Exciting and Often Involving Noir Fantasy Thriller; Recommended
The decision to make this fascinating novel into a noir thriller worked very well on its own merits as an "adventure" with mostly-implicit ideas as motivations; however, I believe the film could have been made into a dramatic work of unusual power, It is B/W, swift-paced, intelligently acted and unusually- well-directed by Don Siegel, with a literate script by Daniel Mainwaring. The project is also interesting and disturbing for a number of reasons. Jack Finney wrote a novel in the 1950s which some read as a loss of American individualism, and others as an attack on Cold-War mentality realpolitik. Whatever the wellsprings of this fine idea, Finney's story treated of "seeds from space"; the idea is that these came to Earth and have the power to reproduce themselves into any living thing's form, right down to its thought patterns, memories, etc. But of course they have no emotions--they are merely replicas, not the originals. A mass hysteria grips the town of Santa Mira, California, shortly after their secret arrival on our planet; and Dr. Miles Bennell is called home from a conference because a dozen people claim some relative or beloved friend is not who they were before. When this seems to die down, Miles has time to pursue old flame and lovely Becky Driscoll, now that both their divorces are final. But the problem does not disappear and cannot be explained away by a psychologist friend of Bennelle's, thoughtfully played by Larry Gates. Bennell and his friend Jack Belicec and his wife Teddie find a body on Jack's pool table; his wife think's it's an alien thing--to replace Jack. They three flee to Miles's house, and Bennell goes to get Becky--carrying her off into the night. The next day looks sunny and normal, except that they find huge seed pods in Bennell's greenhouse, turning into--something else. Or someone? The remainder of the film consists of Bennell trying to call for help, observing the distribution of seeds in trucks in the small town's center, being trapped in his office, overcoming two guards, fleeing, and losing Becky to the monsters, before he finally convinces authorities that he is not insane; this requires an accident--to a truck carrying giant seed pods, from Santa Mira. As Bennell, Kevin McCarthy is quite good if not ideal. Dana Wynter is classically good as Becky; King Donovan and Carolyn Jones are the Belicecs, she doing a great deal with little to work from. Ralph Dumke as the Police Chief and Virginia Christine as Becky's Aunt Wilma are also standouts. Others in the cast include Kenneth Patterson, Tom Fadden, Guy Rennie and Jean Willes as Bennell's nurse. The production values are all good, by my standards, but only the direction is outstanding, except for the special effects. Carmen Dragon supplied eerie music suitable to the action. The loss to the film occasioned by its being made as a frightening adventure can be gauged best perhaps by comparing the qualities of Raymond Chandler's The Little Sister with the enjoyable adventure-level film "Marlowe" made in the 1970s. What we have here is a taut and often moving entertainment; what we might have had could have contained every element here, but could also perhaps have been even more intriguing. The theme of the film is "what makes a person human"; and no stronger idea for an idea-level fantasy can perhaps be imagined. But what we have here is a famous and interesting thriller in its own right; I like the envelope involving Richard Deacon, Whitner Bissell and others as the doctors at a mental hospital to which a raving Bennell is taken when he escape Santa Mira's nightmare. The original "They're here!" ending to me would have been unacceptably alarmist.
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