There is panic throughout the nation as the dead suddenly come back to life. The film follows a group of characters who barricade themselves in an old farmhouse in an attempt the remain safe from these flesh eating monsters.
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 <email@example.com>
This was the first part of a double bill with Phil Kaufman's remake as the follow-up. I'll say that Siegel is ten times the action director that Kaufman could ever dream of being, that the original Body Snatchers has a cool, thoughtful tone that makes the shock scenes even better. The remake, even though in color and with a bigger budget, is so nervous, so lacking in pace and mood, that your impulse is often to laugh instead of sinking deeper into your seat.
Take just one scene: Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter are barricaded in his office, trying to stay awake. Morning comes, and the weirdness begins; people shuffle towards the square to pick up their packages, the leaders calling out the districts. Now in daylight the suspense is made more potent, the threat to humans seems greater. Kaufman does this scene at night, losing the mundane horror that Siegel evokes so well. The studio imposed the flashback structure, having McCarthy brought in to talk to a therapist at the beginning and end of the picture. That's the only weakness in the story.
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