Dr. Miles Bennell returns to 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>
Sam Peckinpah, who has a small role in the film as a meter reader, also worked on the movie as a dialogue coach. He performed the same job on Don Siegel's other films of the 1950s. See more »
Upon discovering two pods in the trunk of his car after visiting the gas station, the hero pulls them from the trunk and sets them on fire with a highway flare whereupon they burst into flame. Nowhere else in the film is there any suggestion that these pods are flammable nor would they be if germinating into a human replica. See more »
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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