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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Invasion of the Body Snatchers can be found here.
Held for being insane, Dr Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) relates to a psychiatrist how the people in the small town of Santa Mira, California (near Los Angeles) are being replaced by emotionless duplicates. People he has known all his life are acting strangely, and family members swear they are somehow different. When two of his friends, Jack (King Donovan) and Teddy (Carolyn Jones) Bellicec, discover a partly-formed corpse that strongly resembles Jack, they realize that people are being replaced with alien plant pods that clone them while they sleep, Miles, Jack, Teddy, and Miles' girlfriend Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter) attempt to get out of the town. However, the pod people are not about to let them escape, and it's getting harder and harder to stay awake.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is based on The Body Snatchers, a 1955 novel by American science fiction writer Jack Finney. The novel was originally serialized in Colliers Magazine in 1954 and was adapted for the movie by screenwriters Daniel Mainwaring and Richard Collins. So far, the movie has been remade three times: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Body Snatchers (1993), and The Invasion (2007).
Dr Bennell can only conclude that they come from a plant created by atomic radiation, mutation, or "some weird alien organism". Miles' third hypothesis is upheld later in the movie when his colleague, psychiatrist Danny Kauffman (Larry Gates), now a pod person himself, explains to Miles and Becky that seeds drifting through space for years took root in a farmer's field. From the seeds came pods that have the power to reproduce themselves in the exact likeness of any form of life.
According to what can be seen in the movie, the pod focuses on one person. It begins to take over that person's physical appearance. When the person is asleep, it then finishes the transformation by taking over mind and memories. Unfortunately, it cannot absorb human emotions, so the resulting clone lacks the ability to feel love, beauty, grief, hope, and all those qualities that characterize the human condition.
Dr Bennell's assumption is that the human body disintegrates. In Finney's novel, the victim turns to a kind of dust, as the pod draws out the energies that make the body's component cells adhere and function in a unified state. This isn't shown in this original version of the movie, though it is made explicit in the 1978 remake.
After Miles and Becky escape capture by Jack and Dr Danny, now both pod people, they try to run for the highway out of Santa Mira, but hordes of pod people come after them. They take refuge under the floor boards in the tunnel of an old mine shaft outside of town. When the pod people don't find them in the tunnel and go off to search the hills, Miles and Becky decide to keep going for the highway, even though they are so tired that they can barely stand. Suddenly, a voice can be heard singing. Thinking that it might be another human, Miles goes off in search of the singer only to find that it's coming from a truck where pod people are loading more pods. In the meantime, Becky has fallen asleep. By the time Miles returns, Becky has been absorbed by a pod. Leaving her behind, Miles races for the highway. "No one will believe him," the pod people say as they watch Miles running from car to car, pleading for help, only to be rebuffed as a drunk and an idiot. "They're here...you're next...you're next!" Miles keeps screaming.
Yes. In the alternate ending, the final scene returns to the opening scene (also an alternate beginning) where Miles is being interviewed by two doctors, one who thinks he's crazy while the other isn't sure. When the police bring in an accident victim and report that they had to dig him out from under some big seed pods coming from Santa Mira, Dr Hill (Whit Bissell) orders the police to close off all the highways out of Santa Mira and phones the F.B.I. Miles leans against the wall, the desperation in his face replaced by a look of hope. This studio-mandated version is the only one available for purchase on DVD or Blu-ray disc, thus far.
Those who have both seen the movie and read the novel say that the movie follows the novel fairly closely, except for the ending, the location (a small town called Mill Valley in Marin County, near San Francisco) and a few scenes that were left out of the movie. In the ending of the novel, Miles and Becky discovered one of the town's outlying farms where the pods were being grown in fields, masked by surrounding stands of wheat. Miles destroyed as many pods as he could by setting them on fire. But the townsfolk were lying in wait for them in the wheat, and as they surrounded the two, the remaining pods detached themselves, flew into the sky and left the Earth, searching for new worlds to seed and take over. They had underestimated the human desire for survival. The clones had admitted they couldn't reproduce without the pods, and on their own only had a life span of around five years, so they and the cloned farm animals and plants gradually died off, leaving the town to be repopulated by new families moving into the emptying houses. Miles and Becky stayed together in Mill Valley, and Jack and Theodora Belicec both survived as well.
"The 1950s stirs up images of stereotypical American family life and a version of pleasant domesticity that affirms the nuclear family and maintains traditional gender hierarchy. But this image isnt always one of conviction certain titles, Invasion of the Body Snatchers among them, question whether the free-spirited, independent woman can thrive in a hostile society and present the male as something less than a confident preserver of the status quo. It would be naive to assume that, amidst the confusion and paranoia of post-war America, 50s society was not, at least under the surface, as conflicted about domestic issues as it was about political and social ones." Read more here.
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