A British military paratrooper disappears in mid-air during a jump from an army plane. Two investigators, Patrick Allen and Neil Connery, try to unravel how this happened. What they uncover... See full summary »
A British military paratrooper disappears in mid-air during a jump from an army plane. Two investigators, Patrick Allen and Neil Connery, try to unravel how this happened. What they uncover is an alien plot to steal the bodies of earthlings by snatching them out of the air. Written by
Jonathon Dabell <J.D.@pixie.ntu.ac.uk>
You know, from the right angle, he DOES look like Sean Connery
The 1960s was the era of the brash, misogynistic hero who uses his fists first and asks questions later. He assumes that all women want to sleep with him, no matter what the age gap, and wears a variety of chunky knitwear a Cornish fisherman would feel comfortable in. This behaviour can all be blamed on James Bond. The mega-success of the Bond franchise lead to every other TV and movie producer falling over themselves trying to get a piece of the action. There were spies, espionage and action heroes everywhere. Now The Body Stealers is not a spy film as such, but it is Bond that it most closely resembles, despite its extra-terrestrial enemy. And unfortunately our Neil does not take the lead role, the honour falling to Patrick Allen. Allen was a great character actor in the 1960s, making many appearances in Hammer films, including the fan favourite Captain Clegg aka Night Creatures, along with assorted low-budget science fiction efforts. Here he plays a no-nonsense, womanising private detective called in by the military to solve the mystery of parachutists disappearing in mid-drop. Neil Connery is relegated to standing in the background in most of the scenes, playing an old friend of Allen's.
So, the plot goes something like this: The British Air Force are testing a new kind of parachute, but their jumpers (not the knitted kind) are vanishing into thin air before they hit the ground (incidentally Thin Air was the original title of the film, but exploitation master Tony Tenser, producer and head of Tigon, thought it wasn't catchy enough). It IS all a mystery. Allen, who used to be a parachutist himself, leaves a women he was enjoying an intimate picnic with at the order of George Sanders and moves into a seedy looking B&B by the airbase. After clumsily trying to chat up a female scientist, and meeting the chief scientist Maurice Evans (better known for his appearances under heavy makeup in the Planet of the Apes series), he starts to make his moves on a mysterious, bikini-clad blonde he meets on the beach. Meanwhile, for no given reason other than he may be a pervert of some kind, Neil Connery takes secret photos of his old mate Allen making love to this woman right there on the sand. But when he develops the photos, possibly for publication in a seedy magazine (everything was seedy in sixties low budget science fiction), he discovers that she doesn't appear in the photos! That's because she is an alien!
Are you following this? I won't continue, as I'm confusing myself as much as I'm probably confusing you, and I've seen the film. It's no wonder George Sanders spends most of his scenes looking mistily into the distance, no doubt reminiscing on his earlier days working with the likes of Visconti. Even Allen admits on the DVD commentary that he had no real idea of what was going on. Now depending on your view point, this confusing plot, and the lack of a satisfying conclusion, could lead you to believe that you have just wasted the last ninety minutes of your life. Or, if like me you have a certain fondness for sixties British science fiction then there is still plenty of enjoyment to be had from The Body Stealers. You can wonder how Neil Connery didn't do more to cash in on his brother's celebrity status (his only other film appearance of note is the notorious Italian Bond rip-off Operation Kid Brother), or whether this film was the tipping point for Sanders, resulting in his suicide just a couple of years later. You can admire how Allen's heroic chin can win over even the most resistant of women, and even speculate whether there couldn't have been an easier, lower-profile way for the alien race to abduct men to take back to their home planet.
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