Invasion of the Body Snatchers
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been 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.

When San Francisco Public Health employee, Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams), complains to fellow employee, field inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland), that her boyfriend, dentist Geoffrey Howell (Art Hindle), has somehow changed overnight, becoming emotionally void, Matthew's first suggestion is that Elizabeth speak with his renown psychiatrist friend Dr David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy). However, when more people begin showing up with the same complaint -- that friends and spouses are somehow emotionally 'different' -- and another friend, Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum) and his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright), find a partly-formed corpse that strongly resembles Jack, they realize that people are being replicated by alien plant pods that duplicate them while they sleep. But, when Matthew tries to alert the mayor and other authorities, he's advised to simply 'get more sleep,' and it's getting harder and harder to stay awake.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), which was based on a 1955 novel by American science fiction writer Jack Finney. The novel was originally serialized in Colliers Magazine in 1954 and was adapted for this movie by American screenwriter W.D. Richter. Subsequent to this movie, there are two more remakes: Body Snatchers (1993) and The Invasion (2007).

When Elizabeth wakes up late and heads for work, there is an old man in a suit running behind her and being chased. He presumably has been identified by the pod people or caught on to their existence, as a shriek can be faintly heard in the background. According to the director's commentary, that shot was to help develop the audience's sense of unease.

Yes. Kevin McCarthy, who plays Dr. Miles Bennell in the 1956 movie, was asked to reprise that scene, which was similar to one of his scenes in the final shots of the original movie. Whether he is meant to be playing the same character though is left to the viewer's imagination, as McCarthy is simply listed as "Running man" in the end credits of this film.

Scenes during the opening credits make it obvious that the plants originated in outer space and then landed on earth where, according to an article in the San Francisco Dispatch (Matthew can be seen cutting it out), they looked like spider webs dropping out of the sky. Dr Kibner corroborates their alien origin later in the movie when he explains that they came from a dying world, drifting through the universe from planet to planet, pushed on by the solar winds. This jibes with the explanation given in the 1956 version of the movie where it was explained 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. The nature of the pod flower is further expanded when Elizabeth notes that they are growing like parasites on other flowers, and she thinks that it may be a grex, which she explains as "two different species cross-pollinate and produce a uniquely different third," suggesting that the alien plant has cross-pollinated with one or more earth plants and produced a new species of plant. Apparently, this is also the case when the alien plants begin to cross-pollinate with humans as well. This has led some viewers to wonder whether the pods are plants in the first place. They take that form on Earth, but it's possible that is just the form they adopted here because the raw form, the webs, mostly landed on plants. In other words, they may have two distinct phases of duplication. First, the webs land on trees and bushes copy the plant DNA, grexing into plants. Then they start Phase II, which is the duplication of the planet's dominant life form. All they may really consist of is simple genetic programming built in to them at the basic web level, race memory, and the survival instinct. The rest comes from the copied host. This is a tolerable theory because, in the novel, the pods first copy completely silly stuff like a can of peaches and a broken axe handle before they finally figure to move on to humans.

In a graphic scene about two-thirds of the way through the movie, the pods are shown transforming while Matthew, Elizabeth, Jack, and Nancy are sleeping. First, the pod flowers. Then the flowers open up. The center of the flower appears to give birth to an unformed but human-looking shape that quickly begins to take on the features of the sleeping human. It forms fibers or webbing that are able to connect with the human body to aid its absorption. Once the mind and memories of the human are assimilated into the clone, the human body crumbles into dust. In one of the scenes near the beginning of the movie, Elizabeth's boyfriend Geoffrey, having just been turned into a pod person, can be seen sweeping up and depositing the dust from his human body into a garbage truck.

It appears that the podding process can be aborted by a number of methods. The first attempt to turn Jack into a pod person was halted during midformation when Nancy woke up Jack, as evidenced by the clone's eyes closing just as Jack's eyes snapped open. Matthew was able to halt the transformation of Elizabeth by carrying her away from the clone, even though the podding process was almost complete. In the scene in which the pods are taking over the bodies of Matthew, Elizabeth, Jack, and Nancy, they are able to stop the process by chopping up the clones with a garden hoe and getting away from them.

There's been a bit of a debate about this. The fact that Kibner could still laugh, the way that he dealt with the emotions of the crying woman, and the fact that he was puzzled by the "hallucinatory flu" going around seem to indicate that he had not yet been transformed into a pod person. The next time he appears in the movie is several hours later at the mud baths. He was sporting a change of clothes, indicating that he probably went home, got some sleep, and then changed into fresh clothes when he was called to come to the mud baths. In all likelihood, it was during this interval that he got podded. Other viewers believe that Kibner was a pod person from the start and that he was simply acting at the book signing.

The book is Worlds in Collision by Immanuel Velikovsky. The book was published in 1950 and spent 11 years on the New York Times bestseller list. However, the book was highly controversial and was met with overwhelming rejection of its thesis by the scientific community. It's likely that it was included in the movie because Matthew Bennell, like Velikovsky, is largely ignored and dismissed by his peers. More significantly, Velikovsky's thesis involved a (scientifically rejected) process of collisions and interactions between planets, including the seeding of Earth with organic material from space, that influenced the history of the Earth; thus it parallels in some ways the plot of the movie. You can read more here.

They point and shriek in an unwordly sound whenever they detect a human who hasn't yet been converted, which is used apparently to call out to other pod clones in close proximity to detain that person.

How does the movie end?

After Matthew and Elizabeth escape from being turned into pod people by Jack, Geoffrey, and Kibner, they run into Nancy, who got separated from Jack. Nancy tells them that she's discovered she can walk among the pod people by keeping her emotions in check. They join the crowds of pod people who are unloading pods from trucks, but Elizabeth gives them away when she suddenly screams at seeing a dog with a man's face. Matthew and Elizabeth take off on a run, leaving Nancy behind. They hide in the back of a truck that takes them to the docks where pods are being prepared for transport to other places. Elizabeth twists her ankle, so they hide in an empty room where they declare their love for each other. Suddenly, Amazing Grace can be heard playing. Thinking that they might be able to board a ship and get away, Matthew goes off in search of the source only to find that the music is coming from a radio. In the meantime, Elizabeth has fallen asleep. By the time Matthew returns, she has been podded and her body disintegrates in Matthew's arms. He escapes from pod-Elizabeth and sets the pod warehouse on fire, but Elizabeth gives him away and the pod people go after him. Matthew hides under a pier as the pod people scurry around looking for him. "We'll find him," one of them says. "He can't stay awake forever." In the final scenes, Matthew is back at his job at the Department of Health watching children being herded into a theater for podding and listening to a loudspeaker announcing that all pod people with relatives in Eugene, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles should report to City Hall. He cuts out a newspaper article. His face is expressionless, and his demeanor is nonemotional, just like everyone else. However, it is still unclear whether he is pretending or has really been changed. As he leaves the building and walks across the lawn, Nancy runs up to him, calling out his name, obviously happy to see him. Matthew recognizes her, points, and shrieks.

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