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Terrifying and Terrific!
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an eerily brilliant sci-fi film. It is genuinely scary and thrilling when viewed now, so it must have been extremely unsettling for audiences in 1956.
Director Don Siegel didn't have a big budget, so he cast Kevin McCarthy as Dr. Miles Bennell, who returns from a medical convention to the small Californian town of Santa Mira. He is confronted with strange reports of people insisting their relatives aren't their relatives. He begins to uncover the shocking mystery, but is convinced that his mind is playing tricks on him. However, his initial fears are true as the living nightmare unfolds.
Siegel doesn't rely on special effects to scare the audience, but its B-movie feel and subtle horrors are more effective. It is a short film, 80mins, so the story moves along at a quick pace, further heightening the fear level of viewers. Shot in black and white, the emotions (or lack of) shown by the characters are extremely convincing.
The themes of this film, such as anti-McCarthyism and fear of communism, were relevant in 1956, and it is frequently cited as one of the examples of exploring these themes to great effect. It is also cited as one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time, certainly of the 1950s. It certainly towers of hundreds of other sci-fi films with larger budgets, and can take its place at the top table of the genre classics.
Independence Day (1996)
Good for the genre
Nowadays, the genre of sci-fi blockbusters is an element of cinema which is best avoided. It is a far cry from Star Wars or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In 1996, the big hit was Independence Day.
Earth is invaded by aliens, who destroy major city after major city. The special effects are terrific at times, particularly the attacks on iconic landmarks such as the White House and the Empire State Building. The actors have fun in their roles, especially Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith as the satellite genius and amazingly talented pilot respectively.
Roland Emmerich's film, although great fun, contains several unbearably cheesy moments. One which springs to mind is the President's call for the world to declare July 4 as their independence day. Many of the battle sequences, although visually great, seem unrealistic. The dialogue is also poor for the most part.
Watching it now, many of the film's elements seem stereotypical, although it is difficult to tell if this is because of the several similar films since, trying to replicate the success of Independence Day. It is a prime example of the thrilling action films we have become accustomed to. Despite this, Independence Day offers more substance than its counterparts, and is at the forefront of the sci-fi blockbluster.
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Ms. Hepburn - unforgettable
Breakfast at Tiffany's has given Hollywood cinema some of its most unforgettable images, all involving Audrey Hepburn. She stars as Holly Golightly in what is probably her most iconic role, although her best performance may have been her debut in Roman Holiday (1953). Standing outside Tiffany's dressed in a little black dress in the memorable opening scene, carrying her elegant cigarette holder, singing the Oscar-winning "Moon River", searching for her cat in pouring rain: all images engraved in cinema-goer's memory.
Hepburn, arguably the most beautiful Hollywood actress ever, lights up the screen from start to finish. Director Blake Edwards depicts her as a girl living off gifts of men, however in Truman Capote's novella she is clearly a call girl. Marilyn Monroe was originally imagined for the role, but turned it down fearing playing a prostitute would be bad for her image.
George Peppard is understated and effective as writer Paul Varjak, while the supporting cast includes Mickey Rooney's controversial Mr. Yunioshi. New York is captured beautifully, whereas Henry Mancini's score also won an Oscar.
A thoroughly enjoyable film, not quite up there with the real greats of romantic comedy, but definitely worth a watch.