DIRECTOR: Don Siegel
It’s been about 20 years since I saw this as a teenager for the first time. Then, I thought it was okay but obviously I wasn’t that taken with it as 20 years in long time between viewings. I opted for the black and white original version this time, which was presented in 1.66:1 widescreen, though I believe that the original SuperScope prints were 2.00:1. This is now, a well-worn story of a man fighting to prove that everyone else in his small Californian town has been replaced by an alien plant, which is capable of replicating any human it comes into contact with.
The alien’s goal, is to replace the entire population, but the upside is that the people’s consciousness of whom it replaces, will be transferred to the replicant. The downside is that emotions are not and though everyone is happy with their new existence, they are all emotionless drones, all equal and productive. Or, a thinly veiled 1950’s view of Communists if I’m not mistaken!
The metaphor is great, subtly played at first in best Science Fiction tradition but let out to play in the final act. The story follows a local doctor, Miles Bennel, played well by Kevin McCarthy, who upon discovering this, is left to try to escape with his childhood sweetheart, Dana Wynter. Both are fighting a losing battle to escape the both malevolent and benevolent force, but as the two are now very much in love, the prospect of losing their emotional attachment is unbearable. They are also faced with another primal problem, as their consciousness can only be transferred to the pods when they fall asleep, so in a tradition maintained by A Nightmare On Elm Street, 30 years later, they cannot fall asleep or all will be lost.
I understand that since its original exhibition, the wraparound story and the supposed “Happy Ending” were attached to fend off the negative reviews from the audience. I didn’t mind the tag on ending, as even though it might have ended better with what was clearly the original, with McCarthy ranting on a freeway, trying to explain the world’s plight like a raving loony, the new ending was far from happy.
My main issue with this film and the reason for the low rating is that it bored me. I liked what was there, the plotting, direction and metaphors but they were all held together by an episodic plot and some very slow pacing. It just didn’t take me as other films from the era such as, The Incredible Shrinking Man, This Island Earth or the brilliant Forbidden Planet.
I then had a flick through the Colourised version, which was adapted in 1988, I presume for a video release as the print is a poor Pan and Scan version, possibly without the scan! The running time is five minutes longer but the Colourisation process is rubbish. I also see NO point is this, certainly as the print is cropped.
Overall, this is clearly a classic but in my opinion, not as justified as others such as the afore-mentioned The Incredible Shrinking Man, which does not enjoy as much notoriety but delivers equal, if not a superior metaphorical messages. It appears that The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers struck the right political chord in its day which clearly, didn’t do it any harm.