Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956
S P Oldham
I continue to work my way through the list of films posted in ScreenRant article ‘15 Black and White Horror Films That Are Still Scary as Hell’ – By Wednesday Lee Friday https://screenrant.com/scariest-black-and-white-ho...
This time I went with Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956 starring Kevin McCarthy and Diana Wynter.
The story is told in retrospect, as recounted by the main character Dr Miles Burnell and is more sci-fi than horror in my view.
Very typical of the 50’s, the women are once again all slender, beautiful, made up and immaculately dressed, the men similarly well-presented. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that the dialogue was a lot more natural than I expected, not stiff and overly formal as some of these older movies can sometimes be. I was disappointed that twice in the film Miles had to physically pick up and carry Becky – the stereotypical weak and feeble woman which, thankfully, does not seem to be so prevalent these days.
It’s obviously a plot device meant to move the story along, but I found it faintly ridiculous that a couple would be willing to sit up all night with a ‘prototype’ human, ostensibly a dead body, to ‘see what happens.’ That said, there are instances in reality where people really have kept dead bodies close to them, sometimes for extended periods of time, so maybe it is not so far-fetched after all. (https://www.ranker.com/list/12-people-who-were-found-living-with-dead-bodies/carly-kiel) I believe that in those cases the people concerned were suffering from mental illness or some kind of psychological or psychiatric condition. The film does state several times over that this is the general thinking of the medical profession in town – that there is an hysteria or a neurological disorder that is somehow catching. So okay, big pinch of salt taken and on we go…
I also found it a bit hard to swallow how they are all very blasé about what was going on, bothering to boil eggs for breakfast, pausing to make coffee. That, coupled with a few thrown in references to the marital status of the two main characters, struck me as being token efforts to add interest other than the main storyline. It seemed unnecessary. She stops to grab her cardigan after they defeat three ‘invaders’ and need to escape, fast! I just found throughout that little things like that jarred with me.
It came as no surprise that blame for the invasion was laid, possibly, at the feet of the scientific experimentation of the time. Mutation, alien life form etc… It is another example of film reflecting or expressing widely held concerns of the era. Totally understandable; it offered a wealth of ideas and opportunities for sci-fi and horror material. Film down the decades has done this of course, and will no doubt continue to do so, although I felt it got dangerously close to preachy in the scene where Becky and Miles are discussing the gradual erosion of humanity whilst hiding in the doctor’s office.
She gives them away when she displays fear at the thought the dog will get run over, after Miles cautions her not show any interest or animation. Yet, when they are being pursued, the aliens in human form show and express a great deal of interest and animation! Perhaps I am being picky, but I found a lot of little annoyances in this film.
“Sooner or later, you’ll have to go to sleep,” a good line for a sci-fi/horror I thought, as was “They’re here already! You’re next!” I realise this film was made many years before, but it put me in mind of a Doctor Who plotline, minus the good humour. The ending offers a glimmer a hope for mankind, but not for the film I’m afraid, as it was something of an anti-climax and very abrupt, too.
Scary as hell? Definitely not. I understand that this film is interesting in that it is a reflection of some widely held views, especially American, of the time, but sorry, this film just didn’t do it for me at all.