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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2015 11:04 pm    Post subject: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Reply with quote




A chilling motion picture, well directed by Don Sigel, with a script co-written by Daniel Mainwaring. The story is based on the novel "The Body Snatchers" (aka "Sleep No More") by Jack Finney. The excellent musical score is by Carmen Dragon.





For years Sam Peckinpah claimed that he had contributed to the script, but the claim was challenged strongly by Daniel Mainwaring. However, Peckinpah does appear briefly in one scene as a meter reader.





The best scene in the film takes place in a greenhouse where several alien pods burst open and disgorge half-formed copies of the horrified humans. This scene is a show-stopper — despite fact that the film's FX only cost $15,000.





A prologue, a new ending, and a voice over-narration were added after the film's initial release to help the audience follow the strange plot. In the added scenes, the story opens with Kevin McCarthy being brought into a hospital, raving about alien invaders.





Two doctors (Whit Bissell and Richard Deacon) listen to McCarthy's strange story, which the audience sees as a flashback. At the end of the movie the doctors are understandably skeptical about McCarthy's weird yarn, but an unexpected event lends credence to his story.

Many film reviewers criticize these added scenes as unnecessary, an unwise attempt to conclude the story with a happier ending. But these scenes serve a valuable purpose, increasing the viewer's sympathy for McCarthy and his efforts to convince someone that mankind is in danger.






The alleged "happier ending" does not establish that mankind will win the battle against the aliens — it simply implies a Chapter Two in this epic struggle. Mankind will have a fighting chance in the war, but the outcome is definitely open to debate.

There is, however, one small flaw in the story which bothers most viewers. Through dialogue, the film establishes that the alien duplicates replace the real people and steal their memories. However, one famous scene near the end strongly suggests that the aliens are possessing the bodies of the humans.






Ignore this small glitch and just enjoy one of the most intelligent sci-fi films of the 1950s. And don't miss the sexy dialogue between suave Kevin McCarthy and lovely Dana Wynter.







The 1978 remake has some fine points, and it remains very true to the basic concept. Leonard Nimoy has a small but effective role as a psychologist.

It also includes a clever cameo by Kevin McCarthy near the beginning of the film. Kevin runs across the street in front of the main characters, screaming the same warning he did in the conclusion of the original!

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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2016 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



In honor of All Sci-Fi's Friday Live Chat for May 6th I decided to share this excellent review by Jeff Stafford from the TCM site. He certainly understands the importance of this science fiction classic.
________________________________________________




The threat of an alien invasion has been a popular sci-fi theme in movies ever since the early fifties when films like The Thing (From Another World) (1951), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Invaders from Mars (1953) and It Came from Outer Space (1953) had everyone watching the skies anxiously.

Perhaps that's why Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) struck a nerve with audiences when it first appeared. Not only had the aliens already landed but they had assumed human form and were living among us.

Set in the sleepy California town of Santa Mira (a fictitious place), this unsettling tale, based on Jack Finney's original story that first appeared in Colliers Magazine, follows a doctor as he tries to treat a strange malady that is sweeping through his town. Patients are coming to him insisting that family members and loved ones are impersonators, devoid of emotion, and not the people they used to know.

At first skeptical, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) discovers shocking evidence at the home of his friend Jack (King Donovan) that confirms his rising paranoia but his efforts to warn the authorities may already be too late.






Initially, Jack Finney had an altogether different idea when he began writing Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He recalled that "my first thought was that a dog would be injured or killed by a car, and it would be discovered that a part of the animal's skeleton was of stainless steel; bone and steel intermingled, that is, a thread of steel running into bone and steel so that it was clear the two had grown together. But this idea led to nothing in my mind." (From the book They're Here...Invasion of the Body Snatchers: A Tribute).

Instead, Finney came up with another concept "in which people complained that someone close to them was in actuality an imposter," an idea that took flight and became a metaphorically rich narrative where humans were being replaced by emotionless pod imitations.






In fact, the 1956 film version was interpreted by some critics as an anti-Communist allegory; others saw it as a thinly disguised attack on McCarthyism. Finney, however, maintained that "it was just a story meant to entertain, and with no more meaning than that. The idea of writing a whole book in order to say that it's not really a good thing for us all to be alike, and that individuality is a good thing, makes me laugh."

Director Don Siegel saw something else in Finney's story when he first read it in Colliers Magazine and "recognized that a most original film could be made - not only entertaining, but frightening as well" (from his autobiography, A Siegel Film).

It also confirmed a sneaking suspicion of his. "Danny [Mainwaring, the screenwriter] and I knew that many of our associates, acquaintances and family were already pods. How many of them woke up in the morning, ate breakfast (but never read the newspaper), went to work, returned home to eat again and sleep?" Yet, the pod people would not appear to be such insidious predators if human beings weren't such easy targets, a sentiment Miles expresses in the film when he says, "People allow their humanity to drain away and don't realize how serious it is until it is directly threatened."

Invasion of the Body Snatchers was shot on location in the small town of Sierra Madre, California and in and around Bronson Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. It took nineteen days to shoot at a cost of approximately $300,000.








For the casting, Vera Miles was considered for the role of Becky Driscoll, Miles' girlfriend, but producer Walter Wanger decided he wanted to use Dana Wynter, a young actress who was under contract to Fox. Kevin McCarthy had already worked with Siegel on a previous film, An Annapolis Story (1955), so they had a good working rapport; McCarthy even suggested a less sensational title for the film, "Sleep No More" but the studio brass rejected it as too high brow.





In addition to Carolyn Jones and King Donovan, the film's second leads, the rest of the cast was comprised of first rate character actors such as Whit Bissell, Richard Deacon and, in a bit part, future director Sam Peckinpah as the meter reader (he also served as the dialogue director on the film).





Of course, the real stars of Invasion of the Body Snatchers are the pods. Siegel recalled in his autobiography, that "My brilliant art director, Ted Haworth, figured out a way of creating the pods that was simple and relatively inexpensive (around $30,000). The most difficult part was when the pods burst open, revealing exact likenesses of our leading actors. Naturally, they had to have naked impressions of their bodies made out of thin, skin-tight latex. Foaming soap bubbles would gradually disappear, revealing, yet still concealing, their entire bodies."





This process required body casts of the lead actors; Dana Wynter, in an interview with Tom Weaver, recalled "I was in this thing while it hardened, and of course it got rather warm! I was breathing through straws or something quite bizarre, and the rest of me was encased, it was like a sarcophagus. The guys who were making it tapped on the back of the thing and said, 'Dana, listen, we won't be long, we're just off for lunch [laughs]!'

In the end, we had to be covered except for just the nostrils and I think a little aperture for the mouth."






Siegel later claimed that during filming he crept into Wynter's house and slipped a pod under her bed, causing her to become hysterical when she found it. "That is a bit far-out," Wynter replied when she heard Siegel's account. "Actually, he left it on my doorstep. He had a girlfriend who lived next door to me . . . and he would pass my cottage all the time. And one night he just left it on the doorstep!"

Ms. Wynter wasn't the only one who found making Invasion of the Body Snatchers a sometimes trying experience. Kevin McCarthy (in an interview with John McCarty) recalled that — "the toughest day for me was staggering up those long, interminable stairs on that steep flank of Beachwood Canyon and then across the rugged landscape that falls away to Bronson Canyon."








"The crew had rigged a gizmo out of block and tackle and so forth so the camera could dolly upwards but be looking downwards to study Dana and me (for half a day) as we tried to escape the pursuing vegetables. We made it to the crest! Half hour lunch break. Then we started down the other side of the hill into Bronson Canyon, fighting our way through wild brush, the terrain, rough and morguly. Then Dana took her spill and I carried her into the cave where we hid under those boards. Rigorous going."





Siegel, however, thought the final sequence was more challenging with McCarthy trying to warn motorists about the pods on the Hollywood Freeway. It was "shot on a crossbridge scarcely used. The police allowed only our cars and trucks, about fifty, driven only by stunt drivers. There was no process in the picture: every shot was authentic. The shots of Kevin's final scene were filmed just before dawn, and Kevin was in real danger, considering that he was at the breaking point of complete exhaustion. The stuntsmen knew this and were alert to the fact that he might fall down, but happily there were no accidents.

One aspect of Invasion of the Body Snatchers that continues to arouse controversy and divide viewers even today is the fact that the film exists in two different versions, one with a downbeat ending, the other with a more hopeful one.

Siegel also revealed that he had originally included several humorous touches in his final cut which the studio, Allied Artists, later edited out without his approval. "In their hallowed words, 'horror films are horror films and there's no room for humor,' Siegel recalled. I translated it to mean that in their pod brains there was no room for humor.

The studio also insisted on a prologue and an epilogue. Wanger was very much against this, as was I. However, he begged me to shoot it to protect the film, and I reluctantly consented. Oddly enough, in Europe and in the 'underground' in America, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was shown with the prologue and epilogue edited out. Like this, it was known as 'the Siegel version.'"

Most viewers, however, are probably more familiar with the official Allied Artists cut which ends with McCarthy convincing a psychiatrist and hospital doctor to contact the FBI. In Siegel's more pessimistic climax, McCarthy spots a truckload of pods on its way to the next town while passing motorists ignore his frantic attempts to warn them.






Director Philip Kaufman pays homage to the latter scene in his often inventive 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which McCarthy has a cameo role at the beginning; he's ranting and raving, "They're here, they're here," just before he's accidentally struck down by a car in San Francisco's Tenderloin district (the driver is the film's protagonist played by Donald Sutherland). Don Siegel also makes a brief appearance in the film.

In 1993, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Gabrielle Anwar, Meg Tilly and Forest Whitaker, marked the third remake of Finney's novel and there will probably be more. But it's hard to top the original.

Horror novelist Dean Koontz summed up the film's enduring appeal in the book They're Here . . . Invasion of the Body Snatchers: A Tribute.

"Many of us spend the evening hours online, staring at a screen rather than at human faces, communicating without the profound nuances of human voices and facial expressions, seeking sympathy and tenderness without the need to touch. All the while, through our bones creeps the persistent feeling that we are losing our humanity. No wonder we still respond to Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers so powerfully, even more than forty years after its initial release."




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orzel-w
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2016 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jeff Stafford wrote:
In 1993, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Gabrielle Anwar, Meg Tilly and Forest Whitaker, marked the third remake of Finney's novel...

The title is actually just Body Snatchers.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2016 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

________________________________

Hey, yeah! Don't these guys have somebody to proofread their stuff! Jeez, what amateurs! Rolling Eyes

Anyway, here's the trailer — free of charge!


________________________________


_______ Invasion of the Body Snatchers — trailer

__________

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alltare
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I was young and stupid, of high school and college age, I frowned upon all Black & White movies, considering them to be old-fashioned, boring, and not cool. I often refused to watch old movies for that reason alone. If it wasn't in color, it wasn't worth watching. Well, now I know better, and I have learned to appreciate BW films, and especially 50s scifi. When colorization came along 30 years ago or so, I wasn't impressed by most of the efforts. However, I did buy a colorized tape of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956), released by Republic in the 1980s.

In another thread, I have commented that the colorized version isn't available on DVD, nor had I been able to defeat the tape's copy protection scheme to make my own disc. Apparently no one else had been able to defeat it either, or at least they haven't come forward. Well, I take it all back. A few days ago, while digging through an old pile of discs that I seldom watch, I found a copy that I had successfully been able to rip. I had completely forgotten about it, but it's now resting on the shelf with the commercially produced BW versions of the same movie. It's full screen, not wide screen, but it seems to be the same length (80 minutes) as the commercial DVDs. Although it's only VHS quality, it's not unwatchable, and the coloring job is as good as any other from that time and better than most. I don't recommend it as the ONLY version you should own, but for a change of pace, its a fun secondary version to watch.

There are quite a few screen grabs of the colorized IotBS at
http://monstermoviemusic.blogspot.com/2011/10/invasion-of-body-snatchers-in-color.html

While Ebay, iOffer, and others aren't offering DVDs of this version, the VHS is readily available, used, in those markets.
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alltare
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 1:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's a 6-1/2 hour audiobook of IotBS on youtube at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3BxhbolIZw

Sound quality is very good.
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Pow
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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is one of those rare cases where the remake with Donald Sutherland & Leonard Nimoy in the 70s is considered as fine, or near as good, as the original classic version.
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alltare
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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2016 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pow wrote:
This is one of those rare cases where the remake with Donald Sutherland & Leonard Nimoy in the 70s is considered as fine, or near as good, as the original classic version.

No! No! No!
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 01, 2017 12:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

________________________________

I discovered several interesting trivia items among the 48 which IMDB offers.
_______________________________

During its original release, papier-m??ch?? pods were on display in theater lobbies, as well as black-and-white cutouts of Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter running frantically away from a crowd of pod people.

Note from me: This was a pretty nifty promotional gimmick! Imagine how excited the kids and teenagers got when they saw these in the lobby. Very Happy

~ These next two items pertain to the removal of scenes that were humorous.

During test screenings, much of the film's original humor and humanity was cut when the audience found it difficult to follow and laughed at all the wrong moments. The studio insisted on edits because it wasn't policy to mix humor with horror.

— AND —

The biggest problem director Don Siegel and company had with the studio was over the use of humor. He, writer Daniel Mainwaring, and producer Walter Wanger had scripted scenes with humor in them, and Kevin McCarthy said the actors improvised some during shooting.

When the film was still in the work print stage, Siegel and Wanger decided to try it out in front of a preview audience behind the studio's back. Much of the humor was still in the film at that point, and the audience response went from shrieks to screams to laughter and back again. Siegel had sneaked a tape recorder into the theater so they could prove to the studio just how great the reception was to their rough cut.

However, Allied Artists head Steve Broidy hit the roof when he found out and wanted to know why the audience was laughing in places. He ordered any trace of humor removed.


Note from me: When I was a teen in the 1960s, the two scariest movies shown on channel 5's Big Movie Shocker (with Hall of Fame host, Bestoink Dooley) were The Thing From Another World and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

We all know that the humor in The Thing causes it to be even scarier than it would have been without the humor. We care more about the people and the danger they face because they earn our respect and admiration with all those warm, humorous moments.

I'd love to see a version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers with those delete humorous scenes restored!

~ These next two items are related, so I grouped them together.

Production Designer Ted Haworth came up with a fairly simple and inexpensive (about $30,000 total) idea for creating the pods. The most difficult part was when the pods burst open, revealing the likenesses of the actors. The actors had to have naked impressions of themselves made out of thin, skin-tight latex.

— AND —

Production Designer Ted Haworth was worried that studio executives would object to the "nudity" of the pod likenesses. Don Siegel reminded him that Hollywood executives were all pods and, as such, had no real feeling about anything, including nudity.

One executive, however, voiced strong objections and ordered Siegel to eliminate any nudity from the picture. Siegel returned to Haworth and told him to continue as planned. "I was sure that before the impressions were made, this executive would have become a pod, too," he said in his autobiography.

At any rate, the issue was fairly moot; the pod replicas are revealed under foaming soap bubbles that manage to keep any overt nudity concealed.


Note from me: I can't help but wonder if the production crew just wanted to get Dana Wynter and Carolyn Jones into bathing suits and then smear plaster all over them! After all (A) they just needed generic, featureless torsos to show the undeveloped pod people, and (B) we barely get to see anything but the shoulders and upper chests anyway!






And as for Keven McCarthy, I'm not too impressed with the detail or realism of his Pod replica!





Hell, he looks like Stretch Armstrong! Shocked



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Skullislander
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 01, 2017 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have never been able to get a top-notch quality version of this essential 50s sci-fi movie, but I live in hope.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2017 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

alltare wrote:
When I was young and stupid, of high school and college age, I frowned upon all Black & White movies, considering them to be old-fashioned, boring, and not cool. I often refused to watch old movies for that reason alone.

In another thread, I have commented that the colorized version isn't available on DVD, nor had I been able to defeat the tape's copy protection scheme to make my own disc.

Well, I take it all back. A few days ago, while digging through an old pile of discs that I seldom watch, I found a copy that I had successfully been able to rip.

Although it's only VHS quality, it's not unwatchable, and the coloring job is as good as any other from that time and better than most.

Steve, my old friend and fellow space cadet, we certainly have different opinions about colorization and B&W movies and the benefits of DVD's over VHS when it comes to the picture quality!

To my dying breath, sir, I will defend your right to watch a movie in any format you choose — but I'm scratching my head right now as I ponder the fact that you'd watch a full screen version of a widescreen movie, with VHS picture quality . . . because you want to see it in computerized color! Shocked

Steve, that puzzles me almost as much as my burning need to find out why people's heads seem to itch when they're confused!

I mean, just what is the scientific correlation between the symptoms of chronic dandruff and the brain's activity when it wrestles with a puzzling problem?[

Dammit, am I the only one who thinks of these things? Confused

And am I the only one whose head itches like crazy right now because I'm thinking about why my head itches like crazy right now?
Shocked
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alltare
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 2:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bud Brewster wrote:
... For years Sam Peckinpah claimed that he had contributed to the script, but the claim was challenged strongly by Daniel Mainwaring. However, Peckinpah does appear briefly in one scene as a meter reader...

Actually , Peckinpah appears twice briefly. On my DVD, which is the 80 minute version with the wrap-around scenes, he first appears as the meter reader at 0:37.12. He also appears at the end of the movie, in the group of people who chase Miles onto the highway. He's right next to the cop and still wearing his meter reader's clothing at 1:16.49.
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alltare
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bud Brewster wrote:

...Steve, my old friend and fellow space cadet, we certainly have different opinions about colorization and B&W movies and the benefits of DVD's over VHS when it comes to the picture quality!

To my dying breath, sir, I will defend your right to watch a movie in any format you choose — but I'm scratching my head right now as I ponder the fact that you'd watch a full screen version of a widescreen movie, with VHS picture quality . . . because you want to see it in computerized color!
Shocked
...

Geez, gimme a break, Bud. We don't really disagree about colorized movies. I also have the BW versions of the colorized films, but I rather enjoy the color from time to time, too. And if the widescreen gets cropped to full screen in the process, there's nothing I can do about it. I think color improved "Zombies of the Stratosphere", and I really like what Harryhausen did with 3 of his movies ("Earth vs the Flying Saucers" is great in color). But as I said, I also have the original BW versions. I'm just not a purist.

As for watching a VHS quality image, that just happens to be the only way I can get this particular colored movie. Naturally, I would prefer a hi-res widescreen picture, but I gotta take what's available.

And by the way, why are you poking me for watching a low resolution movie when you would rather watch a Youtube download than a 1080p torrent download? All you have to do is install some free software, just like you must do to download from Youtube or other lo-res sites.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2017 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

________________________________

The recent newspaper ads I've found for double features in the 1950s inspired me to go looking for more!

The idea of going to a drive-in or an indoor theater when I was a kid and seeing some of these co-billed movies is fun to contemplate.



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orzel-w
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2017 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bud Brewster wrote:
And as for Keven McCarthy, I'm not too impressed with the detail or realism of his Pod replica!

Those were supposed to be incompletely developed replicas. In the movie the characters even commented on the progress of the developing details.
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