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Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Year: 1956
Production Co: Walter Wanger Productions
Director: Don Siegel
Producer: Walter Wanger
Writer: Jack Finney
Cast: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter
I'd bet far fewer people have seen this version than have seen Philip Kaufman's bleak 1978 remake with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie.

Not that it isn't bleak, but it's a 1950s Californian version of bleak, where the hero (Kevin McCarthy) gets around in his open top gas guzzler, wears natty suits and takes ladies for Martinis at popular nightspots even when his beloved small town home of Santa Mira is falling apart.

If it wasn't movie lore that director Don Siegel and author Jack Finney were commenting on the McCarthy (as in Eugene, not Kevin, but maybe there was a strange metaphysical connection) red scare and blacklisting of the Hollywood 10, you might not have any idea that's what the movie's about.

But when small-town doctor Miles (McCarthy) starts hearing strange stories about people who aren't themselves – essential aspects to their personality apparently erased, he's more concerned than alarmed. When a semi-formed humanoid figure arrives on his good friend Jack's pool table and starts to resemble Jack, apparently intended to replace him, things turn nasty.

Along with Becky – the former flame he's rekindling – Miles gradually learns the truth that alien pods are being hidden in the town, growing dopplegangers of the townspeople to replace them and thus take over the world.

He and Becky go on the run, more of their friends and neighbours succumbing and trying to catch them while promising them of the soma-like lifestyle that awaits them. The township closes in on them and they can't sleep either, as that's when the pod being strike.

The effects and staging are predictably hokey but for a film in such an innocent era the sense of crawling, building paranoia and fear are effective, and would be emulated a generation late in the zombie genre.

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