Invasion of the Body Snatchers

I was about ten years old when I first saw the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Don Siegel's classic film aired on network television on Halloween night, and after I'd made my haul of loot and traded as many of the bit-o-honeys to my sisters as I could, I settled in to watch. My mom loved the film. She sat and watched with us, and though anything that had been filmed in black and white felt dull and mundane to kids who had lived all their lives in the age of technicolor, this little beauty held our interest.

I teach this film in my criticism course here at FCCJ. I understand now that it stood as an allegory for the uncertainty and apprehension of the Cold War. I can appreciate it for its (generally) fine performances and fluid pacing.

But the reason I show this film-the real reason-is that it gets under your skin. I love the scene when Dr. Miles Bennell (played by Kevin McCarthy) discovers the pods in the greenhouse, and they split open and spew a healthy dose of ominous gelatinous goo. I remember watching, fascinated, when Bennell and his best girl Becky (great turn by Dana Wynter) perch in secret above the town square and truckloads of alien spores are unloaded to mindless drones, like hurricane rations after a rough storm.

The idea was shocking, and it had Americans talking. The lesson was that it could happen to you. It could happen to your town. Someone (it always works best when we use vague pronouns) could swoop into America and unalterably change everything about the way you lived your life.

Heavy stuff.

A fourth version of the film (there were a pair of competent re-makes) titled The Invasion arrives in theaters tomorrow. It stars a pair of fine actors in Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. Kidman is very capable of delivering a delightfully subtle performance. This should be right in her wheelhouse. And Craig is excellent in just about every film he makes (look at the film Layer Cake for a fine performance).

You can view the trailer

I was jogging on the treadmill yesterday at the local gym when a caption flashed across the bottom of the screen. U.S. plans to increase use of satellites for domestic intelligence, it stated. The Patriot Act. Government wire-tapping. Metallic celestial spies that can take detailed photographs of your house.

I think Dr. Bennell had it right in that final, indelible scene. Siegel does a fly-away shot as Bennell stumbles into a stream of traffic on a busy California highway. A truck filled with pods trundles past him as he bounces from car to car, shouting frantically.

"They're already here!" he screams. "They're among us! They're already here!"

Indeed they are, Doctor.

Body Snatchers had a profound impact on me. It scared me half to death. I have high hopes that The Invasion does the same.

So now the ball's in your court. Which movies got under your skin when you were a kid?

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