Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Gst Aof Cf Wb 062321 Iobs Rev

Fri, July 2 | 6:30 PM

Tickets | CLICK HERE

Join us for our new weekly film series in the Giant Screen Theater, "Marc Eliot’s Art of Film," with The New York Times Best-Selling Author! Peoria Riverfront Museum is pleased to announce the residency of film critic and historian Marc Eliot, who is the author of more than two dozen books on pop culture and biographies on Hollywood icons. Marc has personally selected each of the films in the "Art of Film" series and provides virtual commentary for each film before and after the film's screening at the museum.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956. USA. Directed by Don Siegel (co-directed, without accreditation, by Nicholas Ray)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers stands tall among the best Hollywood films of a year that included such classics as Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, John Ford’s The Searchers, and Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing.

Shot in 24 days on a budget of less than $350 thousand, Body Snatchers grossed four million 1956 dollars in its initial theatrical release and touched an exposed both a raw political nerve and an intense romantic one, the latter of the two II find far more compelling. Hollywood’s fear of the spread of Communism is expressed by a town whose residents begin to lose their personalities under mysterious circumstances that cause them to act alike and lose their ability to express their emotions, a metaphor for the fear of the loss of individuality under Communism. City doctor Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy), who has recently broken up with his girlfriend, returns to his (fictional) home town of Santa Mira, after getting call to return to his home from several of the town’s residents, concerned their family members are suffering from some kind of mass psychosis. They are themselves, they tell him, but they are not themselves. Then, shortly after his return, one by one those who called him for help now report to Dr. Bennell that everything is fine.

While in Santa Mira, the doctor runs into his ex-girlfriend, Becky Driscoll (played by 50's screen beauty Dana Wynter) who has recently gotten divorced. She, too, has returned out of concern for her relatives, who appear to be suffering from the same psychosis. Soon enough, Miles and Becky rekindle their past failed romance (which might explain why Becky walks around town in a strapless evening gown for almost the entire film). As their relationship heats up, and the townspeople all seem to lose their individuality, the film builds to a nearly unbearable level of intensity, climaxing in one of the most exciting chase-and-escape sequences ever filmed. Miles' and Becky's hopes are temporarily raised by the sound of a gospel chorus. It, too, turns out not to be not quite what it seems. Ultimately, Driscoll’s shocking betrayal of Bennell illuminates the film’s stunning plot by reducing it to the inevitable disintegration of one couple’s attempt to rekindle lost love and find true romantic happiness. 

To me, the love story is where the real action is in this movie, if you can see the metaphor as real and the real as metaphor. Note: While Siegel directed most of the scenes between Miles and Becky, the rest, including the climactic chase scene were directed, unsigned, by Peckinpah.

This is a landmark Hollywood film that anticipates many sci-fi/ horror films, most vividly Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and should not be missed.

- Marc Eliot