Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

It doesn’t take a big budget for a film to make a lasting impression. This sci-fi classic was made for less than $500,000, with only $15,000 of that allocated for special effects. Yet its plot, about a small town taken over by emotionless pod people from outer space, has haunted filmgoers for decades, inspiring three remakes and numerous imitations. Critics have argued over whether the idea of people taken over by soulless duplicates was a subtle metaphor for either Communism or McCarthyism. Although the cast was never aware of any such implications, director Don Siegel later admitted they were inescapable. Certainly screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring was aware of the McCarthy threat, having fronted for blacklisted friends during the ’50s. Whatever the overtones, however, the film’s power is undeniable, even with the addition of a studio-imposed positive ending. Siegel was forced to add the framing scenes in the hospital that suggest the invasion will fail. He wanted to end it with McCarthy screaming into the camera “You’re next” as trucks take the alien pods to cities around the country.

Dir. Don Siegel

In attendance: Joe Dante