Classic sci-fi/horror film from 1956, adapted from Jack Finney's novel The Body Snatchers and directed by Don Siegel.Miles Bennell is a doctor in the small town of Santa Mira whose patients start accusing their family and friends of being impostors. They can't explain their suspicions — there are no physical or behavioral changes — but they are still convinced that the people they suspect are no longer themselves. Bennell and his colleague, Kaufman, initially assume this is merely mass hysteria, a diagnosis which seems to be confirmed when the patients start recanting their accusations.However, Bennell soon discovers that the patients were right. The people of Santa Mira are being replaced by alien doppelgangers, identical duplicates grown in pods, which replaced them while they slept. Behind their perfect mimicry of humanity, including emotions, is a soulless void. The pod people have no culture of their own, only what they have copied from humanity, and they have no goal beyond survival.The film ends with Bennell, who has just had to flee from his love interest's doppelganger, screaming a warning to heedless motorists.A relatively happy ending, in which it's implied that the FBI will stop the invasion, was added to the film by meddling executives, but is now usually omitted. In the original book, the pods eventually give up, frustrated by human determination, but in the film the ending seems truly hopeless.Usually interpreted as a metaphor for Communism, although some view it more as an indictment of McCarthyism and small-town insularity and conformity. There have been countless homages and three remakes:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) starred Donald Sutherland as Bennell (now named Matthew instead of Miles) and transferred the setting to The City (San Francisco), working in an effective theme of urban alienation which, in some respects, actually reverses the theme of the original. At one point, a character expresses her paranoia that she keeps witnessing people recognizing each other, isolation being such a feature of city life that excessive human contact itself is suspicious. This version also focused on the "malaise" of The Seventies and cranked up the Body Horror; appropriately, three of the film's stars (Brooke Adams, Art Hindle and Jeff Goldblum) all went on to do films with David Cronenberg. Thanks to its critical acclaim and high performance at the box office, it is considered one of the best horror remakes ever made, with many people ranking it up there with — if not ahead of — the 1956 original.
Body Snatchers (1993) was a gender flipped (and teenage) version set on an Army base and starring a young Gabrielle Anwar. More personally focused than the earlier versions — significantly, the heroine's step-mother is one of the first to be duplicated, and the family dynamic plays a big part in the movie. The film also got some mileage from its military setting and the fact that the protagonist herself was already somewhat detached from the community.
Adaptation Distillation: The 1978 version shows the invasion taking place in a colder, more impersonal "I'm OK, you're OK, everyone's OK" national culture that often openly questioned whether its best years as a country were behind it. In such an environment, the invasion succeeds.
Ambiguous Ending: The 1993 version. The surviving characters are about to land at another military base, but the "Where you gonna go" line is repeated for the audience—suggesting the pod people have already taken that base over. Marti's narration also notes how a person can only stay awake for so long—possibly suggesting she and her companion are resigned to being replaced.
Bolivian Army Ending: the conclusion of the first film, which ended with the doctor believing Bennell and calling the government to warn them. The pod people are still out there, but they're going to get a fight.
Body Horror: The 1970s remake answers the question of what happened to the people whom the pods replaced. They crumble into ash.
Heroic Sacrifice: In the 1978 remake, when the group are being chased by the Pod people, Jack and Nancy sacrifice themselves to the pod people as a distraction to allow their friends to escape. Nancy is able to evade capture, but Jack isn't.
Jack: Here I am, you pod bastards! Hey, pods! Come and get me, you scum!
Infant Immortality: Averted multiple times in different versions, as children are either shown having already been replaced or about to be. One notable example comes from the '93 version with Marti's younger brother.
Informed Ability: While the pod-duplicates are certainly not as emotional as Humans, their claims of emotionlessness need to be taken with several grains of salt. If they are so, then why (beyond the plot and dramatic needs) do they taunt and gloat over the uninfected about the inevitability of their victory? The stepmother and Forrest Whittaker's replaced co-workers in 1993 almost seem angry or giggling over how they can't be beat. They're all more like recent converts to a movement, which is somewhat the point, but if you have no emotions, you don't need to say it so damned often.
Meaningful Background Event: In the 1978 version you'll often see garbage men in the background and as the movie progresses they're throwing more and more of the black end result of pod transformation.
Mythology Gag / Remake Cameo: The 1978 remake had Kevin McCarthy reprise his performance from the ending of the original, banging on the protagonists' windshield and screaming, "You're next!" Later on in the film, Don Siegel (director of the original) appears as an overly-suspicious cab driver.
The 2007 version had a woman reprising the Kevin McCarthy performance, and then getting hit by a car.
And Veronica Cartwright, who was in the 1978 film, has a small role in the 2007 film.
Only Sane Man: By the end of the original film, Bennell, and no one left unaffected believes him.
Orphaned Setup: In the 1978 version, Matthew is telling a joke to Elizabeth, but she cuts him off before the punchline. Director Philip Kaufman explained the joke on the DVD commentary:
"The English Camel Corp are trapped in the Sahara Desert. They've been surrounded by Rommel for forty days and have run out of food. The Captain makes an announcement to the men: 'Men, I have some good news for you and some bad news for you. The bad news is, we have nothing left to eat but camel poop. The good news is, there's plenty of it.'"
Pretend We're Pod People: The 1956 version has Miles and Becky feign emotionlessness to walk through the pod-infested town safely. The other versions followed suit.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In the '93 version, Marti and her Love Interest escape in a helicopter, which they later use to bomb a truck convoy carrying pods. Marti's narration makes it clear she's acting out of hate over what happened to her family.