Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

            First of all, I love this title; there is ambiguity to it like Them! or Night of the Lepus but it is just vague enough to be unpredictable, at least in a thematic sense. Anyway, Invasion of the Body Snatchers takes place in a pristine 1950s suburb where everyone is fine but only on the surface. In reality the people slowly being replaced by soulless, uncanny, alien copies that seek to destroy the concept of freewill!  As one might imagine, Invasion of the Body Snatchers reads like Joe McCarthy’s worst nightmare but the subtext is surprisingly malleable.
            Beyond the “classical” interpretation of the body snatchers as Communists, a more hip analysis of the film would be that it is about conformity.  The late 40s and 50s was a weirdly bland time in America when everyone thought they wanted to live in the conservative suburbs yet the kids were starting to break all of the rules.  The kids feared conforming to the old ideals of their parents and Invasion of the Body Snatchers represents that fear in the same way James Dean romanticized their defiance.
            In the end finding the true interpretation does not really matter; oppression is the same whether it is dressed as a Communism, Capitalism or the ice cream man, it makes no real difference.  What makes this film brilliant is that it preserves the paranoid, cynical atmosphere of 1950s without straying from plot itself. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and this is meant to be a compliment, is easily the most thrilling and well-made Twilight Zone episode I have ever seen.  It is a little silly at times but the premise delves on fears that are so natural that is still haunting to this day.  Ultimately, this film is great as a time capsule of one bleak decade, a philosophy exercise, and as a late night popcorn flick.

            (It is available on DVD and for rent on Amazon in HD, there also a ton of remakes and knock-offs so make sure you know what you are buying.)

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