Classic Cinema: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1958) – By Jason S. Lockard

My Name is Jason S. Lockard and I love classic cinema, and they don’t come anymore classic or iconic than 1956’s science fiction thriller Invasion of the Body snatchers; based on the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. Originally serialized in Saturday Evening Post in 1954. The film was produced by Walter Wanger and directed by Don Siegel stars American stage, film and TV actor Kevin McCarthy.

Kevin McCarthy was born on February 15, 1914 in Seattle Washington to Martha Therese and Roy Winfield McCarthy. Kevin was born into a wealthy Irish Catholic family based in Minnesota. Kevin’s aunt was author Mary McCarthy and was a distant cousin of former US senator and Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy! In 1918 Kevin’s parents both died of a flu pandemic and he and his three siblings were sent to live in Minnesota with relatives! After several years of mistreatment the four McCarthy siblings moved in with their maternal grandfather.

Kevin graduated from Campion High School in Praieir du Chien, Wisconsin in 1932 and attended The University of Minnesota where he discovered his love for acting when he participated in the play Henry IV, Part 1. Kevin McCarthy would go on to have a long and distinguished career as a character actor. He received his greatest critical success with his role in 1951’s Death of a Salesmen for which he garnered a Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and won a Golden Globe Award for a New Star of the Year. Than just a mere 5 years later Kevin McCarthy would take the lead in our film for this month!

"Invasion" opens with a man that is accused of being insane! Begging someone to ‘Make them listen to me, before it’s too late’. The hospital psychiatrist agrees to listen and man tells his story. In the fictional town of Santa Mira, California, Dr. Miles Bennell (McCarthy), a local doctor, finds his patients are accusing their loved ones of being impostors. His friend and town psychiatrist Dr. Dan Kaufman assures him that the cases are nothing more than "epidemic mass hysteria".

After some fine detective work Bennell discovers, with the help of his friend Jack Belicec, that the townspeople are in fact being replaced by perfect physical duplicates, simulacrums grown from giant plant-like pods. These Pod People are indistinguishable those whose lives they inhabited, except for their utter lack of emotion. The Pod People want to take over earth by eliminating the human race. Bennell attempts to escape the Pod People and warn the rest of humanity. Will Dr. Bennell be committed, so The Pod People can take over?! Or Will Someone listen before it’s too late?! You’ll have to watch the original classic to find out!

In 1994 Invasion of the Body Snatchers was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant." In June of 2008 AFI acknowledged the film as #9 in the Top 10 Sci-Fi Genre. It also placed #47 on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Thrills!

With all these accolades it’s hard to believe that Walter Wanger and Don Siegel considered anyone else for the role of Dr. Benell other than McCarthy! I think it’s reasonable to say, no one could have brought such a heart and passion to the role of the lone doctor than Kevin McCarthy! While their have been remakes after remakes in my opinion The 1956 original stands alone as the best.

After His starring role in Invasion, McCarthy would go on to have a tremendous career working in movies, television and on the stage; right up to his death from pneumonia on September 11, 2010 at the age of 96. McCarthy left behind countless acting performances in the memories of those who witnessed them, but to Sci-Fi fanatics like me. Invasion of the Body Snatchers will always be his greatest work!

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Moral Rating: Mild Violence
Audience: Teens and Adults
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 80 min.
Released: 1956
Our Rating: B+