Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1955)

Starring: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, King Donovan and Carolyn Jones
Universal Pictures
RRP: 9.99
Certificate: PG
Available 01 October 2007

Doctor Bennel returns to his home town of Santa Mira from a convention and immediately notices that subtle changes have taken place. A normally reliable friend insists that her uncle is not really her uncle, and an hysterical little boy says the same about his mother. They look and act the same but are somehow different. The local psychiatrist assures him that the town's inhabitants are just undergoing a form of mass hysteria, but the doctor isn't convinced. One moment his appointments schedule is booked solid, and the very next day, it seems, they have cancelled, forgetting their previous ailments. A couple of corpses are discovered with no fingerprints and incomplete facial features. However, they bear an uncanny resemblance to known people. When the doctor discovers large, husk-producing pods in his greenhouse, he soon realises the town's population is being replaced by duplicates...

The 1950s was a curious decade for science fiction space or monster movies. Most were B-movie turkeys, some of these so bad they're good, and others hardly worthy of anyone's attention. But out of this same period emerged a handful of bonefide classics of the genre, such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Village of the Damned... and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

All the elements are in place to make this a memorable viewing experience. Firstly, the original source material by Jack Finney, but more importantly here the extremely tight and competent screenplay from Daniel Manwairing. Even by today's standards the plot moves along at a cracking pace. Each scene is edited concisely, and that means it still remains exciting to watch fifty years later.

Two slight nit-picks. The music score is typically over-dramatic for this era, with the effect of a host of violinists attempting to fiddle their way out of a cupboard under the stairs, and a duck walking up and down the keys of a grand piano. Becky, the love interest for the doctor, has the effect of an early Doctor Who assistant, hanging on his every word and action, asking questions like "What's happening?" and "What can we do?" However, this is merely a product of the time, events moving on too quickly for the weak female to become too obvious.

As with the recent release of The Thing From Another World, this DVD offers us the choice of watching the film in its original black and white or as a newly colourised version. This attention to detail is commendable but obviously included to make it a more attractive sale to a sometimes somewhat short-sighted American viewing public. My advice is don't fix what isn't broken; watch it in its original monochrome and enjoy. This is a genuine old classic.

Ty Power

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