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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Don Siegel's 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers may seem tame in comparison to today's "horror" films, but the story of alien possession still gives lots of people the creeps. Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) returns to his hometown of Santa Mira, Calif., after an extended absence, only to learn that several residents believe that their closest relatives are impostors. Trying to explain away the inexplicable phenomenon, Bennell wonders if a group psychosis has overtaken the town, but when he investigates the matter further, he discovers some mysterious alien "pods" that are capable of gestating a perfect double of human beings — with the exception that they are brainwashed members of an extraterrestrial collective who intend to colonize the entire planet. Often viewed as an allegory about the "Red Menace" during the heyday of American anti-communist activity, the slow-paced approach of Invasion of the Body Snatchers mirrors the fears that the Reds would quietly overtake America from within, and Siegel's methodical direction is a slow burn that leads to a terrific climax. The inclusion of the opening three minutes and final minute of the film (which was forced on Siegel by the studio) is unfortunate, since Body Snatchers was re-cut in 1979 to eliminate this silly stuff. As it is, skip the second and last chapter of the film and you should get a better idea of what Siegel was trying to do. Also starring Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan, and Carolyn Jones, and keep your eyes open for a young Sam Peckinpah, who was a production assistant on the film and has a brief appearance as a gas-meter reader. Good transfer from a clean source print, Dolby 1.0, trailer, and an interview with McCarthy that is interesting — even if the interviewer is a bit of a self-important ass.

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