Filmsite Movie Review
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Pages: (1) (2)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Then for a while, things seem to calm down and return to normal. The troubles of Wilma and Jimmy appear rectified. But Miles uneasily wonders to himself that the recoveries are being play-acted for his benefit:

Driving home, I had a lot of questions and no answers. How could Jimmy and Wilma seem so normal now. Surely I had done nothing to cure them. Maybe they wanted me to feel secure, but why?

At an outdoor barbecue at Miles' home with friends Jack and Theodora, in Miles' backyard greenhouse, the group discovered at least three giant seed pods that burst and exploded open like rotten cabbages, with a milky fluid bubbling out [a mock birth scene]. In the terrifying scene, the disgorged pods reveal grotesquely duplicate similarities to their human counterparts - Miles, Teddy and Becky - replicas covered with a sticky, sappy foam.

They all speculate that there's an alien menace in their neighborhood. It may be that distant planet emissaries have sent giant seed pods to Earth. They are a kind of zombie-like alien invader that develops (or propagates) when a person is asleep (with a loss of consciousness), and alters the life force, being and consciousness of the somnolent victim with a new physical vehicle that is an exact likeness. When the duplication process is complete, the real person's body is destroyed and replaced by the zombie duplicate - "taken over" by the pod, without typical human emotions such as anxiety, love, faith, or hope.

To notify the world beyond Santa Mira, Miles (with Becky) tries to phone the FBI (in Los Angeles) and the governor in the state capital (in Sacramento). As he waits on the line, he and Becky continue proposing different hypotheses about what is happening. They both think that the replacement clones eliminate the human counterpart and bear only a physical resemblance to the former self - it is a loveless conformist or drone without personality or emotion that is only concerned with propagating itself (similar to plants):

Anything is possible. Maybe they're the result of atomic radiation on plant life or animal life. Some weird alien organism - a mutation of some kind...Whatever it is, whatever intelligence or instinct it is that govern the forming of human flesh and blood out of thin air, is fantastically powerful, beyond any comprehension, malignant. All that body in your cellar needed was a mind...

They are notified that the lines are suspiciously dead or busy. Miles realizes that they are cut off from the outside world and need to escape. He urges Teddy and Jack to flee from town and try to alert help. Then, by himself and with a pitchfork in hand, Miles returns to the greenhouse. When he realizes that one of the 'blanks' looks like him, he takes a pitchfork and stabs at the pod's heart in a vampire-like killing.

As exhausted fugitives in town (and among the few unaffected by transplant absorption), Miles and Becky plan to drive to his nurse Sally's place, but first stop off for gas. Suspicious that his trunk is opened by attendant Mac Lomax (Dabbs Greer) during the fill-up, Miles drives off and abruptly stops, opens the trunk, and finds two seed pods inside. He removes them and uses an emergency flare to set them on fire. Then in voice-over, Miles observes: "I wasn't sure I could trust anyone..." At Sally's home, Miles realizes it isn't safe for them to remain there, when he eavesdrops at the window and watches as a seed pod is brought into the room to replace Sally's infant daughter. Miles flees back to his parked car to get away as fast as possible, as an all-points police bulletin is issued to detain them and not allow them to leave Santa Mira. It appears everyone in town has been overtaken by the changeling pods and everything is threatened.

Eventually, the two end up cornered in his upstairs office where they are forced to hide, fleeing from the police. They crouch down in the dark when an officer enters the hallway. To prevent them from going to sleep and being changed while their minds are least resistant, Miles dispenses two stimulant pills to each of them. Miles mentions a reminder: "We can't close our eyes all night," and Becky adds: "We may wake up changed into something evil and inhuman."

Miles describes to Becky, in an eloquent soliloquy, about how the bodies and souls of humans are being taken over by aliens, and how some people allow their humanity to slowly "drain away" - not realizing how "precious" it is until directly threatened:

Miles: In my practice, I've seen how people have allowed their humanity to drain away. Only it happens slowly instead of all at once. They didn't seem to mind.
Becky: But just some people.
Miles: All of us - a little bit - we harden our hearts, grow callous. Only when we have to fight to stay human do we realize how precious it is to us, how dear, as you are to me. (They kiss as the scene fades to black).

Outside the next morning (7:45 am on a Saturday) from the upstairs window of Miles' office, they notice that the town is unusually busy - the streets are filled with pedestrians and Santa Mira police. Although everything appears normal, it is not. They watch as the invasion of 'body snatchers' proceeds. They see trucks arriving, loaded with freshly harvested seed pods, to be divided among friends and relatives in other towns (Crescent City, Redbank, Havenhurst, Mill Town, and Valley Springs) to spread the invasion in other communities. The townsfolk walk about taking directions and carrying the pods without question. Some put the pods in the trunks of their cars. Miles senses the deadly contagion spreading unchecked in the seemingly normal community, neighboring towns and cities: "First our town, then all the towns around us. It's a malignant disease spreading through the whole country."

Just then, Miles hears Jack's voice in the hallway, and he excitedly opens the door and exclaims to Jack: "The whole town's been taken over by the pods!" but is corrected as Dr. Kauffman steps into view: "Not quite. There's still you and Becky." Miles suddenly realizes that his friend and colleague have been taken over by podded aliens. Miles and Becky are among the few unaffected by transplant absorption. To prepare them for transformation, two fresh pods are placed in Miles' waiting room next to them, to grow duplicates when they fall asleep:

Miles, it would have been so much easier if you'd gone to sleep last night. Now relax, we're here to help you...There's nothing to be afraid of. We're not gonna hurt you. Once you understand, you'll be grateful.

Miles bargains - asking for them to be allowed to leave: "Let us go! If we leave town, we won't come back," but Dr. Kauffman rejects Miles' request:

Dr. Kauffman: We can't let you go. You're dangerous to us.
Jack: Don't fight it, Miles, it's no use. Sooner or later, you'll have to go to sleep.

The complacent Dr. Kauffman explains to Miles the alluring benefits and advantages to them of symbiosis (of being "reborn into an untroubled world" without an awareness of separateness):

Dr. Kauffman: Miles, you and I are scientific men. You can understand the wonder of what's happened. Just think, less than a month ago, Santa Mira was like any other town. People with nothing but problems. Then, out of the sky came a solution. Seeds drifting through space for years took root in a farmer's field. From the seeds came pods which had the power to reproduce themselves in the exact likeness of any form of life.
Miles: So that's how it began, out of the sky.
Dr. Kauffman: Your new bodies are growing in there. They're taking you over cell for cell, atom for atom. There is no pain. Suddenly, while you're asleep, they'll absorb your minds, your memories and you're reborn into an untroubled world.
Miles: Where everyone's the same?
Dr. Kauffman: Exactly.
Miles: What a world! We're not the last humans left. They'll destroy you!
Dr. Kauffman: Tomorrow, you won't want them to. Tomorrow you'll be one of us.
Miles: I love Becky. Tomorrow, will I feel the same?
Dr. Kauffman: There's no need for love.
Miles: No emotion? Then you have no feelings, only the instinct to survive. You can't love or be loved! Am I right?
Dr. Kauffman: You say it as if it were terrible. Believe me, it isn't. You've been in love before. It didn't last. It never does. Love. Desire. Ambition. Faith. Without them, life is so simple, believe me.
Miles: I don't want any part of it.

Determined to escape, and wanting no part in being half-alive, Miles vows to get away but realizes that there is little hope and they have no choice ("I guess we haven't any choice").

Becky cries in Miles' arms that she wants to save them from a loveless future:

I want to love and be loved. I want your children. I don't want a world without love or grief or beauty. I'd rather die.

Miles knocks out their two captors with hypodermics filled with drugs, and a third policeman is subdued by Becky. The two successfully make their way to the street, and try to non-chalantly imitate the emotionless, sleepy nature of the other "pod people" with a quiet demeanor. Miles suggests they pretend: "Keep your eyes a little wide and blank. Show no interest or excitement." However, they are betrayed when Becky screams as a dog is nearly run over by a truck. Now the whole town is after them.

In the gripping and frightening finale, Miles and Becky flee from the town's space pods to try to elude the enemy and get help, while struggling to stay awake and remain human. As the last two humans (non pod-people) left, they run up a steep flight of stairs and escape into a hilly wooded area to find refuge in an old abandoned mine, as scores of townspeople follow them.

Weary and desperately exhausted, they are again compelled to hide in a constricted place - under floorboards in a pit, located in the dark, deserted cave or tunnel that is perilously close to their pursuers, who soon give up the search and depart. Then, both of them hear beautiful singing or music - and Becky is hopeful: 'It means we're not the only ones left, to know what love is." Miles leaves the faint Becky to discover the source of the sound: "Stay here, and pray they're as human as they sound." [Note: The music is not a sign of humanity - it turns out to be radio station KCAA heard playing in a truck owned by pod people at a pod farm, who are loading more pods.]

Becky can't keep her eyes open any longer. She falls asleep briefly. When he returns to the mine, he finds her lying slumped over and prostrate with fatigue. He tries to force her to go on, starts to carry her, but falls in a puddle at the mine entrance, as she tells him: "I'm exhausted, Miles. I can't make it. We can't make it without sleep."

And then, in the film's most memorable and frightening moment, he takes her in his arms to kiss her, and then draws away from her unresponsive lips. In a tight closeup shot of her face, he looks into the blank, dark, expressionless and staring eyes of his fiancée, as she admits and confirms for him: "I went to sleep, Miles, and it happened...they were right"; he realizes with a look of utter fright that she is now one of "them" - her body has been invaded and snatched. He knows instantly that this is not Becky but a treacherous imposter and victim. He is disbelieving: "Oh, Becky...I should never have left you." His sweetheart of a moment ago now asserts: "Stop acting like a fool, Miles, and accept us," and screams to the pod-people searchers:

He's in here. He's in here. Get him. Get him.

Horrified that he is now completely alone, Miles helplessly rushes in panic from the tunnel. He speaks, in voice-over:

I've been afraid a lot of times in my life but I didn't know the real meaning of fear until, until I had kissed Becky. A moment's sleep, and the girl I loved was an inhuman enemy bent on my destruction. That moment's sleep was death to Becky's soul just as it had been for Jack and Teddy and Dan Kauffman and all the rest. Their bodies were now hosts harboring an alien form of life, a cosmic form which, to survive, must take over every human man. So I ran, I ran. I ran as little Jimmy Grimaldi had run the other day. My only hope was to get away from Santa Mira, to get to the highway to warn the others of what was happening.

He clambers up the hills and runs toward a busy highway, away from a group of pod-people in pursuit. One of them decides to let him go:

Wait. Let him go. They'll never believe him.

Predictably, Miles is met with anger and rejection - a lone and doomed figure unable to save his world from invasion. He attempts to flag down cars, and convince passing drivers (concealed in their pod-like, mechanical cars - a symbol of capitalistic society) to help him and believe his story. Crazed with fear, he rushes into the onrushing traffic, nervously shouting and crying words of warning to the unheeding cars and unconvinced drivers. He flings himself onto the windshield of one of the automobiles, but he is ignored as crazy or drunk. A disheveled Miles pleads with the drivers for help:

Help! Wait! Stop. Stop and listen to me!...These people who're coming after me are not human. Listen to me! We're in danger!... They're after all of us! All of us!....Listen to me! There isn't a human being left in Santa Mira!... Stop! Pull over to the side of the road! I need your help! Something terrible's happened!...

In frenzied desperation, Miles climbs on the back of a passing truck with the names of major California cities on it, horrified to find it loaded with pods to be distributed and spread throughout the nation. He drops off, jumping back on the highway - feeling completely helpless. As a crazed prophet of doom, he looks directly into the camera, desperately trying to warn others and the audience:

Look, you fools. You're in danger. Can't you see? They're after you. They're after all of us. Our wives, our children, everyone. They're here already. YOU'RE NEXT!



This blunt scene with a despairing ending dissolves back to the start of the story for an epilogue, where we originally found a distraught and raving mad Miles relating his fantastic hallucinatory tale in a hospital. The doctors comment that he is a lunatic experiencing a nightmare:

Of course it's a nightmare. Plants from another world taking over human beings. Mad as a March hare.

As the doctors leave the office, a seriously-injured accident victim from a wreck is brought in by ambulance. One of the doctors explains how there was a broad-side collision between a Greyhound bus and a truck that ran a red-light. The truck driver had to be dug out from under a peculiar pile of "great big seed pods" from a truck coming out of Santa Mira.

After verifying and confirming Miles' story, the police start to take control of the invading aliens by blocking highways, and the FBI and law enforcement agencies are notified of the emergency. An all-points alarm is sounded and Miles is finally vindicated and relieved that someone has finally believed him, as the film abruptly concludes

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