Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

In director Don Siegel's thrilling, allegorical, intensely paranoid, chilling and disturbing classic science fiction/alien film - a parable about alien possession, was based on Collier's Magazine's serialized story The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney; it was one of the greatest low-budget 50's films; its cautionary plot, told in flashback, was often interpreted as a metaphor or as philosophical commentary upon the spread of McCarthyism or Communism in the mid-1950s.

The subtle, low-budget film (at about $420,000) was very effective in eliciting horror with slow-building tension, even though there were no monsters (just indestructible plant-like pods), minimal special effects, no violence in the take-over of humans, and no deaths. Its main theme was the alien (read 'Communist') dehumanization and take-over of an entire community by large seed pods (found in basements, automobile trunks, a greenhouse, and on a pool table) that replicated and replaced human beings. And it told of the heroic struggle of one helpless but determined man of conscience, a small-town doctor to vainly combat and quell the deadly, indestructible threat.

  • in the opening prologue (and closing scene - added bookends), Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) - seemingly psychotic and insanely mad, expressed paranoic fear and mania about an alien takeover in his hometown of Santa Mira, California; he shouted to an unbelieving group of nurses, interns, psychiatrists (including Whit Bissel as Dr. Hill), and doctors (including Richard Deacon as Dr. Harvey Bassett) in the emergency room of San Francisco's Emergency Hospital; he warned them about seed pods taking over the planet: "Doctor, will you tell these fools I'm not crazy? Make them listen to me before it's too late"
  • in the film's original opening (after the added prologue), Dr. Bennell explained, in a series of flashbacks from a few days earlier about the town's take-over; Dr. Bennell's voice-over was heard as he returned home from a medical convention by train; he was met at the station by his nurse Sally (Jean Willes): "Well, it started - for me, it started - last Thursday, in response to an urgent message from my nurse. I'd hurried home from a medical convention I'd been attending. At first glance, everything looked the same. It wasn't. Something evil had taken possession of the town. Sick people who couldn't wait to see me, then suddenly were perfectly all right. A boy who said his mother wasn't his mother. A woman who said her uncle wasn't her uncle"; it was suspected that relatives had changed their identities or didn't seem to be themselves
  • Bennell was visited by his intelligent ex-girlfriend/ sweetheart-fiancee, now recently divorced Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), who told him that her middle-aged cousin Wilma Lentz (Virginia Christine) was suffering from strange delusions that her favorite Uncle Ira (Tom Fadden) was an imposter and had been replaced; and then, one of his panicky and agitated patients - grocer's son Jimmy Grimaldi (Bobby Clark) was brought in by his grandmother (Beatrice Maude); the boy reported that his mother was not his mother; Miles treated the boy with a pill
  • Miles visited with Becky and Wilma, who complained about changes in her Uncle Ira: "There is no difference you can actually see. He looks, sounds, acts, and remembers, like Uncle Ira...There's something missing....there's no emotion. None! Just the pretense of it. The words, gesture, the tone of voice, everything else is the same, but not the feeling. Memories or not, he isn't my Uncle Ira"; Dr. Bennell was skeptical of Wilma's claims and suggested the problem might be inside of her, and promised to set up an appointment for her with a psychiatrist
  • in the parking lot of a restaurant before entering to have dinner together, Miles and Becky happened to speak to the town's only psychiatrist, Dr. Dan Kauffman (Larry Gates), who dismissed the cases of delusional paranoia as: "a strange neurosis, evidently contagious, an epidemic mass hysteria. In two weeks, it spread all over town...Worry about what's going on in the world probably"
  • after Dr. Kauffman drove off, Miles joked with Becky - he hoped they wouldn't 'catch' the neurosis, with a prophetic statement: "I'd hate to wake up some morning and find out that you weren't you." They passionately kissed each other, and he noted that the kiss confirmed her identity: "You're Becky Driscoll"
  • almost immediately inside the almost-empty restaurant, Miles was interrupted by a phone call from his office with a request for a house visit; at the residence of Jack Belicec (King Donovan) and his wife Theodora or "Teddy" (Carolyn Jones), Miles and Becky were shown his eerie discovery of a strange, corpse-like cadaver lying on his pool table - with an unfinished, half-formed, mannequin-like humanoid face and no fingerprints: "It's like the first impression that's stamped on a coin. It isn't finished"
  • awed, Miles added: "It's got all the features but no details, no character, no lines." An attempt to take fingerprints failed - and Jack surmised: "Waiting for the final finished face to be stamped onto it." Miles guessed that the mysterious corpse approximated the size of Jack himself - "five ten...maybe 140 pounds." His description of a similarly-sized body startled Jack, causing him to drop a bottle and cut the palm of his hand at the bar as he prepared drinks; Miles brought bad news to Jack: "This isn't you yet, but there is a structural likeness. Miles asked that Jack keep vigilant and call him if anything changed or happened
  • during the night, Jack's replica body awakened, took on human features, fluttered its eyelids, and acquired the cut palm in the hand. Theodora noticed the clone becoming more defined and screamed; she shouted to her husband: "Look, Jack! It's you! It's you!"

Eyes of Corpse Fluttering

Duplicated Cut in Hand
  • later that evening after Miles returned home, Jack arrived with his wife Theodora; she was hysterical that the repugnant corpse on their pool table had now cloned or turned into and had become totally identical to Jack: ("It's alive! It's alive! The hand was cut and bleeding! And the position of the body had changed!")
  • fearing that Becky might also be in danger, Dr. Bennell rushed to her home at 2:30 am and entered through a basement window; in the darkness, he discovered a smooth-faced, replica "double" for Becky hidden in a bin - and obviously placed there by her father Stanley Driscoll (Kenneth Patterson); frightened, Miles woke Becky from a drugged sleep state upstairs and carried her away to his house (to be safe for awhile)
  • after Dr. Kauffman, Jack, and Miles returned to Jack's house, the pool-table body had disappeared; Kauffman thought it had been a "murdered man" and called the entire incident "a completely normal mystery. Whatever it is, it's well within the bounds of human experience, and I don't think you ought to make any more of it"; a return to Becky's cellar also turned up nothing, and Kauffman repeated his assessment that it was "a curious, unexplainable, epidemic mass hysteria" and that they had experiences due to hallucinations and nightmares
  • then, when things calmed down and appeared to return to normal, Miles still remained uneasy; Miles wondered to himself that the recoveries were being play-acted for his benefit: "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?"
  • during an outdoor BBQ at Miles' home with friends Jack and his wife Theodora, Miles briefly entered his backyard's greenhouse visualized with a slanted camera angle; a close-up of a giant oozing seed pod was momentarily viewed
  • soon after, the group discovered at least three giant seed pods that explosively burst open like rotten cabbages, with a milky fluid bubbling out; in the terrifying scene, the disgorged pods revealed grotesquely duplicate similarities to their human counterparts - Miles, Becky and Teddy - replicas of them covered with a sticky, sappy foam
  • Miles and Becky speculated that there might be an alien menace in their neighborhood, and that they would have to examine every building and house in town; other-worldly invaders were thought to be bringing giant seed pods to Earth that would target sleeping victims and develop or propagate and transform into zombie-like creatures that were an exact likeness of their human counterparts; when the cloning or duplication process was complete, the real person's body was destroyed and replaced by the zombie duplicate or drone - "taken over" by the pod, programmed to be conformist and without typical human emotions such as anxiety, love, faith, or hope
  • with Becky, Miles tried to make phone calls to the FBI (in Los Angeles) and the state capital (in Sacramento), but all the lines were suspiciously dead or busy, and he began to realize that Santa Mira was cut off from the outside world and they needed to escape; he urged Teddy and Jack to flee from town and try to alert help. Then, by himself and with a pitchfork in hand, Miles returned to the greenhouse. When he realized that one of the 'blanks' looked like him, he took a pitchfork and stabbed 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 planned to drive to his nurse Sally's home, but first stopped off for gas; suspicious that his trunk had been opened during the fill-up, Miles drove off and abruptly stopped, opened the trunk, and found two seed pods inside; he removed them and used an emergency flare to set them on fire; at Sally's home, Miles realized it wasn't safe for them to remain there, after he eavesdropped at the window and watched as a seed pod was brought into the room to take the place of Sally's infant daughter; Miles fled back to his parked car to drive away as fast as possible, as an all-points police bulletin was issued to detain them and not allow them to leave Santa Mira

Targeted: Two Seed Pods Placed in Miles' Trunk

Pods Set on Fire

Eavesdropping at Sally's Home
  • the two ended up cornered in the upstairs of his office building where they were forced to hide, fleeing from the police; to prevent them from going to sleep and being changed while their minds were least resistant, Miles dispensed two stimulant pills to each of them
  • Miles pondered - with a thoughtful soliloquy - about how the bodies and souls of humans were being taken over by aliens, allowing their humanity to slowly "drain away": "In my practice, I've seen how people have allowed their humanity to drain away. Only it happened slowly instead of all at once. They didn't seem to mind...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 kissed as the scene faded to black)
Miles and Becky Hiding Out in His Office - Their View of Trucks with Seed Pods Being Distributed Into the Community
  • from the office window at 7:45 am in the morning, Becky and Miles viewed the invasion of 'body snatchers' - trucks arrived, loaded with freshly harvested seed pods, to be divided among friends and relatives in other towns, to spread the invasion in other communities - Miles sensed the deadly contagion spreading unchecked in the seemingly normal community, neighboring towns and cities: "It's a malignant disease spreading through the whole country"
  • Miles heard Jack's voice in the hall, accompanied by Dr. Kauffman, and excitedly opened the door and exclaimed to Jack: "The whole town's been taken over by the pods!" but was corrected as Dr. Kauffman stepped into view: "Not quite. There's still you and Becky." Miles suddenly realized that his friend and colleague had been taken over by podded aliens; Miles and Becky were warned that they would be next as seed pods were placed nearby to await them and grow duplicates; Miles bargained - asking for them to be allowed to leave: "Let us go! If we leave town, we won't come back," but Dr. Kauffman rejected Miles' request: "We can't let you go. You're dangerous to us"; Jack added: "Don't fight it, Miles, it's no use. Sooner or later, you'll have to go to sleep"
  • Dr. Kauffman shockingly explained the alluring benefits and advantages to them of symbiosis with two fresh pods: "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...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...Tomorrow you'll be one of us...There's no need for love...Love. Desire. Ambition. Faith. Without them, life is so simple, believe me"
  • determined to escape, and wanting no part in being half-alive, Miles vowed to get away but realizesd that there was little hope and they hadno choice; Becky cried in Miles' arms that she wanted 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"
  • in the gripping and frightening finale, Miles knocked out their two captors with hypodermics filled with drugs, and a third policeman was subdued by Becky; the two successfully made their way to the street, and tried to non-chalantly imitate the emotionless, sleepy nature of the other "pod people" with a quiet demeanor; they attempted to elude the enemy and get help, but Becky accidentally betrayed them when she screamed as a dog was nearly run over by a truck
  • while struggling to stay awake, they fled up a steep flight of stairs and sought refuge in an old abandoned mine; in the mine's constricted place - under floorboards in a pit, and located in the dark, deserted cave or tunnel, they were perilously close to their pursuers, who soon gave up the search and departed; then, both of them heard beautiful singing or music and Becky was hopeful: "It means we're not the only ones left, to know what love is"
  • Miles briefly left the faint Becky when the aliens departed to discover the source of what they were hearing: (Miles: "Stay here, and pray they're as human as they sound"); when he returned, he found that she was slumped over and fatigued after falling asleep; he attempted to carry her from the mine, as she told him: "I'm exhausted, Miles. I can't make it. We can't make it without sleep"; he took her in his arms to kiss her, but then, he drew away from her unresponsive lips - in a tight closeup shot of her face, he looked into the blank, dark, expressionless and staring eyes of his fiancée, as she admitted and confirmed for him: "I went to sleep, Miles, and it happened...They were right"; he realized with a look of utter fright that she was now one of "them" - her body had been invaded, cloned and snatched; in an instant, Miles knew this was not Becky but a treacherous imposter and victim; he was unbelieving: "Oh, Becky...I should never have left you"; his sweetheart of a moment ago now asserted: "Stop acting like a fool, Miles, and accept us"
  • she screamed to the pod-people searchers as he fled: "He's in here! He's in here! Get him! Get him!"; in voice-over, Miles in a panic explained: "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"
  • Miles clambered up the hills and ran toward a busy highway, away from a group of pod-people in pursuit. One of them decided to let him go: "Wait. Let him go. They'll never believe him"; predictably, Miles was met with anger and rejection - a lone and doomed figure unable to save his world from invasion. He attempted 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 rushed into the onrushing traffic, nervously shouting and crying words of warning to the unheeding cars and unconvinced drivers. The disheveled Miles flung himself onto the windshield of one of the automobiles, but was completely ignored and regarded as insane or drunk
  • in desperation, Miles climbed onto the back of a passing truck with the names of California cities on it; he was horrified to find it loaded with pods to be distributed and spread throughout the nation; he dropped off, jumping back on the highway - feeling completely helpless
  • as a crazed prophet of doom, he looked directly into the camera, desperately trying to warn others and the audience: "Help, help, wait. Help! Help! Wait! Wait! Wait! Stop! Stop and listen to me! Listen to me!...Those people that are coming after me! They're 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!...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!"
Highway Rant: "They're here already. YOU'RE NEXT!"
  • in an added epilogue (book-ending the added prologue), Miles was still describing his fantastic hallucinatory tale in the city hospital; the doctors regarded him as a lunatic experiencing a nightmare: "Of course it's a nightmare. Plants from another world taking over human beings. Mad as a March hare"; but then, a second seriously-injured accident victim was brought in after a collision between a truck (filled with pod seeds) that was broad-sided by a Greyhound bus when it ran a red-light; the victim had to be dug out from under a peculiar pile of "great big seed pods" from the truck coming out of Santa Mira
Added Epilogue: Miles in City Hospital, When His Strange Account Was Verified
  • after verifying and confirming Miles' story, the police started to take control of the invading aliens by blocking highways, and the FBI and law enforcement agencies were notified of the emergency; an all-points alarm was sounded and Miles was finally vindicated and relieved that someone had finally believed him, as the film concluded

(Prologue Scene) Dr. Bennell: "Will you tell these fools I'm not crazy"

Dr. Bennell's Opening Voice-Over About Santa Mira: ("Something evil had taken possession of the town")

Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter)

Upset Grocer's Son Jimmy Grimaldi in Dr. Bennell's Office as a Patient

Miles with Wilma (Virginia Christine) and Becky

A Kiss with Becky, Confirming: "You're Becky Driscoll"

Mannequin-Like Corpse Discovered on Jack Belicec's (King Donovan) Pool Table: "It isn't finished"

Miles to Jack: "This isn't you yet..."

Miles Discovering Becky's 'Clone' In Her Basement

Slanted View, Plus Giant Oozing and Opening Seed Pods in Miles' Greenhouse

Noticing Seed Pods in the Greenhouse

Miles Stabbed at His Own Cloned Figure with a Pitchfork

Hiding From the Police in Miles' Office

Miles' Soliloquy to Becky

Dr. Kauffman's Explanation of the Benefits of Being Taken Over

Dr. Kauffman's Conclusion: "There's no need for love"

Becky to Miles: "I want to love and be loved..."

Becky's and Miles' Flight From Town to an Abandoned Mine

Shocking Realization - Becky Was One of "Them"

Becky: "Stop acting like a fool, Miles, and accept us"


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