invasion-of-the-body-snatchers-jan-29thNow regarded as one of the greatest of science fiction films, Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, was a low budget B movie shot in just 19 days. The subtext, McCarthy-era American anticommunism, is easily seen in the paranoia of the community targeted by aliens. Dr Miles J Binnell, returning from a conference, becomes aware that his friends and patients are behaving uncharacteristically. An old friend and former girlfriend Becky (Dana Wynter) is also suspicious that something is going on. The studio, Allied Artists, interfered with the unnerving ending that Siegel had intended. (Cert PG)
Dir: Don Siegel 80 mins USA 1956

to be shown with TERMINUS (Cert U) 30 min

Programme Notes

Invasion of the Body Snatchers
USA 1956 80mins Cert PG
Based on the Jack Finney novel The Body Snatchers, this low-budget science fiction horror from director Don Siegel (Dirty Harry, 1971; Escape from Alcatraz,1979), revolves around Dr Miles Bennell – played by chisel-jawed character actor Kevin McCarthy (Innerspace,1987; UHF,1989) – who notices his patients have started claiming that some of their friends and relatives are impostors. He sets out to find what lies behind the appearance of these emotionless phenomena in the local community – only to discover the harrowing truth.

Whilst there were numerous alien-invasion films during the 1950s this one has held up best, mostly because of the historical subtext of the aggressive anti-Communist investigations of USA Senator Joseph McCarthy’s (no relation to Kevin!) House Un-American Activities Committee during the decade. However, Siegel has denied that the film had any message of “a taut parable of the dangers of unthinking conformity”, claiming that he was merely making an effective B-movie thriller. The novel has been adapted for the big screen twice more – an eponymous 1978 version, featuring Kevin McCarthy as the ‘running man’ and The Invasion (2007), featuring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.

In 1994, tonight’s version was added to the USA National Film Registry (along with ET the Extra-Terrestrial, 1982) as a film deemed ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically important’.

Acknowledgements: Various contributors,; John Scalzi, Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies; Various contributors, Rough Guide to Cult Movies

“The best of the three movie versions of Jack Finney’s novel … partly because the paranoia running through the film sits particularly well with its McCarthy-era setting.” Rough Guide to Cult Movies

Dr. Miles J. Bennell – Kevin McCarthy
Becky Driscoll – Dana Wynter
Dr. Dan ‘Danny’ Kauffman – Larry Gates
Jack Belicec – King Donovan

Director Don Siegel
Producer Walter Mirisch (uncredited)
Screenplay Daniel Mainwaring, Richard Collins (u/cr)
Cinematography Ellsworth Fredericks

To be shown with Terminus UK 1961, 33m Cert U
Director John Schlesinger, Producer Edgar Anstey (BT Films), Music Ron Grainer

The second of three titles from the British Transport Films archive, this documentary captures the changing patterns of human emotions and everyday stories during a single day in the life of BR’s Southern Region Waterloo terminus.

“Terminus has deservedly won countless awards. The equally famous and much loved Night Mail seems patronising by comparison, annoying in its jokiness and light-weight artiness. Terminus’ images and soundtrack are a serious business.” Ewan Davidson, BFI Screenonline


TERMINUS (short)

“Excellent, I could smell the terminus. Did the director use actors, though?”

“An extra-ordinary slice of life in the early 1960s. Whether it was ‘factual entertainment’ or documentary is another matter ….”

“A lovely reflection on the stressful daily life of modern city commuters”

“Nicely observed record of how it used to be.”

“Great evocation of something best left in the past. Ron Grainer’s music very interesting.”

“Period piece packed with so many people.”

“Too many uninteresting people and not enough terminus or trains!”

“Sound seemed a bit off to me – probably (due to) the transfer to DVD. When we showed it in 35mm [no, 16mm!], it was much better.”


“Top film – top entertainment!”

“Brilliant stuff – still worked magnificently!”

“What a tonic!”

“An excellent evening’s entertainment. Thank you, film society.”

“A cheesy classic with ott performances and borderline laughable set pieces – but bloody brilliant!”

“Archetypal B-movie – great stuff!”

“Slow starting but built up tension – great stuff!”

“Risible but quite well done up to the chase, and then it got a bit silly.”

“Low budget and low quality but fun to watch.”

“Did we think this was scary at the cinema, when we were ca. 10 years old? Maybe …. ?”

“A corny piece of sci-fi, hard to follow at first. Not surprising members laughed at it, not with it.”

“I liked the line ‘Nothing’s going to happen’!”


A:10, B:11, C:9, D:1, E:0 to give 74%