It Is All Pretend

         The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), as directed by Don Siegel, paints a picturesque small town in American during the nineteen-fifties. In fact the main character, Dr. Miles J Bennell (Kevin McCarthy), regularly pays house calls whenever a patient expresses the need for medical attention if only for a minor ailment such as anxiety--or even paranoia. Yet, inside and outside the making of the film, and behind the façade of contemporary conservative idealism that often glosses over this decade of the nuclear family of not so long ago, one will find a great threat to the individual in which this film, a sci-fi nonetheless, embodies. The threat was Communism. But, then again, could the threat have really been McCarthyism? Which allegory did The Invasion of the Body Snatchers hope to attain?

         Through certain details, it would appear to me that the film could best be construed as an allegory for Communism. Most certainly, the parallels of the film to the political throes of the time, when two atomic powers were incessantly at each other's throat, played upon the heartstrings of the audience. Yet the film could not have survived to this day if it had merely relied upon sensationalism. Indeed, in its own time, it proved imperative that the film should offer a new perspective to the current circumstances of the "Red Scare" and to the ensuing witch-hunts as fostered by Senator McCarthy in an attempt to root out all suspected subversives.

         What details from the film could possibly support the allegory of Communism invading America? For one thing, the Pod People, much like Communists, were collective farmers, harvesting innumerable pods to transport across county borders, then state borders, and eventually international borders. The ultimate agenda for the Pod People was absolute domination, an overt desire of the Soviets even. Plus, there is always the fear of one becoming brainwashed if one did not keep wide awake; and who knows, perhaps one's neighbor, though casting an unsuspecting appearance, is in fact harboring un-American thoughts. It is interesting to take note that the beginning and ending of the film as we know did not exist until the director conceded to include them so that the Pod People would not prevail. What could be more distasteful of a film than to postulate America succumbing to a group of native-born Communists?

John Couris

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