Cinema and Media Studies Invasion of the Body Snatchers
by
Murray Leeder
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0297

Introduction

Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers was released in 1955, having been serialized in Collier’s magazine in 1954. It tells the story of a small California town where the people are being subtly and discretely replaced by aliens. Because the process is gradual, some still-human townsfolk appear to be suffering from the delusion that their friends and loved ones have been replaced by doubles, though they outwardly seem the same. Finney’s book was apparently written with film adaptation in mind and proved very adaptable indeed. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), directed by Don Siegel, was the first of four adaptations to date (the others being Invasion of the Body Snatchers [1978], directed by Philip Kaufman; Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers [1993]; and The Invasion [2007], directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel). Though it received little attention on its 1956 release, Invasion of the Body Snatchers would far outstrip the renown of many other contemporaneous films, becoming a cultural touchstone and an acknowledged masterpiece of several genres. A tight, well-crafted thriller, Invasion of the Body Snatchers builds its tension slowly and makes its high-concept science fiction elements plausible through grounding in the details of contemporary American life. Finney’s creation proved adaptable in another sense: its story of infiltration, subversion, and resistance was available to a host of different cultural readings. As such, the various iterations of Invasion of the Body Snatchers have inspired a massive body of scholarship. Finney’s book and all four films have been discussed in isolation from each other, but the 1956 film is the lynchpin, much more so than the novel, and is almost always included even when the broader “franchise” is under examination. The categories in this article cannot be neatly cleaved from each other: they frequently overlap, or to use the more appropriate metaphor, cross-fertilize.

Book-Length Studies

There have been several book-length treatments of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, of which the definitive single-author treatment is Grant 2010. Lavalley 1989 and Gorman and McCarthy 1999 are useful edited collections of essays on the film, and McGee 2012 is a making-of book for general interest reading.

  • Gorman, Ed, and Kevin McCarthy, eds. “They’re Here . . .”: Invasion of the Body Snatchers: A Tribute. New York: Berkley Boulevard, 1999.

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    A popular press book edited by novelist Gorman and actor McCarthy. Featuring essays by impressive contributors including Stephen King and Dean Koontz, it is a mix of appreciations, several pieces about Finney’s broader body of writing, and interviews with personnel from the then-three film versions.

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  • Grant, Barry Keith. Invasion of the Body Snatchers. London: British Film Institute, 2010.

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    Grant’s short book usefully surveys the existing literature and contains chapters focused on the film’s production and reception, its place in Siegel’s career, genre (especially film noir), politics, gender representation, and its sequels. Both incisive and expansive, it could slot into many of the categories in this article.

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  • Lavalley, Al, ed. Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Don Siegel, Director. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1989.

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    Part of Rutgers University Press’s Films in Print series, this book reproduces the continuity script for the film and other production notes, contemporary reviews, and subsequent commentaries. Some of those, including those by Ernest G. Laura, Peter Biskind, and Michael Paul Rogin, are cited elsewhere in this article. Though certainly somewhat dated, it is still perhaps the best research tool available for the study of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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  • McGee, Mark Thomas. Invasion of the Body Snatchers: The Making of a Classic. Duncan, OK: BearManor Media, 2012.

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    This making-of book chronicles the preproduction, production, marketing, and reception of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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Authorship

Invasion of the Body Snatchers has numerous potential “authors”: not only Don Siegel and Jack Finney but also producer Walter Wanger and screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring, as well as several other uncredited screenwriters. Author studies of Siegel are not numerous, in part because of the perception that he was more of a workmanlike professional than a “true” auteur. Nonetheless, several pieces have worked to locate Invasion of the Body Snatchers within Siegel’s filmography, including Gregory 1962 and Lovell 1975. Similarly, some readings emphasize the relationship of The Body Snatchers to Finney’s other writings, notably Seabrook 2006 and several essays collected in Gorman and McCarthy 1999 (cited under Book-Length Studies). Siegel himself has spoken about Invasion of the Body Snatchers in his autobiography, Siegel 1993, and numerous interviews, including Bogdanovich 1997, Kaminsky 2004, Lavalley 1989 (cited under Book-Length Studies), and Johnson 1972 (cited under Science Fiction Approaches). Taking a rarer approach, Bernstein 2000 discusses Invasion of the Body Snatchers within Wanger’s body of work as a producer.

  • Bernstein, Matthew. Walter Wanger: Hollywood Independent. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

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    In a study of the 1956 film’s producer, Walter Wanger, Bernstein emphasizes continuities between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the liberal social criticism of other Wanger-produced films like Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) and I Want to Live! (1958).

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  • Bogdanovich, Peter. Who the Devil Made It? Conversations with Legendary Film Directors. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.

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    The interview of Siegel by Bogdanovich spends several pages on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which Siegel identifies as probably his best film (p. 741).

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  • Gregory, Charles T. “The Pod Society versus the Rugged Individualists.” Journal of Popular Film 1.1 (1962): 2–14.

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    Gregory sees the pattern reflected in the title—a lone individualistic protagonist against a hostile, conformist system—as going beyond Invasion of the Body Snatchers and can be found throughout Siegel’s filmography.

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  • Kaminsky, Stuart M. “Don Siegel on the Pod Society.” In The Science Fiction Film Reader. Edited by Gregg Rickman, 132–140. New York: Limelight, 2004.

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    A reprint of a 1976 interview of Siegel by Kaminsky. It fills in many behind-the-scenes details, including the studio interference (fascinatingly, Siegel indicates that much humor was cut), and discusses many nuances of the film.

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  • Lovell, Allan. Don Siegel. London: British Film Institute, 1975.

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    In an early study of Siegel’s body of work, Lovell sees Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a key work for identifying the theme of “the hero’s rejection of society” (p. 14) and the depiction of society at large as weak, mediocre, and complacent.

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  • Seabrook, Jack. Stealing through Time: On the Writings of Jack Finney. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006.

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    Seabrook devotes one chapter to The Body Snatchers in an overview of Finney’s career.

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  • Siegel, Don. A Siegel Film: An Autobiography. London: Faber & Faber, 1993.

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    Siegel gives a detailed, enthusiastic account of the film’s production, emphasizing the studio interference that led to the cutting of humor and the imposition of the prologue and epilogue (he calls the studio executives “pods” themselves) (p. 185).

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Horror and the Gothic

Sitting at the juncture of several genres, Invasion of the Body Snatchers has received analyses through a number of distinct genre approaches. It is not entirely possible to disentangle one from the other, as virtually every source locates it as a generically mixed work. Horror studies approaches often emphasize its links with science fiction, as the two genres were deeply entangled in the mid-1950s; such treatments range in time from Clarens 1967 to Hantke 2014. As a key horror film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is frequently represented in introductory works on cinematic horror, including Worland 2007 and Leeder 2018. Jancovich 1996 regards it as overemphasized in studies of American horror in the 1950s to the point of occluding its relationship to other works. Seed 1996 reads it within the paradigms of Gothic, as, differently, does Jenkins 2012 (cited under Gender and Sexuality in Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

  • Clarens, Carlos. An Illustrated History of Horror Films. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1967.

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    In an early scholarly treatment of horror cinema, Clarens describes dehumanization as “the ultimate horror in science fiction” (p. 134), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a “near-classic” that exemplifies that theme, while also connecting it to contemporary themes of loss of individuality, subliminal manipulation, and brainwashing.

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  • Hantke, Steffen. “Science Fiction and Horror in the 1950s.” In A Companion to the Horror Film. Edited by Harry M. Benshoff, 255–272. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

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    Hantke examines the distinct overlap between horror and science fiction in the 1950s in a range of films, using Invasion of the Body Snatchers as one example among many.

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  • Jancovich, Mark. Rational Fears: American Horror in the 1950s. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1996.

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    Jancovich explores the theme of depersonalization in Finney’s novel and Siegel’s film (pp. 64–79), locating it within a larger body of contemporaneous texts with similar concerns. Jancovich regards Fordism and postwar conformity as the principle concerns of these alien invasion narratives.

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  • Leeder, Murray. Horror Film: A Critical Introduction. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.

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    In this introductory textbook, Leeder discusses Invasion of the Body Snatchers as part of a cycle of horror/science fiction films of the 1950s with apocalyptic themes (p. 39–40).

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  • Seed, David. “Alien Invasions by Body Snatchers and Related Creatures.” In Modern Gothic: A Reader. Edited by Victor Sage and Allan Lloyd Smith, 152–170. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1996.

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    Seed discusses the cycle of alien invasion narratives in the 1950s as consistent with the Gothic tradition. It emphasizes Invasion of the Body Snatchers but also extensively discusses Robert Heinlein’s novel The Puppet Masters (1951).

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  • Worland, Rick. The Horror Film: An Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.

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    In this introductory textbook, Worland devotes a chapter to a close reading of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Worland discusses its Cold War context and political implications, sexual politics, and the interplay of horror and science fiction elements.

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Science Fiction Approaches

More specifically, science fiction approaches are commonplace for Invasion of the Body Snatchers as well. It was discussed in foundational works of science fiction film scholarship, like Johnson 1972. Many works have discussed Invasion of the Body Snatchers’s relationship to major science fiction conventions, for example, Telotte 1982 with artificial beings, Schelde 1993 with disease, and Sobchack 1997 with dehumanization. It is a key entry in a cycle of Hollywood alien invasion narratives of the 1950s that often feature themes of paranoia and infiltration (Invaders from Mars (1953) and I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) are among the most significant); works like Sontag 1966, Roberts 1991, and O’Donnell 2003 discuss its place within that cycle.

  • Johnson, William, ed. Focus on the Science Fiction Film. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1972.

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    This early academic collection about science fiction films included two documents specifically related to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Johnson reprints a 1957 review by Italian critic Ernesto G. Laura that reads the film as an allegory about McCarthyism and asserts that it is more interesting than Finney’s book (pp. 71–73). It is paired with an interview where Don Siegel denies a conscious political message in the film.

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  • O’Donnell, Victoria. “Science Fiction Films and Cold War Anxiety.” In Transforming the Screen: 1950–1959. Edited by Peter Lev, 159–196. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003.

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    As part of a broader treatment of the films of its cycle, O’Donnell describes Invasion of the Body Snatchers’s plot, production, and availability to various political interpretations.

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  • Roberts, Garyn G. “Revelation, Humanity, and a Warning: Four Motifs of 1950s Science Fiction Invasion Films.” In Beyond the Stars II: Plot Conventions in American Popular Film. Edited by Paul Loukides and Linda K. Fuller, 130–142. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1991.

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    Focusing largely on films from the 1950s, Roberts identifies four features of science fiction invasion tales: the discovery of an invader, the invader taking physical form, the discovery of the invader (tied to a pessimistic ending), and a generally negative portrayal of humanity. Invasion of the Body Snatchers provides a key example.

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  • Schelde, Per. Androids, Humanoids, and Other Science Fiction Monsters: Science and Soul in Science Fiction Films. New York: New York University Press, 1993.

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    Schelde discusses Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a disease narrative (anticipating AIDS, he suggests [p. 98]), as a love story, and for its political resonances, but emphasizes it as a narrative about “scientism”: “a world where science is getting ready . . . to invade outer space is also one where outer space might invade us” (p. 100).

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  • Sobchack, Vivian. Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film. 2d ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1997.

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    In a key book on science fiction cinema, Sobchack offers an analysis of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, linking the visual flatness of much of the film to the theme of dehumanization.

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  • Sontag, Susan. “The Imagination of Disaster.” In Against Interpretation: And Other Essays. By Susan Sontag, 209–225. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1966.

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    Invasion of the Body Snatchers is mentioned but receives no special emphasis in Sontag’s essay on the American science fiction film, one of many examples of how science fiction films position the depersonalized subject as “of the future, man in his next stage of development” (p. 221).

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  • Telotte, Jay P. “Human Artifice and the Science Fiction Film.” Film Quarterly 36.3 (Spring 1982): 44–51.

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    Telotte discusses a thread in science fiction concerning the human, doubling, and the creation of artificial persons. He uses Invasion of the Body Snatchers to introduce the subject, noting that it is a narrative in which the victory of the artificial has a dimension of attractiveness.

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  • Trifonova, Temenuga. “Mind and Body Snatchers: Evolution of the Sci-Fi Film Genre.” Film and Philosophy 9 (2005): 74–93.

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    Trifonova writes about how various science fiction texts figure the human and the process of dehumanizing, spending several pages on the process by which people are replaced by pods in the 1956 and 1978 versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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Film Noir

Crowther 1988, Gifford 2001, and Hibbs 2008 regard Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a film noir, owing to its striking black-and-white cinematography, heavy on low-key lighting, and its paranoid, cynical postwar themes, so does Sanders 2008 (cited under Other Symptomatic Approaches to Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and Grant 2010 (cited under Book-Length Studies).

Psychology, Science, and Medicine

Gabbard and Gabbard 1987, Rabkin 1998, and Hurley 2015 show Invasion of the Body Snatchers to be steeped in psychological contexts. Finney may have been influenced by the Capgras syndrome, a delusion where sufferers become convinced that their loved ones are actually imposters; Thomas 2016 explains this disease and its links to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Vietch 2001 and Bliss 2014 also discuss Invasion of the Body Snatchers in terms of cultural representations of medicine (its protagonist, Dr. Bennell, is a general practitioner, and the spokesman for the pods masquerades as a psychiatrist). On at least one occasion, documented in Mathai 1983, a version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers was also claimed to trigger an acute distressed state in a juvenile spectator.

  • Bliss, Michael. Invasions USA: The Essential Science Fiction Films of the 1950s. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

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    In a chapter on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Bliss downplays political interpretations in favor of regarding both the book and film as studies of the psychological effects of paranoia. He suggests we read Dr. Miles Bennell first and foremost as a paranoid delusional.

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  • Gabbard, Krin, and Glen O. Gabbard. Psychiatry and the Cinema. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

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    Gabbard and Gabbard discuss Invasion of the Body Snatchers’s relationship to Capgras syndrome and the sinister constriction of its psychiatrist character.

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  • Hurley, Kelly. “‘Type H’: Medicine, Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis in the Body Snatchers Films.” Horror Studies 6.2 (2015): 195–210.

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    Hurley examines how in the 1956, 1978, and 1993 films, psychoanalytic discourse is used to defamiliarize human subjective identity. She argues that all three versions contain a sub-narrative about human mental nonconformity beneath the manifest alien invasion narrative.

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  • Mathai, John. “An Acute Anxiety State in an Adolescent Precipitated by Viewing a Horror Movie.” Journal of Adolescence 6.2 (1983): 197–200.

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    A case study of a twelve-year-old boy named Matthew who was admitted to a hospital in a distressed state, believing his body to have become transparent. This state was apparently precipitated by a viewing of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (which version is, sadly, not specified).

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  • Rabkin, Leslie Y. The Celluloid Couch: An Annotated International Filmography of the Mental Health Professional in Movies and Television, from the Beginning to 1990. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 1998.

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    Rabkin gives detailed accounts of the roles that psychiatry and psychology play in both the 1956 (p. 184) and 1978 (p. 324) versions.

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  • Thomas, Laura. “You’re Next! Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” The Lancet Psychiatry 3.4 (2016): 329–330.

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    Thomas describes the relationship between Invasion of the Body Snatchers (largely the 1978 film) and the Capgras syndrome.

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  • Vietch, Errol. Screening Science: Context, Texts, and Science in Fifties Science Fiction Film. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2001.

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    Vietch contrasts Dr. Bennell’s role as local doctor, a trusted local figure who has inherited an almost clerical role in a secularized world, with the psychiatrist Dr. Kaufman (a relative outsider even before he is revealed as an alien).

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Politics, Left and Right

As a palpably paranoid film about infiltration and invasion, there exists a fairly firm consensus that Invasion of the Body Snatchers reflects the American social and political climate of the 1950s, but less as to how, or if it can be pigeonholed within a particular position on the political spectrum. Many have discussed it in terms McCarthyism. Some works regard it as an anti-Communist film broadly consistent with the values of Senator McCarthy’s witch hunts; these include Sayre 1982, Biskind 1983, Christensen and Haas 2005, and Hoberman 2011. Others treat it as a left-wing, anti-McCarthyist tract (Lauro in Johnson 1972, cited under Science Fiction Approaches). Still other works, like Rogin 1987, Nimmo and Combs 1990, Gianos 1998, Buhle and Wagner 2003, Quart and Auster 2011, and Smith 2014, see it as more confused and incoherent, with aspects of both left- and right-wing positions.

  • Biskind, Peter. Seeing Is Believing: How Hollywood Taught Us to Stop Worrying and Love the Fifties. New York: Pantheon, 1983.

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    Biskind’s expansive treatment of Hollywood in the 1950s locates Invasion of the Body Snatchers as an anti-Communist “activist film that dramatizes the need for eternal vigilance” (p. 143).

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  • Buhle, Paul, and Dave Wagner. Hide in Plain Sight: The Hollywood Blacklistees in Film and Television, 1950–2002. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2003.

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    Discussing the alien invasion cycle of the 1950s, Buhle and Wagner notes that readings of Invasion of the Body Snatchers as anti-Communist are complicated by the left-wing tendencies of its main screenwriter, Daniel Mainwaring. They see the film as at least less unequivocally right-wing in its politics than other films of its cycle.

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  • Christensen, Terry, and Peter J. Haas. Projecting Politics: Political Messages in American Films. London: M. E. Sharpe, 2005.

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    Largely following after Biskind 1983, Christensen and Haas regard any reading of Invasion of the Body Snatchers as opposing 1950s conformity as a post hoc invention, claiming that “few doubted when it was first released . . . that it was a rightist denunciation of Communist mind control” (p. 122).

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  • Gianos, Phillip L. Politics and Politicians in American Film. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.

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    Gianos regards Invasion of the Body Snatchers as “the perfect Cold War–era film, the perfect empty vessel for the concerns of the time” (p. 139), an allegory available to left- and right-wing interpretations but dominated by paranoia and suspicion.

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  • Hoberman, James. An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War. New York: New Press, 2011.

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    Hoberman reads Invasion of the Body Snatchers as an anti-Communist polemic that “not only naturalized the Red Scare but imbued it with Darwinian angst” (p. 313), figuring a political/ideological competition as an evolutionary struggle for survival and dominance.

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  • Nimmo, Dan, and James E. Combs. Mediated Political Realities. New York: Longman, 1990.

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    In a discussion of the politics of the 1950s alien invasion films, Nimmo and Combs single out Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a key work and discuss its availability to both right- and left-wing interpretations, but notes that in either reading, Dr. Bennell must “yield by death and/or conversion” (p. 120).

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  • Quart, Leonard, and Albert Auster. American Film and Society since 1945. 4th ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2011.

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    Quart and Auster see Invasion of the Body Snatchers as “the perfect expression of some of the decade’s obsessions” (p. 53), noting that its subtle treatment of the pods permits several distinct readings.

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  • Rogin, Michael Paul. Ronald Reagan: The Movie; and Other Episodes in Political Demonology. Berkley: University of California Press, 1987.

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    While discussing communism and American films of the Cold War, Rogin positions Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a self-aware film, unlike other contemporaneous science fiction films, including Them! (1954), and notes its availability to both pro- and anti-McCarthyist readings. He also explores its equation of subversive invasion and femininity.

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  • Sayre, Nora. Running Time: Films of the Cold War. New York: Dial, 1982.

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    In a chapter on 1950s science fiction, Sayre regards Invasion of the Body Snatchers as an anti-Communist film, connected to McCarthyist rhetoric about infection and disease and the supposed brainwashing of American prisoners in Korea.

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  • Smith, Jeff. Film Criticism, the Cold War, and the Blacklist: Reading the Hollywood Reds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014.

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    In a discussion of the alien invasion films of the 1950s, Smith describes how scholarship has treated Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a “dual allegory” (p. 333) that allows both pro- and anti-McCarthyist readings.

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Other Symptomatic Approaches to Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Other works also see Invasion of the Snatchers as a symptomatic narrative about 1950s American culture but look beyond the influence of McCarthyism and the interplay of left- and right-wing forces. Some works, like LeGacy 1978, treat it as a versatile metaphor for the 1950s themselves; others, like Samuels 1988 and Booker 2006, interpret it as nightmarish commentary on the rising culture of conformity. Kelley 2016 links it to the phenomenon of “passing,” Hendershot 1999 to the atomic bomb, Mann 2004 to xenophobia and disruptions in the patriarchal order, and Hantke 2016 to the traumatized war veteran. Others, like Sanders 2008, reject political interpretations of the film altogether.

  • Booker, M. Keith. Alternate Americas: Science Fiction Film and American Culture. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006.

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    In a study of fifteen American science fiction films, Booker devotes a chapter to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He emphasizes its themes of conformity and paranoia and discusses its legacy within the science fiction genre.

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  • Hantke, Steffen. Monsters in the Machine: Science Fiction Film and the Militarization of America after World War II. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2016.

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    Hantke discusses Invasion of the Body Snatchers alongside other science fiction films of its period through the figure of the traumatized war veteran and repressed memories of World War II. He emphasizes Miles’s marginal position within the community at Santa Mira, both belonging to the town and isolated from it, and his ultimate position as “a crazy loner, but turns either dangerous of pitiful: the crazed war veteran who has lost his wife, his friends, and his place in society” (p. 114).

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  • Hendershot, Cyndy. Paranoia, the Bomb and 1950s Science Fiction Films. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999.

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    Hendershot reads Invasion of the Body Snatchers alongside several other contemporary science fiction/horror films as revealing postwar anxieties about radiation, sexuality, and gender. She foregrounds the atomic zeitgeist more fully than most other scholars.

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  • Kelley, N. Megan. Projections of Passing: Postwar Anxieties and Hollywood Films, 1947–1960. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2016.

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    Kelley focuses on various varieties of “passing” in postwar United States, including in paranoid, alien-infiltration narratives like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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  • LeGacy, Arthur. “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers: A Metaphor for the Fifties.” Literature/Film Quarterly 6.3 (Summer 1978): 285–291.

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    LeGacy’s retrospective on The (sic) Invasion of the Body Snatchers includes an interview with Finney, a detailed explanation of the early Cold War and the film’s relationship to it, and an argument for the film as a work of “social science fiction” (p. 291).

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  • Mann, Katrina. “‘You’re Next!’: Postwar Hegemony Besieged in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).” Cinema Journal 44.1 (Fall 2004): 49–68.

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    Mann interprets Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a response to postwar disruptions of the gender, sexual, and racial status quo. She argues it draws on familiar xenophobia about racial and sexual difference to dramatize the dangers threatening hegemonic white patriarchal order.

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  • Samuels, Stuart. “The Age of Conspiracy and Conformity: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).” In American History/American Film: Interpreting the Hollywood Image. Edited by John E. O’Connor and Martin A. Jackson, 203–217. New York: Continuum, 1988.

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    Emphasizing the theme of conformity, Samuels uses Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a case study for how a film can reflect and reveal the social and political tensions of the society that produced it.

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  • Sanders, Steven M. “Picturing Paranoia: Interpreting Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” In The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film. Edited by Steven M. Sanders, 55–72. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2008.

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    Dissatisfied by existing political interpretations of the film, Sanders regards Invasion of the Body Snatchers as more amenable to philosophical than ideological interpretations. He also argues that it relates more strongly to film noir than science fiction and horror.

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Gender and Sexuality in Invasion of the Body Snatchers

With a (failed) love story at its center, Invasion of the Body Snatchers lends itself to evaluation through its gender and sexual politics. Steffen-Fluhr 1984, Byers 1989, Cornea 2007, and Nelson 2011 variously see it as reflective of the postwar crisis in masculinity. Jenkins 2012 and George 2013 both see it as reflective of a broad restructuring of the role of the family and marriage, and Hendershot 2001 focuses on its use of romance and eroticism.

  • Byers, Thomas B. “Kissing Becky: Masculine Fears and Misogynist Moments in Science Fiction Films.” Arizona Quarterly 45.3 (Fall 1989): 77–95.

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    Interpreting Invasion of the Body Snatchers about the loss of patriarchal power over reproduction, Byers emphasizes the moment how the pod-Becky displays a gaze “which is not so much at Miles as through or beyond him” (p. 84), a challenge to the traditional male gaze of the classical Hollywood cinema.

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  • Cornea, Christine. Science Fiction Cinema: Between Fantasy and Reality. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007.

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    Cornea reads Invasion of the Body Snatchers through ambivalence about patriarchal authority, observing Dr. Bennell’s notable failure to assume the role of effective father figure.

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  • George, Susan A. Gendering Science Fiction Films: Invaders from the Suburbs. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

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    George provides a chapter on films of the 1950s alien invasion cycle, with emphasis on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, to discuss the crisis in masculinity and the nuclear family.

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  • Hendershot, Cyndy. I Was a Cold War Monster: Horror Films, Eroticism and the Cold War Imagination. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 2001.

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    Hendershot hones in on how Invasion of the Body Snatchers uses eroticism and romance as a (ultimately unsuccessful) strategy to counter the fear of conformity and obliteration, but which leads only to death.

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  • Jenkins, Jennifer L. “‘Lovelier the Second Time Around’: Divorce, Desire, and Gothic Domesticity in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Journal of Popular Culture 45.3 (2012): 478–496.

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    Jenkins sees Invasion of the Body Snatchers as Gothic commentary on the changing role of marriage in the postwar period.

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  • Nelson, Erika. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Gender and Sexuality in Four Adaptations.” Extrapolation 52.1 (2011): 51–74.

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    Nelson discusses the gender and sexual politics of Finney’s book and all four film adaptations, emphasizing their shared unease over the loss of traditional gender roles and family structures.

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  • Steffen-Fluhr, Nancy. “Women and the Inner Game of Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Science Fiction Studies 11.2 (1984): 139–153.

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    Steffen-Fluhr argues that, at a subtextual level, Invasion of the Body Snatchers recasts the battle of the sexes as an alien invasion. She emphasizes how the pods are associated with feminine qualities of surrender, passivity, and receptivity.

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The Many Invasions: Adaptation and Remaking

Other scholars have approached Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a film franchise, especially how each successive iteration relates to the others and to the anxieties and concerns of its time. Some emphasize the first film’s status as an adaptation of Finney’s novel; Grant 2017 provides a useful overview. The 1978 version is the second most discussed, often for its relationship to the first, as in Johnson 1978, Higashi 1981, Eberwein 1998, and Roth 2000. Shelton 2003 examines the first three, while White and Walker 2008, Grant 2010 (cited under Book-Length Studies), Loock 2012, and Crowley 2015 discuss all four together; focused treatments of the later two versions are uncommon, with McRoy 2007 as a rare exclusive piece on the 1993 Abel Ferrara film.

  • Crowley, Kelley. “‘Look, You Fools, You’re in Danger’: Cultural Snapshots in Four Iterations of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” In The Fantastic Made Visible: Essays on the Adaptation of Science Fiction and Fantasy from Page to Screen. Edited by Matthew W. Kapell and Ace G. Pilkington, 85–100. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015.

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    A treatment of the novel and the four film adaptations, noting how the later three largely adapt the previous ones rather than Finney’s book.

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  • Eberwein, Robert. “Remakes and Cultural Studies.” In Play It Again, Sam: Retakes on Remakes. Edited by Andrew Horton and Stuart Y. McDougal, 15–33. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

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    Eberwein examines the 1956 and 1978 iterations to characterize the process of remaking more broadly. He describes how critical responses to Kaufman’s film often regarded it as insufficiently ideologically engaged relative to the first film, but argues that it too provides a commentary on the culture that produced it.

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  • Grant, Barry Keith. “The Body Snatchers.” In Cinematic Adaptations of Literary Works. Vol. 1 of Books to Film. Edited by Jim Craddock, 35–38. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Cengage Learning, 2017.

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    For general interest–level readers, Grant provides concise treatment of Finney’s book and its adaptation into Siegel’s film.

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  • Higashi, Sumiko. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Pods Then and Now.” Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media 24.5 (1981): 3–4.

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    Higashi’s piece focuses on the 1977 film, emphasizing its gender politics and its difference from the 1956 version.

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  • Johnson, Glen M. “‘We’d Fight . . . We’d Have To’: The Body Snatchers as Novel and Film.” Journal of Popular Culture 13.8 (1978): 5–16.

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    Johnson discusses Finney’s novel and both the Siegel and Kaufman adaptations as products of the anxieties of their times.

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  • Loock, Katherine. “The Return of the Pod People: Remaking Cultural Anxieties in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” In Film Remakes, Adaptation and Fan Production: Remake/Remodel. Edited by Kathleen Loock and Constantine Verevis, 122–144. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

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    Loock discusses the four films as exemplary of their time periods, honing in on their relationship to each other, introducing repetition, variation, and continuation as strategies for characterizing their connections and nonconnections.

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  • McRoy, Jay. “‘Our Reaction Was Only Human’: Monstrous Becoming in Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers.” In Monstrous Adaptations: Generic and Thematic Mutations in Horror Film. Edited by Richard J. Hand and Jay McRoy, 95–108. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2007.

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    In one of the few focused treatments of the Ferrara film, McRoy emphasizes its Gulf War context.

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  • Roth, Marty. “Twice Two: The Fly and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Discourse 22.1 (Winter 2000): 103–116.

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    Roth discusses the original and remake versions of two different science fiction narratives that internally dwell on originality and duplication.

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  • Shelton, Robert. “Genre and Closure in the Seven Versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Finney (’54, ’55, ’78), Siegel (’56, ’56), Kaufman (’78), and Ferrara (’93).” West Virginia Philological Papers 49 (2003): 71–77.

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    Shelton provides an expansive treatment of the similarities and differences between numerous iterations of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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  • White, Cameron, and Trenia Walker. Tooning In: Essays on Popular Culture and Education. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.

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    In their discussion of the classroom utility of popular culture texts, White and Walker propose using the 1958, 1978, and 1993 films to educate students about their respective time periods, with the relative consistency of the premise allowing them to interrogate the nuances of each version.

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Pods, Plants, and Pessimism

The hegemony of political or at least symptomatic readings of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is such that certain scholars have tried to break from it altogether in favor of more theoretical or philosophical concerns. Badmington 2001 and Ligotti 2010 interrogate the questions it raises about humanity and the inhuman, while Keetley and Tenga 2016 and Meeker and Szabari 2012 examine it as a discourse on our relationship to the plant world.

  • Badmington, Neil. “Pod Almighty! Or, Humanism, Posthumanism, and the Strange Case of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Textual Practice 15.1 (2001): 5–22.

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    Badmington considers the relationship of humanism and posthumanism, using Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a case study. After noting the superficial humanism of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (absolute difference between the humans and aliens, the uniquely human quality of emotion, etc.), he goes on to argue that it actually resists absolute separation between the human and the nonhuman. Badmington argues that Kaufman and Ferrara’s films resist humanism more consciously.

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  • Keetley, Dawn, and Angela Tenga. Plant Horror: Approaches to the Monstrous Vegetal in Fiction and Film. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

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    Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a regular point of reference throughout Keetley and Tenga’s collection about plant-themed horror, exemplifying how “plants menace with their wild, purposeless growth” (p. 13).

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  • Ligotti, Thomas. The Conspiracy against the Human Race. New York: Hippocampus, 2010.

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    This nonfiction book by “weird fiction” novelist Ligotti concerns pessimism in literature and philosophy. Ligotti discusses Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a pessimistic narrative in which human suffering is positioned as superior to a kind of peace through transformation into the inhuman (pp. 91–92).

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  • Meeker, Natania, and Antónia Szabari. “From the Century of the Pods to the Century of the Plants: Plant Horror, Politics, and Vegetal Ontology.” Discourse 34.1 (2012): 32–58.

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    Meeker and Szabari argue that individual political readings of the various Invasions are ultimately secondary to their status as “plant horror” and allow us to envision the replacement of human civilization with a vegetable order.

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