The Body Snatchers Background

The Body Snatchers Background

Jack Finney first published a short story titled “Sleep No More” in Colliers Magazine in 1954. A year later, that short story had been fleshed out into novel length and given the lurid, but exponentially more marketable title The Body Snatchers. A year later, the story underwent yet another title change when an unassuming little low-budget black and white horror flick adapted from it became one of the defining cinematic examinations of 1950’s Cold War paranoia Debate has raged for decades whether Invasion of the Body Snatchers is supposed to be about the communists overtaking America or the McCarthyism that rose in response to the fear of communists taking over America. Finney has always contended his story carried no political or ideological overtones, but was merely a great little contemporary horror story.

The 1956 film version was directed by Don Siegel who would go on to make the fascist fantasia Dirty Harry with notable right-wing ideologue Clint Eastwood starring as the titular cop with little regard for constitutional rights, so the debate seems rather one-sided and the intent rather obvious. In other words, the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is unquestionably an anti-communism film, pro-McCarthyism film.

Finney may have been less than truthful about his own political agenda, but he was right on target about the story being irresistible. In addition to the original classic 1950’s adaptation, The Body Snatchers made into a 1970s film that viewed its story of conformity run amok from the perspective of urban paranoia by transferring the setting from rural suburban Santa Mira to San Francisco. Linking the two films is actor Kevin McCarthy playing Miles Bennell at the beginning of the remake still trying to convince the city folk that “they’re coming for you.”

Two more official remakes were subsequently released in 1993 (which retained the original title of the novel) and 2007 (which jettison everything in the novel's title in favor of the Invasion from the first two films). The most notable distinction between the films and Jack Finney's origional source material (especially in the original which is uncommonly faithful until the ending) is that the novel ends on an upbeat and optimistic note and the film ends with the suggestion that resistance is, ultimately, quite futile.

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