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The Long View: A Celebration of Widescreen

Friday, August 22, 2008
7:00 p.m. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Don Siegel (U.S., 1956)

Virtually without special effects, stage sets, or make-up, Don Siegel created a terrifying science fiction film. The small-town California setting is all too recognizable, and so are the monsters: Mom, Dad, and little Timmy. Or rather, their clones, hatched from giant pods to whom they show an affectionless allegiance. It is an allegory of totalitarianism, not specifically governmental, but rather cultural: the totalitarianism of blind conformity. The film derives its enormous energy and relevance from Siegel’s all-American, low-budget expressionism (the film was released in Superscope, the “poor man’s CinemaScope”): shooting everyday locations from a low- and wide-angle perspective, he alien-ated the normal. So buildings threaten to eat up Main Street, and a pitchfork shoots out from a greenhouse with almost 3-D terror. Invasion contributes the most effective kind of horror there is for modern times, the horror of ambiguity: are those alien clouds over California or are they just clouds? And if that’s my wife, why don’t I know her?

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Daniel Mainwaring, based on a story by Jack Finney. Photographed by Ellsworth Fredericks. With Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones. (80 mins, B&W, ’Scope, 35mm, From Paramount)