When they talk about seminal cinematic sci-fi, they mean this. The whole
concept of pod people originated here. And while the notion of space aliens
taking over the bodies and souls of your neighbors did exist before this film
was ... moremade, it had never been put across with such resonance as it is in this
picture, directed by the great Don Siegel. Kevin McCarthy plays ordinary guy
Miles Bennell, who notices wooden-acting folks who were once friends on
returning to his hometown. Investigations reveal alien plant life sucking the
souls out of human victims and replacing them with bright, shiny zombies who
eagerly prep the world for conquest. Its visions of horrific conformity have
inspired political types to deem this the ultimate pop-culture metaphor for the
Cold War, HUAC, McCarthyism, and so on, and then to debate just which side of
the political fence the movie falls on. (Arguments sometimes go this way:
"Siegel was a liberal Democrat, so of course it's anti-McCarthy!" "Oh, yeah?
Well, Siegel made 'Dirty Harry,' so it's obviously anti-pinko!' and so
on. Believe us, these are not discussions you want to get involved in.) But
really, who cares -- this is a smart and scary as it gets, and that's enough.
World-class directors remade this pretty credibly, twice, but like the song
says, the original's still the greatest.