If you like Clint Eastwood-as-director movies, you have Don Siegel to thank. Siegel's the man who directed this science fiction classic. At the time he made this movie, Siegel wasn't well-known to movie-goers, but his ability to make something very good out of something very little kept him employed by profit-hungry studios and producers. This movie was a case in point. In 1956, Allied Artists gave budget of less than $500,000 dollars (!) and less than a month to shoot and edit the b&w spine-tingler--at a time when science fiction movies were regarded as merely teenage popcorn flicks.

Yet in spite of the restrictions (or, perhaps because of them), Siegel gave this movie something great. So great, in fact, that it's the best known work of its lead star, Kevin McCarthy, although McCarthy had won an Oscar-nomination five years earlier for his work in a version of Death of A Salesman. Shot in money-saving black and white, Siegel gave the air of claustrophobic menace to the plot that colour film alone could not. The film's success was almost immediate. A month after its release, it had earned almost a million dollars. At the end of the year, the box office take was 2.5 million. Not a bad return on less than a half-million dollar investment!

Siegel's most successful work still lay 15 years in the future--directing young Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, the fourth biggest box-office movie of 1971. He got that job on the basis of Invasion of the Body Snatchers--and a recommendation by Eastwood himself, who knew what a consummate professional Siegel was. If you like Eastwood's Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino, you can thank Don as well as Clint--Siegel taught "the kid" a lot of what he knows.

Part of Siegel's gift was recognizing a great concept. Jack Finney called his novel a "thriller." Siegel saw much more than that: "I felt that this was a very important story. I think that the world is populated by pods and I wanted to show them," he told a British interviewer. "I think so many people have no feeling about cultural things, no feeling of pain, of sorrow." Siegel saw it again in another script called The Beguiled (and again, he directed Clint Eastwood.)

AFTER Siegel's film hit the theatres, it was easier for others to see what he saw. This year, The Beguiled was remade again. "Invasion" has been made three times since Don Siegel first aimed his camera at the "pod people." . This is the original...the one selected in 1994 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The one that still has the power to scare the heck out of you.

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