Get ready, Ojai, 'They're
by Renita Alldritt
For something you will remember for the rest of your life,
come - bring the kids, too - and watch the original 1956 sci-fi
classic, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," and meet
the film's two legendary stars, Dana Wynter and Kevin McCarthy.
This screening will be the big finale of the "Saturday Afternoon
at the Flicks" mini-marathon leading into the 2002 Ojai
Film Festival, which will run from Oct. 24 through 27.
Based on a three-part story written by Jack Finney (Colliers
Magazine, 1954), "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is
a thrilling, disturbing science fiction classic. The story was
expanded into a novel in 1955 and from there it quickly went
into screenplay. Uncredited scriptwriting by Sam Peckinpah aided
Daniel Mainwaring's screenplay. Says Tim Dirk, this black-and-white
B-picture was "precisely executed and packed with action
by director Don Siegel, plus a scary musical score from Carmen
Dragon. The subtle, low-budget film is very effective in eliciting
horror even though there are no monsters, minimal special effects,
no violence, and no deaths."
The theme of the politicized film was open to varying interpretations.
These included paranoia toward socialistic Communism on the one
hand, and the sweeping mass hysteria of 1950s' McCarthyism and
blacklisting on the other. The 1950s' fascination with biology
and psychology fed fears of such things as the spread of an unknown
malignancy or virulent germ, or the numbing of our individuality
and emotional psyches through conformity and group-think - things
we still think about in 2002.
Its overt story was the alien dehumanizing and takeover of an
entire community by large seed pods (found in basements, automobile
trunks, a greenhouse, and on a pool table) that replicated and
replaced human beings. And the heroic struggle of one helpless
but determined man of conscience, a small-town doctor (McCarthy),
to combat and quell the deadly, indestructible threat.
This relentlessly haunting film received no Academy Award nominations.
This may have been due to the altered state of the film when
it was released. The studio-imposed footage - the prologue and
its unconvincing matching epilogue with a hopeful ending - was
removed in the 1979 re-issue.
Beautiful Dana Wynter, Kevin McCarthy's fellow refugee from the
alien "pod people," typically played refined, articulate
leading ladies on screen. After a year of pre-med (the only woman
in a class of 150 males) at Rhodes University, she turned to
acting in her native Britain in the early 1950s. She was discovered
and went to New York, and later Hollywood in 1955. With beauty
to spare, the willowy, dark-eyed actress appeared in more than
a dozen films, including "On the Double" (a 1963 comedy-romance
with Danny Kaye), "Airport" (1973), and "The Royal
Romance of Charles and Diana" (1984 telefilm). Miss Wynter,
once called Hollywood's "Oasis of Elegance," now divides
her time between homes in California and the County of Wicklow,
Kevin McCarthy's Dr. Miles J. Bennell is thought to be his best-known
role. An intense actor of medium build, a handsome-looking face
framed by deep, expressive eyes with a mellow-sounding voice,
he was perfectly cast for his famed role in "Invasion of
the Body Snatchers." He avoided the typecasting that usually
follows such a defining role by virtue of his versatility.
Born in Seattle, Wash., the brother of writer Mary McCarthy and
cousin of former Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, Kevin joined
a drama club while majoring in journalism at the University of
Minnesota. Soon he was joining stock theater companies and made
his way to Broadway. Kevin's biggest success came in Arthur Miller's
"Death of a Salesman." He also appeared in the film
version of this American classic. His performance as the son,
Biff Loman, earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" will screen this Saturday
at 4:30 p.m. at the Ojai Playhouse. Admission is $7 for adults
and $4 for children. A question-and-answer session will follow
All proceeds of autographed photos by Dana Wynter and Kevin McCarthy
will go to benefit the Ojai Humane Society, a cause close to
the heart of Miss Wynter.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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McCARTHY, as Dr. Miles Bennell, realizes that Becky Driscoll,
played by Ojai resident Dana Wynter, has been replaced by an
emotionless double in the sci-fi classic, "The Invasion
of the Body Snatchers."