Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

invasion-poster1Starring Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones, Jean Willes, Ralph Dumke, Virginia Christine, Tom Fadden, Kenneth Patterson

Directed by Don Siegel

Expectations: Very high.

fourstar


I can’t believe it took me this long to finally see Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I think at some point in my youth I did see it, but I was since replaced by a pod-person version of myself, thus erasing the memory of seeing this monumental film. I feel like I’ve actively avoided seeing this film in the years following this proposed switch. Even the other day when I decided to watch it, I only reluctantly picked it because it was expiring from Netflix Instant on October 1st. Well, whatever made me fight the stringent conditioning of the pod-brain I only just realized I have… Thanks! All kidding aside, I guess it wasn’t high on my priority list because I already knew the basic plot from beginning to end. I thought it’d be kinda crusty, too, with slow moments and charming but ugly FX. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a straight-up barn burner, even now almost 60 years on. The pace never once lets up. The film opens with Dr. Miles J. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) raving and screaming like a lunatic, rocketing us out the barrel and into the frenzy of living in a world inhabited by body snatchers. The cops get him to calm down enough to tell his tale, so the movie does the little underwater shimmering thing that they do in 1950s movies and we’re back at the calm beginning of Bennell’s story.

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Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

UnderworldUSA_1Starring Cliff Robertson, Dolores Dorn, Beatrice Kay, Paul Dubov, Robert Emhardt, Larry Gates, Richard Rust, Gerald Milton, Allan Gruener, David Kent

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High.

fourstar


Samuel Fuller is known as the director who makes direct films that punch you viscerally with their ferocity, but Underworld USA is perhaps the leanest, meanest, most consistently thrilling Sam Fuller picture I’ve seen yet. Not only is this one instantly rocketing up near the top of my favorite Sam Fuller movies, there are few noir films that I enjoy as much as this one. I must admit that I’m not as well-versed as I ought to be in the noir genre, but if there were more noir films as jam-packed with excitement as Underworld USA is, that might be a different story. It’s absolutely criminal that Underworld USA isn’t better known and respected. Who knew that one of the best noirs out there was made in the ’60s?

As all Fuller films do, Underworld USA begins with a strong premise. We meet Tolly Devlin, a 14-year-old kid hiding out in an alleyway, waiting for his opportunity to lift some valuables from drunk New Year’s Eve partygoers. He is firmly entrenched in the criminal lifestyle, and soon we learn why. His father is a career criminal, but tonight is not his lucky night. Tolly watches four men beat his father to death in the alley. He only sees the face of one of the men, but when given the opportunity to tell the cops what he saw, he refuses. Instead, he bides his time as a career criminal like his father, working towards the day when he might exact revenge on the men responsible for his father’s murder.

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