In the Dark

Cinematic Imagination Under Siege

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Produced and Distributed by Allied Artists Pictures Corporation and Walter Wanger Productions
Directed by Don Siegel
Screenplay by Jack Finney and Daniel Mainwaring

I recently proposed Don Siegel’s 1956 science-fiction film Invasion of the Body Snatchers as required viewing for directors who have lost their way.  I was thinking of all those filmmakers who deploy multimillion-dollar special effects to compensate for what they lack in cinematic resourcefulness.  Siegel’s movie is just the tonic they need.  Of course, there are any number of other low-budget pictures from earlier decades that might prove equally restorative, especially those made between 1940 and, say, 1975.  In the sci-fi genre, Howard Hawks’ The Thing (1951) and John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (1967) come to mind.  In a more realistic vein, Double Indemnity (1944) and On the Waterfront (1954) are highly instructive.  As different as these films are in theme, style, and talent, they all have one thing in common: They exercise genuine cinematic imagination.  As such, they constitute a potent antidote to what’s currently infecting the multiplexes.

Many big-budget movies today are less films than contraptions designed to bedazzle the eye even as they numb the brain.  The...

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