Pod People! 

Why is this 1956 sci-fi flick still so popular? Just watch the news.

"They're like huge seed pods!" "But where do they come from? What do they want!?"

"I don't know ... I don't know ..." The original Don Siegel-directed 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of the most enduringly popular sci-fi thrillers in movie history. The story of a sleepy Southern California town slowly being taken over by emotionless outer-space aliens born from giant seed pods that replicate their human targets still has the power to chill audiences -- especially in the fearful early 21st century.

"It's a terrorist movie, actually," claims Elliot Lavine, programmer of Movie Classics by the Bay in Alameda, where the movie is playing Friday and Sunday nights. "The film has never been out of the public eye since its original release. It refuses to be dated. There's always a period of American life that relates specifically to it, because it touches a paranoid strand so insidious that it'll grab anyone and make them think about their everyday life." In the '50s and '60s, Invasion was seen as a Red Scare parable; today the pod people could be whomever frightens us most -- terrorists, evil corporate executives, soulless government officials, or brutal military police.

Here are a few of Lavine's tips on how to watch the movie: The setting for the film, "Santa Mira," is patterned after Mill Valley, where author Jack Finney wrote the novel. Late in the film, Miles and Becky (played by Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter) take hits of speed to avoid falling asleep, which may explain why college-age audiences have always been able to relate to it. The special "pod" effects, considered the most realistically creepy of their day, cost a mere $16,000 to create. The film was shot in a CinemaScope knockoff widescreen anamorphic format called SuperScope, something highly unusual for a low-budget, black-and-white "B" genre picture ("It really utilizes the wide screen," Lavine enthuses). And yes, film fans, the fellow who plays the sinister "meter reader" is none other than director Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch), who also worked, uncredited, on the screenplay. AuctionsbytheBay.com

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