Pod People - What was the original movie?

So the other day at work, I made reference to Pod People. Several people understood what I meant, many didn’t.

I remember a black and white movie about aliens invading the earth. They would infect the humans and a “pod” would grow in the basement. The “pod person” would then take the place of the real person.

But I can’t remember the name of the original movie. I Googled “Pod People”, IMDB’d it, but couldn’t come up with anything. Help me! What movie was this?


Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

Damn. Too late again.

Thank you. That’s it.

Now I can tell my cow-orkers to rent it and understand my theory of paranoia. (The only other person who agreed with me in a meeting wasn’t wearing any black clothing. I posited a theory that wearing black clothing was evidence that the person was a pod person.)

That probably wouldn’t work in a big city, where they all dress like clones.

TV Critic Gary Deeb frequently referred to then-ET (“Entertainment Tonight”) host Ron Hendren as a “pod person.”

MST3K did a movie re-titled as “Pod People” but its true name is “The Unearthling”.

There have been many, mant remakes, as well. Personally, I prefer the '70s version with Donald Sutherland, probably because its the first one I saw.

Based on the novel by Jack Finney, of course.

A couple interesting notes:

  • As Miller said, it’s based on the novel by Jack Finney, who’s a fun author. He claims the book has neither anti-communist nor anti-McCarthy subtexts, although it was widely interpreted both ways.
  • The 1956 version is bookended by the protagonist recounting the story to policemen in a neighboring town, making it clear that he escaped and that the aliens would be contained. The studio forced the director to add this bookend to keep the movie from being a total downer; if you watch it without the bookend scenes, it’s a much creepier movie.
  • This isn’t so much a fun fact as it is an observation: I wrote a paper in college on the 1956 and 1978 versions of the movie and how they comment on contemporary American culture; whereas in the 1956 version the “enemy” seems to be conformity, in the 1978 version, the enemy may be alienation and isolation.

I’ve never seen the early '90s version; I’ve always heard it sucked.


The Donald Sutherland version is on my list of favorite movies. I showed it to my 12 and 13 year old, hoping to scare them like it scared me. They both said it wasn’t at all scary, and very boring.

Sheesh, these kids today. No hope, no hope, no hope.

[uqote]I’ve never seen the early '90s version; I’ve always heard it sucked.
That would be Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers. Though it has its defenders, I think it’s easily the dumbest, least scary, and most thematically obvious of the three films. There are a couple good things about it, though. One, Gabrielle Anwar gets naked in a truly creepy-erotic scene (the best in the film), and Two: They have the audacity to actually kill her baby brother by throwing him from a helicopter. The one genuine surprise the film offers. Forest Whitaker and R. Lee Ermey are in it, but are wasted.

As for KingLupid, it’s unfortunate that most horror movies aren’t as scary watching them at home on TV (which is where I assume you showed it to your kids). That movie can still really bug you out, especially Manface Dog and the Final “twist”, but I think you have to be older to appreciate a lot of what Kaufman was going for in the horror of being consumed in such a high-tech consumer society already.

Personally, I always thought it was based on Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, published 3 years earlier. Not sure if there was ever a lawsuit, like with the movie The Brain Eaters.

I wonder if Sutherland noticed that he was in two movies with almost identical plots?

Was Donald Sutherland the person who the only non-pod person was talking to, when suddenly Sutherland does that freaky pod-person scream? God that scared the bejeezus out of me.

I think the worst thing though was when, two weeks later, my dad did the imiation of the pod-person scream in the middle of a conversation I was having with him- It took him 20 minutes to convince me that it was safe to come out from under my bed.

I’ve only ever seen the 1956 version, and here seems as good a place as any to ask about an apparent flaw in it.

Through most of the movie, pods were necessary. They were placed near intended victims, like outside their windows or in their basements, and when the people went to sleep the pods would “give birth” to their duplicates, which then replaced the originals.

But in the end the pods no longer seemed necessary. When the protagonist and his girlfriend were hiding in the cave, she fell asleep momentarily and woke up as a pod person. She herself wasn’t replaced, IIRC.

Do I remember things right, and if so, is this a mistake in the story?

The idea of “body-snatchers” is an old one in science fiction. How old, I don’t know, but when Heinlein wrote his novel The Puppet Masters, he apologized for using such an old and hackneyed plot. And he wrote well before Jack Finney wrote his story.

(Heinlein’s book reads like “James Bond meets the Body Snatchers”, and it’s interesting to note that it predates both “The Body Snatchers” and “Casino Royale”, the first Bond book)

Maybe one of these days they’ll do a decent movie version of it.

I agree that the original stories weren’t reactions to McCarthyism – the theme of soul-stealing and dehumanization is powerful enough without reference to the current political situation. But I’ll bet it helped get the first movie version made.

By the way, a lot of 1950s SF was about such alien soul-stealing, but most of that never got associated with political situations. Look at The Trollenberg Terror (aka The Crawling Eye), or any of Nigel Kneale’s BBC serials (all later filmed) about Bernard Quatermass. Every single one of them is about aliens taking over human beings.
But the Jack Arnold film Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the one that I’m sure is at the root of what everyone has in mind. It even inspired humor – a scene in Airplane II (where the hero leaps out of a truck full of pods, in a great throwaway joke) and on Saturday Night Live (the skit “Invasion of the Brain Snatchers”, where Republicans leave pods labeled “Reagan” under people’s beds. “But…you always used to be against holding onto the Panama Canal!” “WE Were Wrong!”)

Don Seigel (most famous for Dirty Harry, and being the first director to use the Alan Smithee psuedonym), not Jack Arnold. Although it does seem like Arnold directed most of the classic 1950s sci-fi films. It Came From Outer Space, Tarantula, IThe ncredible Shrinking Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon and its first sequel. Back in 6th grade I devoted a whole chapter of my “anything report” to his films. (You could write a report on any subject you wanted, I picked monster movies).

And yes, the Abel Ferrera version blows. Especially the incredibly stupid part where a pod person tries to determine if the hero is a pod or not by telling him “I f**ked your girlfriend”.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that all 3 versions and the book have different endings…

The book has a happy ending, in which the hero finds a field where the pods are being farmed, torches it, and the pods decide Earth is too hostile and take off back into space. The movies all have some degree of downbeat ending.