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July 6: International Kissing Day / Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1955)

Today, July 6 is International Kissing Day!

July 6

Daily Bizarre Holiday

International Kissing Day

Klimt's The Kiss

Klimt's Golden Period Kiss

International Kissing Day originated in the United Kingdom and was first celebrated on July 6, 1995.

The idea of this holiday is to show your affection for your significant someones by kissing just for the pleasure of it; instead of using a kiss as a springboard to other activities – not that there’s anything wrong with that! It’s just that kissing can be an enjoyable activity; especially when experienced with the right person.

The kiss has come a long way from a crusading knight’s way to tell if his wife had been into the mead barrel while he was away doing manly things. It evolved into a way for two lovers to “exchange their souls”, which, you have to admit, sounds much more elegant than such phrases as “sucking face” or “exchanging saliva.”

Whatever you call it; over the years kissing has had a powerful effect on society at large; it has been banned in public; written about prolifically in literature and poetry, and many attempts have been made to place restrictions on how the kiss could be viewed in photography and motion pictures.

kiss photo

Robert D'Oisneau's Iconic Kiss

Although the above appears to be a moment of passion captured serendipitously, this photograph was apparently posed – Robert D’Oisneau allegedly spent hours with the two subjects until he got exactly what he wanted.

Speaking of kisses in motion pictures; the kiss in today’s movie choice is one of the scariest and most famous movie kisses of all time!

Note: There is also a National Kissing Day celebrated on June 21. I do not know the origins, or the creators of this holiday, and would appreciate any feedback from those of you who have information.

Cinezany’s Movie for

International Kissing Day

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Poster

The movie's poster

This is the original version of this movie and it is the jewel of them all. It was reportedly made for around $400,000, and was shot in only 23 days. The cast and crew worked six days a week with only Sundays off between March 23, 1955 and April 18, 1955, and this small budget and short shooting schedule resulted in what is easily one of the most disturbing classic science fiction films ever made. Based on a Collier’s Magazine story by Jack Finney in 1954; it was produced by Walter Wanger and directed by Don Siegel. Daniel Mainwaring’s (Out of the Past, 1947) screenplay writing was reportedly assisted by an uncredited Richard Collins, and a young Sam Peckinpah (who also played a bit part in the movie as a meter reader), who would go on to direct other films. The screenplay is excellent, and is perfectly enhanced by an eerie music score by Carmen Dragon. The resultant product of the two is a very scary movie indeed.
bennell

Miles is thought to be insane

The movie’s opening scene catapults us into overdrive – we see a policeman explaining to doctors at the City Hospital’s ER that they picked up a man on the freeway trying to flag down other motorists and yelling that aliens were taking over. Shortly after, we see a wild-eyed, verge-of-hysteria Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) convince the authorities and doctors that he is not insane. One of them, Dr. Hill (Whit Bissell) decides to humor him and listen to his story, and the movie begins to tell its story in a series of flashbacks as Dr. Bennell explains how the alien nightmare began in the little town of Santa Mira, CA. (This is actually the point in the story where director Don Siegel wanted to begin the film.)
Dr. Bennell explains how he returned from early from a medical convention at the urging of his nurse Sally (Jean Willes), and was picked up by her at the train station. When they return to his office, Dr. Bennell and Sally find that most of the patients who wanted so urgently to see him have changed their minds, and are now perfectly fine. Both he and Sally are puzzled, but take it in stride.
Since he has a little free time, Miles walks around the picturesque little town and runs into his old flame Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter). The two of them are attracted to each other, and when he finds out she is divorced and has moved back to town, he invites her to dinner. On the way in to the restaurant, Miles and Becky meet one of Miles’ colleagues, a psychiatrist in the parking lot. Dr. Kaufman (Larry Bates), tells Miles that he also had a batch of cancellations, and confidently assures him that this is due to “an epidemic mass hysteria.” While Miles doesn’t exactly buy this, he accepts it and he and Becky go in to dinner.
The restaurant that is usually so busy is almost empty. The band has been replaced by a jukebox, and when the owner is questioned about the changes by Miles, he casually tells him that business is off. By now, we can see hear those same warning bells ringing that Dr. Bennell hears, and like him we experience an uneasiness – a feeling that something is wrong.
Their dinner is interrupted by a call from a friend, Jack Belicec (King Donovan) who asks them to come over. When they arrive, Jack takes them to his pool table, draped over with a cloth. Jack pulls the cloth back to unveil what appears to be a dead man – only not like any dead man anyone has ever seen. The face of the corpse is smooth and unlined, and the body has no fingerprints. When Miles comments that the body is about 5’10” and weighs about 140 pounds; Jack’s wife Theodora, referred to as Teddy (Carolyn Jones), starts and cries out that Jack himself has the same height and weight. Jack is startled and accidentally breaks the glass he is drinking out of; cutting a large gash in his hand.

replica on table

Miles and Jack examine the body

Miles and Becky leave after instructing Jack to call if anything happens. Miles takes Becky home, and she asks him in. He teases her about dragging him in so she can be kissed in a dark entryway, but he realizes she is genuinely afraid, and leaves her with misgivings. Later when Miles arrives home; Jack and Teddy arrive in a panic – while Teddy and Jack were asleep; the body on the pool table awakened and took on Jack’s exact features, including the cut on his hands. Teddy woke just after this happened, woke Jack and insisted they leave immediately.
After being told this, Miles feels that Becky is in danger. He goes to Becky’s house and carefully climbs in the basement window. He opens the lid to a bin and comes upon yet another “replica.” Now seriously afraid, Miles goes to Becky’s bedroom but she has been drugged. He has to physically carry her out of the house and put her in his car. As soon as she is safe, Miles and Jack call the authorities and try to report the incidents, but by now both of the replicas have disappeared and Dr. Kaufman yet again discourses on mass hysteria.
The four of them decide to stay at Miles’ home, and have breakfast together after a few hours of sleep. They are disturbed during breakfast by a noise from the basement, which turns out to be a meter reader (A cameo by Sam Peckinpah).

peckinpah

Future director Sam Peckinpah


Later that evening, Miles, Becky, Jack and Teddy decide to grill some steaks and have a few martinis. This pleasant evening is interrupted when they discover two giant seed pods in Miles’ shed. The pods burst open; revealing two more replicas; one of which bears a strong resemblance to Miles.
Miles grabs a nearby pitchfork and starts stabbing; then runs inside for the phone. All the phone lines to the outside world are busy and, too late, the four of them realize that there will be no help from the outside world from within Santa Mira; the best they can hope for is to make it to the highway and go for help from there.
pods in shed

Miles is horrified to find one of the pods resembles him

Jack and Teddy try to make it to the highway, but are caught and are forced to sleep so they can be taken over by the aliens. Miles and Becky are exhausted and, in a desperate attempt to stay awake; hide briefly in Miles; office where they both take some stimulants Miles has. Trying to leave casually, the two are watched suspiciously by the alien townies; who give chase when Becky gives them away by screaming, thereby showing emotion. Miles and Becky literally head for the hills; hoping to be able to cut through the mountain caves and escape to the highway on the other side.

running

Miles and Becky run for their lives

They manage to hide and Miles and Becky talk about how horrible it is that human bodies and souls are being taken over by the aliens. Miles makes a beautiful speech; about how some people allow their humanity to slip away from them a little at a time. He tells her that it’s only “when we have to fight to stay human do we realize how precious it is to us.”
Then, Miles leaves Becky for a few minutes to see if the coast is clear, and when he comes back to get her; she tells him she is exhausted and can’t go on. He lifts her to him and kisses her – then we see the horror on his face. We see him look down and see Becky’s face from his perspective – it’s tenderness and sweetness replaced by coldness and contempt for his sentiments.
becky

Becky's face after the famous kiss

We are horrified as well, as we hear Miles’ voice-over, saying, “I’ve been afraid a lot of times in my life… but I didn’t know the meaning of fear… until I kissed Becky…the girl I loved…was an inhuman enemy bent on my destruction.”
Becky suggests that he go along with the alien plan. He backs away from her; still disbelieving and she begins shouting “He’s in here!” He turns and runs; not stopping until he hits the highway, where he frantically tries to flag down cars. When he leaps up onto the back of a large passing farm truck and sees that it is filled with giant seed pods; he becomes frantic; leaps down and cries out, “They’re here already!” “You’re next!” “You’re next!” Siegal filmed McCarthy looking directly into the camera while shouting all this; breaking the “Fourth Wall.” This was originally intended to be the end of the film – Miles screaming hysterically as truckloads of pods pass him by.

However, as we all know, Hollywood needs happy endings, and some were concerned that the ending was too alarming. So, the ending was changed to have a patrolman come in to the ER with an accident victim, and tell the doctor in charge that there were these huge seed pods in the truck the victim had been driving. We see that the doctors listening to Miles overhear this, and the look of relief on Miles’ face as the doctor orders calls to the FBI, State Police, Governor, etc.
Seed  pods

The giant seed pods

When the film was released nationally in early 1956, many theatres displayed several of the pods (made of paper) at theatre lobbies and entrances along with large lifelike black and white cutouts of McCarthy and Wynter running frantically away from a crowd.

The movie was seen as everything from a warning against the paranoia and hysteria of a McCarthyistic America; to a cautionary tale against alien, aka Communist dehumanization. The aliens are dedicated to stamping out human emotions, and insistent that a society functions better and more efficiently without these traits. However, despite this, Jack Finney was reported as saying he had no such political ideas when he wrote the story, and Walter Mirisch wrote in his autobiography that “neither Walter Wanger, nor Don Siegel…nor Dan Mainwaring…nor Jack Finney, nor myself saw it as anything other than a thriller, pure and simple.”
In 1994 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, and Time magazine’s list of 100 all-time best films included Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as well as their top 10 1950s Sci-Fi Movies, and Top 25 Horror Films.

Afterthought of the Day

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 version)

I hate remakes, and, like most film aficionados, I am opposed to them on general principle. However, I am pleased to say that this remake is actually pretty good, and features a terrific cast, including Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and Leonard Nimoy. The modifications to the original script are made to accommodate the story to suit the 1970’s zeitgeist. This make it an even stronger story for the times in which it is set, and it’s alterations honor rather than degrade it’s predecessor; which is unfortunately so often the case with remakes.

Speaking of honoring the originals, Don Seigel, the director of the 1955 version, is seen in a cameo as a taxi driver.

don

The director of the original version has a cameo in this remake

and Kevin McCarthy is shown as an older Dr. Miles Bennell, is shown running on the freeway now warning “they’re here” rather than “you’re next!”

older

Kevin McCarthy is still Dr. Miles Bennell in this remake

Dr. David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy), a psychiatrist, embodies the prototypical self-help guru of the 1970’s. While we discover later that he is a duplicate himself; he spends most of his time pooh-poohing the fears of his patients and reassuring them that they only suffer from paranoia.
Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) is a nine-to-five lab worker at the San Francisco Department of Health. Jack’s (Jeff Goldblum) and his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright) co-own of their mud bath emporium.
One of the best ideas in this version is that whenever one of the aliens sense a human’s presence; they begin to point at the human while emitting a horrible, siren-like screech to warn the other aliens.
sutherland

Donald Sutherland becomes one of them

This version carries through with Don Siegel’s original intention, and Kaufman’s remake includes a twist in the last few seconds before the end that make a happy, or even hopeful ending out of the question.
There have been two remakes since this one; neither are worth watching. It is worth noting that the great film critic Pauline Kael commented that this version may be the “best of its kind ever made.” So, please, no more remakes!

Related Web Site of the Day

AMC Filmsite’s Best and Most Memorable

Film Kisses of All Time in Cinematic History

http://www.filmsite.org/filmkisses.html

This site is so much fun! There of hundreds of your favorite movies, in chronological order and by film title, showing famous cinematic smooches. Written and edited by Tim Dirks; these pages are so engrossing – guaranteed hours of pleasant viewing and lots of fun tidbits.

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