February 21, 2017. Abolition & The Road to Civil War

You do not have readings for our lecture on abolition popular culture Tuesday, but you do need to watch one of the two films below. We will discuss them and your weekly assignment at the beginning of class.

February 23, 2017. No Class. This is an archive / research day to work on your final project. 

  • Matthew Algeo, Pedestrianism. (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2014). We will discuss this next week, but get a start on this book.

Class Reminders

  • Continue to work in your history reflection journal. Spring Break is coming up and you are required to finish half of your entries by the time we go on break.
  • If you are doing your own final research project, your full draft will be due March 31st. Keep that goal in mind and use your dedicated archive day wisely.
  • If you are working collaboratively with me, remember that I give you a grade each week for your contribution and progress. Our first database goal focused on California shows should be finished on Tuesday at the start of class.

Weekly Assignment 

Option 1: Imagine you were asked to contribute to a list article for Buzzfeed, Rolling Stone, or the Los Angeles Times Film Section and you need to argue why either Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Manchurian Candidate should or should not be on their top 10 list of Cold War movies for Americans to watch. Submit a polished 250-400 word film analysis. 250-400 words is incredibly short (you are essentially writing a blurb). This is an exercise in developing your voice and argument in tight and analytical writing. You must succinctly summarize the movie’s plot, its historical context in the Cold War, and use a concisely crafted argumentative statement. Use cinematic techniques to bolster your claim. Your film blurbshould be fun to read and it should engage the reader (keep in mind an educated general audience as you write).

Option 2: Imagine you were asked to contribute to a list article for Buzzfeed, Rolling Stone, or the Los Angeles Times Film Section on the most important movie scenes during the Cold War. Using either Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Manchurian Candidate closely analyze a scene or 2-3 minute sequence from the film, explaining its significance to the larger plot. Your film scene blurbshould be fun to read and it should engage the reader (keep in mind an educated general audience as you write).

Thinking critically about historical films and movies:

  • Most importantly, think about context: When was the movie created? Who directed it and what else have they directed? Who wrote it? Do you have a sense of audience reception at the time? What genre of film is this?
  • Narration: Does the film have voice-over narration? Is the film linear? Are there flashbacks? Think about how the story is constructed and what effect this has on the story.
  • Character names: Do character names reveal anything about the characters or the plot? For example, Esperanza was the protagonist of Salt of the Earth; “Esperanza” means “hope” in Spanish.
  • Cinematic techniques: Did the director use any reoccurring techniques in the film? Lighting?
  • Costuming, makeup, and set design: What does the clothing and make up tell you about each character and their relationships with each other? What does the set look like and what does it tell you about the story? Why is the setting important in this movie?
  • Camera angles, speed, and composition: How is the position of the camera angle emphasizing or deemphasizing elements of the plot? How is speed and zoom used? What about framing? Does the camera pan or stay still? How does this impact your emotional reaction to the film?
  • Use of color: Is the film in black and white? Are there any color palettes used throughout the film? For example, does the movie have a warm, rosy glow or a darker, bluish hue? How does this set the mood for the film?
  • Music and sound: Does the soundtrack develop plot lines? What non-spoken sounds are important to the film? Is silence used as a cinematic tool and, if so, how?
  • Correlatives: Does the director use metaphors to add another layer to the story or develop it in another way? Are there any objects in the film that somehow symbolizes a character’s development? A famous example of this is Holly Golightly’s refusal to name her stray cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
  • Dialogue and acting: How do characters communicate with each other? Did any quotes stick out to you?  Why are they important?

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Rhae Lynn Barnes is a member of the Society of Fellows at USC and Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton (beginning 2018). She earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University and B.A. at U.C. Berkeley. She is the co-founder of U.S. History Scene.
  • Alyssa Rubio

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers highlights the paranoia in the United States of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, as reflected in the plot and genre of the film, having been made in the midst of that time period. Being a horror film, the use of dramatic film score is utilized, which further emphasizes the paranoia both the characters in the film felt, but also how Americans felt at the time. In the film, citizens of Santa Mira freak out over an alien force that plants replicas of existing-people’s bodies, which begin to take shape and manifest into that person, but with no human emotion. The underlying message here really is the fear that an outside force (a silent creeping one, at that) is wreaking havoc on American soil, but also not knowing who to trust, especially those in authoritative roles.

    This is all a parallel to the common fear held by many Americans about the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The score is used to foreshadow what is to come, scaring the viewer of their future—and really their possibly impending doom. The staccato big brass instrumentation, crashing drums, and shrill rising scales are heard when something bad is about to happen—a common horror movie strategy to scare the audience. When the doctor is about to discover the creepy and bubbling “pod people,” the music begins. Once the audience sees the pods bursting open (quite disgustingly), the horror music clashes in. This tactic is a common way to create suspense: let the audience know of something that the main character does not. The audience knows these pods mean bad news, but the doctor has no idea. It’s not until the first one bursts that he freaks out. The horror genre itself plays on the idea of paranoia and the audiences’ susceptibility to it, which is why this film does a great job of highlighting the time period in which it was in, making it a great Cold War film that everyone should see.

  • Richard Nunis

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers, released in 1956, is a fascinating movie depicting the era of McCarthyism during the Cold War. The main character, Dr. Miles Bennell, receives several fearful patients who believe that their family member is an imposter. He was not sure about these accusations at first, but after experiencing multiple mysterious cases first hand, he became convinced that there was indeed something suspicious occurring within the town. The town was slowly being taken over by these “aliens,” that came out of green pods. Once a person fell asleep they were recreated into an unemotional identical being. The doctor fought off these new beings and resisted falling into their state of mind by staying awake. Eventually, he escapes from the beings who are chasing after him and flees to a neighboring town. At first people in the town nearby thought he was crazy, but then new evidence is found that backed his claim and persuaded the others. The historical context of this movie is embedded in the plot. In the movie, the new beings were said to have no emotions and that everyone was the same. This alludes to the propaganda and ideologies created by the United States during the Cold War, especially during the early years of the conflict. U.S. propaganda often depicted Soviet citizens, communists, as being robotic, identical, unemotional, and cold. In the beginning of the movie, people were experiencing paranoia and believed that their family members were imposters, though they had no real evidence (the family members were even able to answer detailed questions about their lives). During the Cold War, an atmosphere of distrust toward neighbors and civilians emerged as a result of the fear and sentiment Americans felt toward communists. Ultimately, this period became known as the McCarthy period. During McCarthyism, many people were brought to trial accused of being espionage and communist affiliation, though there usually not much evidence for either allegations. The paranoia felt by people in the movie toward their family members symbolizes America’s paranoia toward communist activity. The doctor feared that this plague would spread beyond past his town, so he did everything in his power to tell others. The town being “under attack” by aliens alludes the American fear of the Soviet Union using its nuclear power. Because the movie alludes to many elements of the Cold War, conveying the genuine paranoia and fear felt by Americans, I believe that Invasion of the Body Snatchers should be on the top 10 list of Cold War movies for Americans to watch.

  • Justin Gilson

    In Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the biggest struggle for the characters throughout becomes staying awake, to resist the urge to sleep and thus become one of them. In this movie, sleeping and then turning into one of them is a metaphor for becoming complacent and conforming to the majority. This fear of a conforming and unthinking mass-society was very prevalent during this time as a result of the fear of the spread of communism. This movie was filmed during the Cold War and was a moving allegory for the fear of people becoming the cold, unthinking robots that people of that time associated with Communism.
    The scene in particular that I want to use to support this statement is the one in which Miles leaves Becky in the cave to investigate the source of the beautiful singing they were hearing. He hears what he could only believe to be the sounds of someone singing, an action he knew that the aliens could not replicate. He leaves Becky to investigate, only to find that the singing was actually a car radio, and that instead of finding more humans, he has instead discovered that the aliens are planning to expand their infestation across the world. He then returns to Becky, only to discover that she can no longer stay awake. He kisses her as she falls asleep, but is horrified when she reanimates as one of them. In this scene, and throughout the movie, Miles is portrayed as a character who will not submit, not give up, no matter how bleak things look. He is able to motivate Becky to do the same, but as soon as he leaves, she can’t do it herself any longer and gives in. Miles states that it was the most afraid he had ever been in his life, to feel the life leave her lips. One moment of sleep, he says, and she was an inhuman monster bent on his destruction. It’s horrible to watch this happen to Miles, but the truth is that people all around us go through this all the time. They have to watch as the people they love give up, stop trying, and just go through life in a haze. This movie speaks to a very real problem in the world around us, and while it was very much in the public mind during the time the movie was made, it is still a problem even today. The pods are all around us.

  • Carissa Brones

    Frankenheimer’s thriller The Manchurian Candidate is a Cold War masterpiece that embodies the fear of Communism and charged political climate of McCarthyism in America. Released in 1962 in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the film captures American anxieties of conspiracy and political doubt. The suspenseful movie, based on Richard Condon’s 1959 novel, stars Frank Sinatra as Captain Marco and Laurence Harvey as Sergeant Shaw. We see the men return home from overseas, where Shaw earns a medal for supposedly saving the men from danger. He renounces his stepfather Senator and instead moves to New York to work for a famous journalist. However, we learn through flashback sequences that the American army unit did not escape with the leadership of Sergeant Shaw, but was instead captured by Chinese Communist forces and brainwashed without their knowledge. Through a series of flashbacks and reoccurring dreams, it is revealed that the American men were hypnotized puppets of their Chinese master, who could will them to do anything, even kill one of their own. Multiple cuts between scenes and narrations gives the viewer additional pieces of information with each revisit, such that it mirrors the puzzle piecing of solving the case along with Captain Marco. We learn that Sergeant Shaw is a key player in the Chinese Communist plan as a manipulated assassin, triggered by the symbolic Queen of Hearts that appears throughout the film. Ultimately, Captain Marco uncovers the significance of the card and utilizes it to use Shaw to his own advantage in defeating the Communists. The tragic ending makes a violent statement in favor of quashing Communism within America’s borders, particularly when Communist motives appear hidden. Brainwashed subjects serve as a metaphor for enemy control from within—a symbolic statement of what Americans so feared could hide beneath the stars and stripes of their country. Hysteria arose from fearing the unknown—not knowing what is real or not, even within one’s own mind.

  • Madelyn Suennen

    The 1962 political thriller “The Manchurian Candidate” takes a deep dive into McCarthyism and the Cold War era. The film is centered around an upstanding American war hero from a prominent family. He is captured in Korea and brainwashed to become an agent for the Communists. It turns out that this man, Sergeant Raymond Shaw, is only one piece of a larger Russian plot that is heavily invested in taking power over the United States. Shaw is a victim of mind control and is trained to be an assassin on behalf of the Russians and the Chinese. Unfortunately, the mastermind behind this grand scheme hits closer to home than he realizes. The truth is that the Sergeant’s mother is involved with Communist operations and intends to use her son as a puppet. The plan is that he will assassinate the American nominee for president so that the Communists are able to take control of the government.

    This film was created right around the peak of the Cold War, when Americans had a deep fear of Communist infiltration and conspiracy. The juxtaposition between realism and surrealism bolsters the film’s sense of thrill and conveys the debilitating sense of paranoia in American society at the time. Further, the use of suspenseful music, tense dialogue, and tilted camera angles all work to convey a theme of suspense throughout the film. The Manchurian Candidate undoubtedly deserves a spot in the top 10 list of Cold War films due to its ability to convey anti-communist hysteria in American society. Its striking ties to our modern political climate only further the impact of the film.

  • Jonathan Sears

    Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) depicts a thrilling allegory for the geopolitical climate of the Cold War through the actions of Dr. Miles Bennell in the town of Santa Mira. Dr. Bennell, while seeing patients at his office, hears of others in the town who believe their loved ones are acting strangely. He attributes nothing to this strange phenomenon at first, but the more people that seem to be afflicted by the paranoia, the more he suspects the occurrences to be more than mere coincidence. Bennell confirms his suspicions when he discovers giant seed pods that hatch in his greenhouse, revealing emotionless body-double clones that will eventually come to replace him. Bennell frantically attempts to warn everyone, but Santa Mira has already been consumed by these emotionless beings. With his love, Becky, at his side, Bennell’s daring escape from the doomed Santa Mira offers thrills and suspense for people of all ages.

    Siegel’s film is heavily inundated with allusion to mid-1950s America during an especially tense period of the Cold War. The plot itself represents the general American societal sentiment at the time. Bennell – the intuitive doctor – and Becky – Bennell’s lover – portray the role of American capitalism through their heroism, while the emotionless body-doubles infiltrating and infesting Santa Mira acts as the symbolic role of communism. This allegory is furthered by the music score throughout the movie; every time a seed pod is seen, a screechy, tense, haunting music typical of early horror films is played in the background, allowing the viewer to associate the communist symbolism with fear. By having the plot take place in an American city and causing one of the protagonists succumb to the invading power, Siegel’s movie feeds into the American hysteria of McCarthyism and anti-communism, showing that even their own country, Americans can still be consumed by communism.

  • Dallas Wilson

    They look like us, they sound like us, they act like us, but they aren’t us: this is the sentiment expressed by Dr. Miles Bennell and love interest Becky Driscoll as they stared out from Dr. Bennell’s office into the street below. Beneath them were bustling streets composed of their friends and family, people they had known all of their lives, carrying on their daily motions as always: crossing the street, walking their dogs, visiting shops. The only detail out of place was the time, 7 AM, which was far too early for that amount of movement. After the bus passes through, the facade comes down, and Miles and Becky witness as these creatures who just days ago formed their tight-knit community stopped their fake activities and lined up to pass out the pods which were destined to infect and invade the rest of America. Their worst fears have now been realized: their town cannot be saved, and they will probably not have the numbers to prevent the invasion from spreading. The pod people are winning.

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a perfect example of the American Cold War fear of spreading communism and loss of identity, and this scene in particular reflects the McCarthyist fear that in this new era of uncertainty, you can trust no one; not your friends, not your family, not even the ones you love most. This sentiment is enhanced when, just minutes after looking out the window and witnessing the extent of the invasion, Miles falls into the aliens’ trappings when he mistakenly trusted a friend, who had already had his body taken over, enough to let him into their hiding place in the office. These fears echo the real world red panic plaguing the United States after World War II, in an era when everyone suspected others of being communist or communist sympathizers. Friends and neighbors at any time could be secret agents bent on uprooting civilization, and you would be none the wiser. Although much of the panic in America was an unfounded attempt to stir up anti-communist rhetoric and prevent complacency amongst countries abroad, this film, which was set in Santa Mira, California, a location that would have signaled the “American Dream” of sunny days and Hollywood, brought that fear of the loss of democracy, capitalism, and the epitome of “American culture” home in a subtle, yet entertaining, way.

  • Taylor Grant

    The Manchurian Candidate, a Cold War movie released in 1962, is the story of an American soldier who is captured and brainwashed. Once captured, he is trained and programmed to become an assassin on behalf of the opposition, under complete control and essentially becomes a robot, and he eventually returns back with the mission of killing a presidential candidate. The movie takes place during a time of tension and paranoia among Americans concerning communism and fear of being overpowered. This edge-of-your-seat action movie is considered to be one of the greatest movies ever released, and truly captures the essence of this time period in our nation’s history. Although the movie was controversial upon its release, it most definitely should be on your top 10 list of Cold War movies, and I would rather argue that The Manchurian Candidate is indeed the best Cold War movie ever released. Ultimately, this movie successfully portrays the rise of news and media and their important roles in shaping public opinion, especially when it comes to politics and elections – as well as capturing the mayhem that surrounds them.

  • emma arce

    The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is 1956 horror film about the invasion of aliens on Earth. A doctor by the name of “Dr. Bennell” seeks to stop these aliens who are sneakily taking over the plant by cloning every single human into “one of them”. During one of the final scenes in the movie we see the doctor and his love interest Becky inside of a cave where they had escaped to. After the doctor comes back from spying on the so called “aliens” he sees Becky feeling much better but to his surprise she had already been turned into one of them. Bennell kisses Becky one last time and escapes from the rest of the aliens in the town.
    The scene is significant to the movie’s plot because it drives home the message that no one can be trusted. All of the characters that we first see in the movie seem to normal and innocent but as the mystery unfolds we see that they are not who they say they are. Becky and Bennell’s love story in the film leads the audience to believe that they are going to be the ones who survive but the ending takes a twist. The whole time during the film we see Becky as a harmless enchanting character, someone who could be trusted, but not even she was safe from the pod aliens. This movie’s theme relates back to Americans fear of foreigners taking over the country. In this case, this movie symbolizes the “Red Scare” which left Americans paranoid and unable to trust anyone. Interestingly, today we still see this kind of fear in our country but of Muslims which is also being implanted in people’s heads by the media. If you are curious in seeing a sci-fi thriller of alien pods taking over the Earth definitely check out this movie!

  • Hannah A Cruz

    Something sinister has happened to the all-American men, women, and children in the all-American town of Santa Mira as the whole country approaches the brink of nuclear war. However, it isn’t an atomic bomb strike but something much more disturbing. Strange seeds have arrived from space with the power to transform humans into automatons bent on complete alien takeover. Despite its outlandish premise, Don Siegal’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers touches upon the sense of cultural hysteria that gripped the nation at the height of the Red Scare. With the creation of Americana imagery using set design, as well as a script that juxtaposes the sentiment of the protagonists with the soullessness of the enemy, Siegal’s film remains a classic examination of the red scare.
    A carefully constructed setting was essential for establishing the relatability of an outlandish premise. Almost immediately in the film we see the protagonist Dr. Bennell returning to his hometown of Santa Mira, greeted by his assistant on a quaint wooden train platform. The wooden station, the single track, and the fields stretching out into the horizon all suggest a sense of comfort, with allusions to the security and familiarity of the American pastoral. Santa Mira happens to be in California, but the charming town could be anywhere in the country with its selectively constructed ubiquity. While seemingly universal, the town squares, homes and gardens, and main streets are just outdated enough (a wooden train platform, a one road main street) to suggest an American ideal frozen in time and seemingly protected from harm.
    Yet this idyllic setting is quickly infiltrated by a sinister evil and a hysteria that engulfs the town. With biting dialogue, the screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring perfectly encapsulates American fears of communism. The most notable critique of communists and sympathizers themselves are the constant allusions to how inhuman the “aliens” are, particularly their inability to feel “love, desire, ambition” and “faith” – all strong identifiers for most Americans. Even strong romantic bonds cannot overpower the loathsomeness of communists. When Becky succumbs to the alien invasion Dr. Bennell immediately renounces her as a “inhuman enemy bent on my destruction.” The worst part – this disease can take over anyone, from intimate lovers, families, and even law enforcement. The complete and total spread of the invasion – and the fear of no one believing you – makes Invasion of the Body Snatchers a continued cold war classic.

  • Chynna Cowart

    Ever wondered where shows like “Orphan Black”, books like “The Host”, or songs like “Invasion” got their footing? In 1956, “The Invasion of the Book Snatchers” premiered on the big screen and wowed viewers everywhere. As a political allegory, this film explores the trauma that shrouded the minds of Americans know as “The Red Scare”. When the bodies start showing up on the screen, the mere red flags that popped up in Dr. Bennell’s head now festered and became reality. With a number of his patients suffering from capgras delusion, this mass hysteria spreads across this small town. In this movie you can’t even trust your neighbor. Characters distrust their parents, their relatives: everyone is a target.

    As a Cold War film, paranoia was at an all time high and the threat of aliens posing and living among us wasn’t that far fetched. This alien concept mirrors the threat of communism in this era due to the stereotype of having all of its populace act and behave in the same manner. The aliens are breed in pods and tasked with acting out the mundane lives of the residents of this town. Almost zombified. What makes this a top ten Cold War film is that it plays it believable paranoia and shows how easily it can manifest through word of mouth. Audience members are always of the edge of their sets with the mechanisms that director, Don Siegel, uses. He heightens the fear by having the characters constantly moving and frantic, camera shots in tight spaces, surrounding darkness, and the ominous cuts between long and close-up shots. With these he catered to the essence of human fear. If you have every wondered if your friends are who they claim to be, jump head first into this rabbit hole.

  • Dru Chavez

    Every once in a blue moon, a movie takes popular culture by storm. At the height of the Cold War in America, Don Sielgel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1952), tells the story of how crazy people could be anywhere. Imaging the most picture-perfect town with picture-perfect people. That was Santa Mira, California, where the movie takes place. The main character, Myles, both a doctor and romantic, attempts to save his life from green pods that grow people! What makes this movie so great, is the story’s ability to relate to everyday American life. We all have that special somebody from high school we wish we could connect with. We all understand what it’s like to see an old friend and feel like they’ve changed. We all sometimes just want to nap. This movie supports getting back with your high school sweetheart and not trusting others. Old school, American values to say the very least. The juxtaposes the normal with the very abnormal in order to create cinematic magic and help capture the attitudes of many Americans during the cold war. This movie should be considered one of the best Cold War movies because of its creativity and individuality. You cannot go to the store and buy a jar of suspense– it must be created, cultivated and delivered. Siegel was able to achieve great suspense in his film through strategic choices in music, editing, script and plot. Over 50 years later the movie still has its audience at the edge of their seats, refusing to fall asleep..

  • Dashiell Johnson

    I found the “brainwashing” scene towards the beginning of the film the most interesting, if not most important scene of Manchurian Candidate. Since the film doesn’t contain any traditional battlefield scenes (only one war scene in Korea in which the soldiers are ambushed and captured easily), the unorthodox brainwashing scene may also be the most intense or thrilling scene of the film as well. I felt this was a very important scene for the film as many fears arose from the secrecy of the Cold War, such as Soviet sleeper cells, Communist brainwashing, etc. The scene itself is expertly shot, switching back from a meeting hosted by a group of old ladies regarding planting and taking care of hydrangeas, to a frightening communist brainwashing session. The soldiers however, only see and hear the nonexistent old women, not the communist general barking orders at them. The constant change in scenery within the scene itself shows the viewer how confusing and overwhelming the “brainwashing process” is, as well as demonstrating the power of psychological warfare. In addition, the fact that both a lack of home ownership and homosexuality were taken seriously as indicators of Communist tendencies only a few years before the film’s release, is itself a strong indicator that Communist brainwashing was both thought of as highly plausible and extremely frightening to American nationalists. Those who viewed the brainwashing of young American men by Soviet officials as conceivable were probably petrified at the scene in which one of Shaw’s stateside handlers tells another handler, “his brain has not only been washed, as they say. It has been dry-cleaned.”

  • Shayla McMurray

    Most Important Movie Scenes During the Cold War

    #3. Second to Final Scene in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
    This 1956 horror films tells the story of an American suburb where slowly everybody you know and love turns into the enemy. The enemy will brainwash you, betray you, and destroy you. Dr. Bennell, the doc responsible for the whole town of Santa Mira, keeps getting calls about relatives not seeming they way they truly are. After much skepticism, Dr. Bennell, plus his friend Jack and former girlfriend Becky, find this is true and all try to get away. Once you go to sleep, your body gets snatched too. The second to final scene, when Becky’s goes to sleep and is overtaken is the one that sets Dr. Bennell over the edge.

    Becky and Bennell lay in a cave, trying to get away from the enemy. They have lost everything, save for each others. Even their friend, Jack has crossed over. The couple try and try to stay awake, but the dark cold cave, the extreme fatigue, and the demure nature of Becky is too much for her and she inevitably falls asleep. She becomes victim to the body snatchers in a moment of weakness when Bennell leaves her in the cave alone. When he is outside of the cave, Bennell sees there is a massive farm down below producing the seed pods responsible for the body snatching. He rushes back in to tell Becky, but it is too late.

    When he realizes that Becky is gone, Bennell is all alone in Santa Mira, and nobody seems to listen to him. In the wake of the Red Scare happening at this time in the US, it is the perfect allegory to when you realize even your wife or your mother could be a brainwashed Communist too. Nobody is safe, and you have no one to trust.

  • Hannah A Cruz

    Something sinister has happened to the all-American men, women, and children in the all-American town of Santa Mira as the whole country approaches the brink of nuclear war. However, it isn’t an atomic bomb strike but something much more disturbing. Strange seeds have arrived from space with the power to transform humans into automatons bent on complete alien takeover. Despite its outlandish premise, Don Siegal’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers touches upon the sense of cultural hysteria that gripped the nation at the height of the Red Scare. With the creation of Americana imagery using set design, as well as a script that juxtaposes the sentiment of the protagonists with the soullessness of the enemy, Siegal’s film remains a classic examination of the red scare.

    A carefully constructed setting was essential for establishing the relatability of an outlandish premise. Almost immediately in the film we see the protagonist Dr. Bennell returning to his hometown of Santa Mira, greeted by his assistant on a quaint wooden train platform. The wooden station, the single track, and the fields stretching out into the horizon all suggest a sense of comfort, with allusions to the security and familiarity of the American pastoral. Santa Mira happens to be in California, but the charming town could be anywhere in the country with its selectively constructed ubiquity. While seemingly universal, the town squares, homes and gardens, and main streets are just outdated enough (a wooden train platform, a one road main street) to suggest an American ideal frozen in time and seemingly protected from harm.

    Yet this idyllic setting is quickly infiltrated by a sinister evil and a hysteria that engulfs the town. With biting dialogue, the screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring perfectly encapsulates American fears of communism. The most notable critique of communists and sympathizers themselves are the constant allusions to how inhuman the “aliens” are, particularly their inability to feel “love, desire, ambition” and “faith” – all strong identifiers for most Americans. Even strong romantic bonds cannot overpower the loathsomeness of communists. When Becky succumbs to the alien invasion Dr. Bennell immediately renounces her as a “inhuman enemy bent on my destruction.” The worst part – this disease can take over anyone, from intimate lovers, families, and even law enforcement. The complete and total spread of the invasion – and the fear of no one believing you – makes Invasion of the Body Snatchers a continued cold war classic.