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(Scene Analysis) An Exploration of Sound and Cause & Effect.

An Exploration of Sound and Cause & Effect in ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’

Dr. Miles Bennell returns home to a full schedule and a paranoia epidemic; average people are unwavering in their belief that family members are not themselves, that that have somehow been taken over by something. Miles and his old flame Becky begin to investigate the unusual behaviour, discovering that the townsfolk have been taken over by alien pod people. Miles and Becky find themselves running from the alien invaders as they hoard together to capture and convert the pair into uniform and emotionless imitations.

‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ is a classical Hollywood Science Fiction narrative, adapted from John Finney’s book ‘The Body Snatchers’. [1] The director of the film, Don Siegel, is best known for directing ‘The Big Steal’, ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘Escape From Alcatraz’. [2] It is difficult to compare ‘Invasion of the Body Snatches’ to other films Siegel directed, as it is the only Science Fiction film he ever made and it seems to share none of the characteristics of his earlier or later works.

Many theories have been presented regarding hidden meanings of this film. It is important to note that at the time of this films release, 1956, America was coming to the end of the ‘Second Red Scare’ [3]. Many people believe that the movie is a political statement against the tyranny of the McCarthy era and the sheer paranoia that swept the nation at that time. Even more speculate that the pod people are representations of communists and the loss of personal identity communism would bring, if it invaded the shores of America. [4][5] Don Siegel stated; “…I felt that this was a very important story. I think that the world is populated by pods and I wanted to show them. I think so many people have no feeling about cultural things, no feeling of pain, of sorrow…”[6]. Although the director had no intention of presenting a political subtext, people have continued to speculate.

The scene in the doctor’s office in which Miles engages with his nurse Sally Withers then later with Becky, will be the focus of attention for the analysis of cause/effect and sound. It begins with Miles holding up an x-ray, clearly indicating that we are in (Miles’) doctor’s office. Nurse Sally is somewhat uneasy and confused as to why Miles’ patients are failing to attend their appointments. She has witnessed the erratic and strange behaviour of the townspeople in Miles’ absence and her reaction is the first indication we have as an audience that things are not quite right. The sound of the blind being opened by Sally is amplified and metaphorically breaches the wall that divides our protagonist from the rest of the characters; it is as if Sally is revealing to both Miles and the audience the unseen dangers that lurk on the streets below.

The dialogue and camera work together to identify Miles as a character who is trusted and looked up to by the local population. The camera provides the audience with a point of view shot of Miles looking down on the streets below, whilst he commentates that “…Bill Bitner’s taking his secretary to lunch”[7] implying that he has been trusted with information about an affair. The lack of any other sound during his speech works as a disputation to Sally’s apprehensions; everything seems ok or is this just the calm before the storm? The audience knows that danger is indeed approaching, however, due to the fact that everything appears to be normal, Mile’s becomes blasé about the impending danger.

A bell chimes as someone enters the doctor’s office. By using such an obvious audio cue, the audience is told that someone important is about to enter. Miles is about to leave for lunch and is unwilling to see to see anyone for the moment, however, he quickly comes to a stop when he hears the soft tones of a familiar voice, Becky. Miles and Becky have not seen each other for 5 years and this is emphasised by the romantic yet nostalgic music that plays as Becky sweeps into the room. Dana Wynter portrays Becky as a character with a big presence; this reiterates just how integral she is going to be to this story.

Although we do not see the event on screen, Becky is motivated to see Miles out of concern for her cousin Wilma. From the moment Becky begins to speak of the supposed illusions Wilma has about her uncle Ira, which will eventually lead to Miles going to visit them at home, we see a dramatic change in Becky’s demeanor. She seems almost weak and defenseless, accentuated by the use of a dramatic and troubled score plus clever use of camera angles and lighting. The technique of glamour lighting (backlight) is executed in shots of Becky to emphasise her femininity. Additionally a high angled close up alluding to nakedness, suggests a vulnerability to her character. As Miles swiftly provides Becky with a resolution, the score returns to one of romantic nostalgia signalling that the conversation is about to return to pleasantries.

Miles proceeds to walk Becky out and we hear the sound of the door closing behind him. This symbolically indicates that Miles is closing the door on the dramas of his work. As they walk down the hallway, Becky talks of her failed relationship and in doing so, urges Miles to open up about his own failed marriage. This synchronicity of divorce is what will ultimately lead to the couple rekindling their old romance.

As Becky and Miles descend the staircase and head towards a slightly overexposed door, the camera stays firmly at the top possibly inferring they are about to enter an alien world full of danger. Their reunion results in the blurring of Miles’ work and Becky’s family; ultimately compelling them to fight these alien pod people together.

Through this analysis, I have identified the many elements that have pulled together to make this a movie full of drama, mystery, romance and fright. In this film, sound is not just used to strengthen the visual image but to enforce the concept or emotion that is being portrayed in a particular scene. Cause and Effect are well imagined, ensuring the story flows and that there is continuity to the plot. These two elements are complemented by excellent use of camera angles, well-developed characters and a storyline that invites you to read between the lines. It is as relevant today as it was in 1956 and will continue to inspire and intrigue generations to come. I hope to implement techniques in my work that will create suspense using subtle nuances as Siegel did in this film. I would hope to encourage people to see something that may or may not be there. Speculation and debate generates interest and if I can do that in my writing and directing, I feel I would have achieved something great.



[1] WEB Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Wikipedia, 2014

[2] WEB Invasion of the Body Snatchers; IMDB, Amazon, 2014

[3] WEB McCarthyism; Wikipedia, 2014

[4] WEB Jones, Monique. 1950’s Communist paranoia as seen in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Pork Chop Hill”; Monique Blog, May 2010­‐communist-­paranoia­‐as-­seen­‐in-­invasion-of-­the‐body‐snatchers-­and­‐pork-­chop­‐hill

[5] WEB Gurny, Harris. Invasion of the Body Snatchers; the cinemaniacs, November 2012­‐of‐the‐body-­snatchers

[6] BOOK Lovell, Alan (1975, p.54) Don Siegel: American cinema. British Film Institute.

[7] WEB/TRANSCRIPT Drew. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Script – Dialogue Transcript. Drew’s Script-­O‐Rama

Original Screen Play written by Daniel Mainwaring


Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956.

Don Siegel. Daniel Mainwaring.

The Big Steal, 1949.

Don Siegel. Daniel Mainwaring, Gerald Drayson Adams.

Dirty Harry, 1971.

Don Siegel. Dean Riesner, R. M. Fink, Harry Julian Fink.

Escape from Alcatraz. 1979.

Don Siegel. Richard Tuggle, J. Campbell Bruce.


WEB Stafford, Jeff. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956); Turner Classic Movies (TCM)­‐month/article/86561%7C0/Invasion‐of­‐the­‐Body‐Snatchers.html

WEB Patterson, Michelle. True underlying meanings: Invasion of the Body Snatchers teachings;AXS Entertainment,, October 2011­underlying­‐meanings‐invasion-­of­‐the-­body-­snatchers‐teachings

WEB Miller, Arthur. McCarthyism; American Masters; Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), August 2006­‐miller/mccarthyism/484/

WEB Hollywood Blacklist; Wikipedia, 2014

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