This page updated on 29 January, 2008
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Learning episode 3:  


Purpose and use of this learning episode: notes, Forum topics and comments for 'The Invasion of the Body Snatchers' 


The notes, below, were given to secondary students as their third learning episode in the 'enemy within' theme area. The version of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers used with students was from 1978 because the classification was suitable to the age range and also because it is a simple version in colour, whereas the original in black-and-white might have scared away some students from this early learning episode.


The learning episode starts with the film given out on CD-ROM to those studying as flexible learning (compliant with Copyright guidelines) and shown in the classroom using a computer and overhead projector for others. The discussion occured in the myclasses Forum area and some images and links from the original have been changed for the changed copyright guidelines for this space, outside the government school intranet, as noted in the page 'about the mySF Project'.


Image of grisly and bestial alienIndex

Forum topics for discussion

Notes for 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'

Resource List

Readings and Links

Ongoing readings and links


The points at the start of these notes are to be discussed in the Forum area. You are asked to jump to the Forum area, using the link here and making a comment in the appropriate Forum thread. Please remember, your participation in discussions is expected in this study, as part of your overall participation.



Forum topics for discussion:



Critics like Roberts say that SF texts "should make us think about these issues, confront us with them, as only a literature of ideas can" (Roberts, 2000:123). Is SF a way of discussing social and political ideas?


Is the world of the pod people an Utopia?


Is the 1978 film a "vehicle of political dissent" (Luckhurst, 2005:115)


Does 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' use SF to hint or suggest problems the writers cannot state openly?



Notes for 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers':

The film of the 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' was made in 1956 by director Don Siegel, based on the classic novel 'The Body Snatchers' (Finney, 1955).


The film has been remade twice with a newer version promised for 2006, starring Nicole Kidman, if the articles on the internet speak the truth! This will bring the total remakes of the original film to three, all from American film studios, so it is well worth examining this film and its main ideas to see why it is so popular, or why it has such a long lifespan.


From the original, 1956 version by Siegel, many arguments circulated about the political reading of this film but as Mann (2001) says, the narrative is "a horrifying and detailed study of humanity and what makes us human" (Mann, 2001:378). Many commentaries on the original film argue that either it looks at the spread of world Communism as a creeping, invisible menace that replaces apparently normal people with secret Communists bent on wrecking Western society, or conversely, other commentaries say that the film is about Anti-Communist policies as seen in America's McCarthyist times. You will find more about this argument in the links at the bottom of this page.


The movie under consideration for this Enemy Within theme area of the mySF Project is the 1978 version, starring Donald Sutherland, amongst others.


This film version of the famous film actually makes a reference to the earlier version by using the same actor with the same lines as he screams for help and runs into the middle of the road to warn of the spread of the pod duplicates/people. Perhaps the best thing to focus on about the 1978 version of the film is, as Mann notes, that the movie looks at the loss of individuality and personality and the aliens are "not dangerous mutants from outer space ...but ourselves and our neighbours" (Mann, 2001:379).


The 1978 version by Kaufman has updated themes that reflect the "more extreme consumer-based society" (Mann, 2001:379) of modern times where the 'people' are simulacra that "lack the necessary emotions to make them human" (Mann, 2001:380). The movie is seen as a "diatribe against the loss of humanity and the encroaching oblivion that could face us all" (Mann, 2001:380). In this way, commentators say that the 1978 version of the film is not so much politic but is instead commenting on the social situation of 'modern' America. Discussion of this will occur in the Forum area, as above.


Mann's views and many others point from a commentary on Communism to an overt social purpose for the film.


Is it a warning that we can lose our essential humanity and even our souls? Or do you think the 1978 movie condemns us for having already lost our souls, our humanity and our spark of intelligence?


The Links section, below, is particularly useful for this film and background readings for this period of SF text. Please have a look at these as they will also help for other texts, such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, in learning episode five.


Resource List:


Finney, J. (1955). Invasion of the Body Snatchers. 1998 Edition. Carmichael, California: Touchstone Books.


Kaufman, P. (Director)  (1978). Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Written by Richter, R. DVD Version. Metro Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. 2004.


Mann, G. (Ed.)  (2001). The Mammoth Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction. New York: Carroll and Graf.



Readings and links:


Current to 29 January, 2008

A great article on Wikipedia with associated links for all the different versions of the movies and to the writer of the original story. Please read this.

Current to 29 January, 2008

An article for those interested in the political argument about the first film, looking at the spread of Communism in the Western world ... or perhaps of Anti-Communism.



Ongoing readings and links:



Electronic text of 'The Father Thing' by Phillip K Dick


Electronic text of Damon Knight's 'Stranger Station'


Electronic text of Octavia Butler's 'Bloodchild'


Podcast 1 of overview of Aliens in SF, 5M mp3 file for download and playing


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