Before watching the movie:
Much like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this is about people getting replaced by alien replicas. But with the added horror factor of following a 50s housewife’s discovery that her husband has changed.
It looks like the main thing that was notable about this movie is that it was released in a double feature with The Blob.
After watching the movie:
The night before his wedding, Bill Farrell has an alien encounter on the way home from drinking with his friends. At first, aside from his late arrival at the church, his wife Marge doesn’t notice anything unusual, but she soon begins to feel like Bill isn’t Bill anymore. He’s distant, emotionally closed off, lacking in the things she fell in love with. She’s also concerned that they haven’t gotten pregnant in their first year of marriage. Marge notices strange behavior changes in other husbands around town as well, and suspects that something has happened to them all. Marge follows Bill as he takes a walk in the middle of the night and sees a humanoid monster pour out of Bill like smoke and walk into a spaceship, leaving what she thought was Bill behind as an empty husk. Marge tries to get help, but everywhere she could turn seems to be already blocked off, and the aliens know that Marge has found them out.
The smoky effect used when the aliens take bodies and exit their shells is surprisingly well done. The shimmer the aliens themselves have is a little strange, and the double-exposure of the alien faces over the human faces when they communicate telepathically is fine, but the way the shape of the smoke is precisely animated is remarkable. It’s definitely rolling smoke that’s been rotoscoped, but the movement looks entirely deliberate rather than just using the matte and letting the smoke pass through the border of the matte however it will.
While “Body Snatchers” is very well known to be about how anyone could secretly be a communist, I’m not sure if that’s the subtext that’s here. The aliens aren’t directly trying to take over the world, they’re trying to preserve their species, as they lost their women before they could escape their dying world, and now are trying to develop a way to mutate human women so that they can conceive alien children with their false spouses. From there, the humans infer that eventually the planet will be overrun with the aliens. It sounds more like a racial/ethnic analogue than an ideological one, and so even less a position to be celebrated than if the aliens were secret members of the Communist party.
The aliens also comment that they are learning human emotions, particularly love, which was a foreign concept to them, and I feel like that should have been developed more. It only serves to add a shade of melancholy to the end, but if this story was told at a different time, the introduction of that concept could have been explored as a way to make the conflict morally grey, and perhaps made the aliens think they understand humans enough to try to reason with them.
This story was surprisingly captivating and complex for its time and budget. Its sexual politics and whatever other subtext it has are probably best left in the past, but the story on the face of it is an interesting and exciting one.