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10 Facts About Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

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People have been arguing about Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ message for 60 years now. Some believe it’s a coded warning about the spread of communism. Others—like novelist Jack Finney (upon whose story the movie is based)—see it as a thoroughly non-political thriller. Regardless, fans of all stripes agree that Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an enduring horror classic. Released on this day in 1956, it still sends shivers up the spine.

1. IT’S BASED ON A MAGAZINE SERIAL.

In November and December of 1954, Collier’s magazine ran a three-part series that would come to be called “the year’s most original story of suspense.” Written by Jack Finney, The Body Snatchers wowed producer Walter Wanger, who began negotiating the story’s movie rights before he’d even read part two.

2. IT WAS SHOT IN JUST 23 DAYS.

With a modest $380,000 budget (roughly $3.3 million in today’s dollars), Invasion of the Body Snatchers started filming in Sierra Madre, California on March 23, 1955. If you’re a horror buff, the little city may look a bit familiar, since segments of Halloween (1978) and The Fog (1980) were shot there as well.

3. DIRECTOR DON SIEGEL PRANKED HIS LEAD ACTRESS WITH ONE OF THE FAKE PODS.

The film’s heroine, Becky Driscoll, was played by Dana Wynter. Rumor has it that Siegel once broke into Wynter’s home and hid a human-sized pod prop under her bed, though the actress remembered the incident differently. “He left it on my doorstep,” Wynter recalled in a 2001 interview. “Don Siegel was courting this girl [who lived next door], and he would pass my cottage all the time. And one night, he just left it on the doorstep ... I nearly broke my neck, because when you open your front door to go to your car, you don’t expect to find something large on your doorstep.”

4. THE LEADING MAN SUGGESTED A TITLE CHANGE.

In the film, alien pods replace slumbering people with emotionless duplicates. Hence, when Kevin McCarthy landed the lead role of Dr. Miles Bennell (who discovers what’s really going on), he suggested that Invasion of the Body Snatchers should be renamed Sleep No More.

You might be wondering why the final title differs from the one that Finney’s original series went by. In 1884, Robert Louis Stevenson had written a short story called The Body Snatcher, which was turned into an RKO film in 1945. To avoid confusion with that earlier movie, Siegel’s flick was rebranded Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

5. ORIGINALLY, THE MOVIE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A LOT FUNNIER.

“I felt that pods growing into a likeness of a person would strike the characters as preposterous,” Siegel recalled. “I wanted to play it that way, with the characters not taking the threat seriously.” Hoping to offset the scares, he filmed a number of comedic scenes, which were later cut out by Allied Artists, the film’s distributor. “In their hallowed words, ‘horror films are horror films and there’s no room for humor,’” Siegel explained. “I translated [this] to mean that in their pod brains there was no room for humor.”

6. FULL-BODY MOLDS OF THE LEAD ACTORS WERE BUILT.

In the creepiest scene in the movie, the four main characters discover half-formed clones of themselves emerging from a quartet of pods. To create these facsimiles, McCarthy, Wynter, King Donovan (“Jack Belicec”), and Carolyn Jones (“Teddy Belicec”) were laid down on slanted boards, where the crew coated them, from head to toe, in plaster of Paris. Subsequently, these molds were filled with foam rubber. During the lengthy process, Wynter was subjected to yet another practical joke—this time, courtesy of the mold-builders. “I was in this thing while it hardened,” she said. “I was breathing through straws … and the rest of me was encased, it was like a sarcophagus. The guys who were making it tapped on the back of the thing and said ‘Dana, listen, we won’t be long, we’re just going out for lunch!’”

7. THE FILMMAKERS FEARED THAT KEVIN MCCARTHY MIGHT NOT SURVIVE THE ENDING.

The film’s action required leading man Kevin McCarthy to run for days on end. In numerous scenes, his character sprints for dear life over every possible terrain. “I got Charlie horses,” admitted McCarthy. Just before the film draws to a close, Dr. Bennell runs through traffic in a panicked frenzy, screaming “They’re here already! You’re next! You’re next!” Since the exhausted actor hadn’t been sleeping well, Siegel told his stunt drivers to remain extra alert in case McCarthy tripped without warning. “I was terrified that his timing would be off and he might fall down under the wheel of the cars and trucks,” Siegel admitted.

8. THE PROLOGUE AND EPILOGUE WERE LAST-MINUTE ADDITIONS.

Allied Artists didn’t just cut a few jokes here and there; the studio also insisted on a completely different ending. Originally, the movie was going to close with a shot of Dr. Bennell watching hopelessly as truckloads of pods drive out into the distance. Wanting to end the film on a more hopeful note, Allied Artists came up with a slightly happier conclusion. Over his strong objections, Siegel was told to film a new intro and a new final scene (“I reluctantly consented,” he said.) The revamped opening puts Bennell in a police station, where he tells the story as an extended flashback. After the famous “You’re next!” sequence, his tale ends and, after a while, the authorities begin to believe him.

9. IT COULD’VE BEEN NARRATED BY ORSON WELLES. OR RAY BRADBURY.

Walter Wanger desperately wanted two Orson Welles scenes to bookend the movie. As a prologue, the Citizen Kane director would offer an unsettling soliloquy. Then, at the end of the movie, he’d return with this sobering advice: “In this day and age, anything can happen. And if you’re asleep when it does, you’re next.” Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts kept Welles out of the film. Wanger later toyed with the idea of giving Welles' part to legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury, but ultimately opted to cut out the narrator role altogether.

10. MCCARTHY MADE A CAMEO IN THE 1978 REMAKE.

Donald Sutherland assumed leading man duties for Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake of the film, which was a gorier and gloomier take on the story. At one point, two generations cross when Kevin McCarthy hurls himself at the younger actor’s car and screams “Help! They’re coming! Listen to me!”

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15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

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That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

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2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

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ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

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4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

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5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

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6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

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7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

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This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

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8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

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9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

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Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

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10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

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11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy comping on your mug to worry about humans.

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13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

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15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

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16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

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17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.

18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.

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