CLOSE
YouTube
YouTube

10 Facts About Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

YouTube
YouTube

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!”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
10 Biting Facts About Snapping Turtles
iStock
iStock

Here in the Americas, lake monster legends are a dime a dozen. More than a few of them were probably inspired by these ancient-looking creatures. In honor of World Turtle Day, here are 10 things you might not have known about snapping turtles.

1. THE COMMON SNAPPING TURTLE IS NEW YORK'S OFFICIAL STATE REPTILE.

Elementary school students voted to appoint Chelydra serpentina in a 2006 statewide election. Weighing as much as 75 pounds in the wild (and 86 in captivity), this hefty omnivore’s natural range stretches from Saskatchewan to Florida.

2. ALLIGATOR SNAPPING TURTLES CAN BE LARGE. (VERY LARGE.)

An alligator snapping turtle
NorbertNagel, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Utterly dwarfing their more abundant cousin, alligator snappers (genus: Macrochelys) are the western hemisphere’s biggest freshwater turtles. The largest one on record, a longtime occupant of Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, weighed 249 pounds.  

A monstrous 403-pounder was reported in Kansas during the Great Depression, though this claim was never confirmed.  

3. COMMON SNAPPERS HAVE LONGER NECKS AND SPIKIER TAILS.

Alligator snappers also display proportionately bigger heads and noses plus a trio of tall ridges atop their shells. Geographically, alligator snapping turtles are somewhat restricted compared to their common relatives, and are limited mainly to the southeast and Great Plains.

4. BOTH VARIETIES AVOID CONTACT WITH PEOPLE.

If given the choice between fight and flight, snapping turtles almost always distance themselves from humans. The animals spend the bulk of their lives underwater, steering clear of nearby Homo sapiens. However, problems can arise on dry land, where the reptiles are especially vulnerable. Females haul themselves ashore during nesting season (late spring to early summer). In these delicate months, people tend to prod and handle them, making bites inevitable.

5. YOU REALLY DON'T WANT TO GET BITTEN BY ONE. 

Snapping turtle jaw strength—while nothing to sneeze at—is somewhat overrated. Common snapping turtles can clamp down with up to 656.81 newtons (N) of force, though typical bites register an average of 209 N. Their alligator-like cousins usually exert 158 N. You, on the other hand, can apply 1300 N between your second molars.

Still, power isn’t everything, and neither type of snapper could latch onto something with the crushing force of a crocodile’s mighty jaws. Yet their sharp beaks are well-designed for major-league shearing. An alligator snapping turtle’s beak is capable of slicing fingers clean off and (as the above video proves) obliterating pineapples.

Not impressed yet? Consider the following. It’s often said that an adult Macrochelys can bite a wooden broom handle in half. Intrigued by this claim, biologist Peter Pritchard decided to play MythBuster. In 1989, he prodded a 165-pound individual with a brand new broomstick. Chomp number one went deep, but didn’t quite break through the wood. The second bite, though, finished the job.

6. SCIENTISTS RECENTLY DISCOVERED THAT THERE ARE THREE SPECIES OF ALLIGATOR SNAPPING TURTLES.

A 2014 study trisected the Macrochelys genus. For over a century, naturalists thought that there was just a single species, Macrochelys temminckii. Closer analysis proved otherwise, as strong physical and genetic differences exist between various populations. The newly-christened M. suwanniensis and M. apalachicolae are named after their respective homes—namely, the Suwannee and Apalachicola rivers. Further west, good old M. temminckii swims through the Mobile and the Mississippi.

7. THANKS TO A 19TH CENTURY POLITICAL CARTOON, COMMON SNAPPING TURTLES ARE ALSO KNOWN AS "OGRABMES." 

Snapping turtle cartoon
Urban~commonswiki via Wiki Commons // CC BY PD-US

Drawn by Alexander Anderson, this piece skewers Thomas Jefferson’s signing of the unpopular Embargo Act. At the president’s command, we see a snapping turtle bite some poor merchant’s hind end. Agitated, the victim calls his attacker “ograbme”—“embargo” spelled backwards.

8. ALLIGATOR SNAPPERS ATTRACT FISH WITH AN ORAL LURE …

You can’t beat live bait. Anchored to the Macrochelys tongue is a pinkish, worm-like appendage that fish find irresistible. Preferring to let food come to them, alligator snappers open their mouths and lie in wait at the bottoms of rivers and lakes. Cue the lure. When this protrusion wriggles, hungry fish swim right into the gaping maw and themselves become meals.

9.  … AND THEY FREQUENTLY EAT OTHER TURTLES. 


Complex01, WikimediaCommons

Alligator snappers are anything but picky. Between fishy meals, aquatic plants also factor into their diet, as do frogs, snakes, snails, crayfish, and even relatively large mammals like raccoons and armadillos. Other shelled reptiles are fair game, too: In one Louisiana study, 79.82% of surveyed alligator snappers had turtle remains in their stomachs.

10. YOU SHOULD NEVER PICK A SNAPPER UP BY THE TAIL.

Ideally, you should leave the handling of these guys to trained professionals. But what if you see a big one crossing a busy road and feel like helping it out? Before doing anything else, take a few moments to identify the turtle. If it’s an alligator snapper, you’ll want to grasp the lip of the upper shell (or “carapace”) in two places: right behind the head and right above the tail.

Common snappers demand a bit more finesse (we wouldn’t want one to reach back and nip you with that long, serpentine neck). Slide both hands under the hind end of the shell, letting your turtle’s tail dangle between them. Afterwards, clamp down on the carapace with both thumbs.

Please note that lifting any turtle by the tail can permanently dislocate its vertebrae. Additionally, remember to move the reptile in the same direction that it’s already facing. Otherwise, your rescue will probably turn right back around and try to cross the road again later. 

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Jenny Anderson, Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions
arrow
entertainment
10 Things You Might Not Know About Tina Fey
Jenny Anderson, Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions
Jenny Anderson, Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Tina Fey has transformed modern comedy more than just about anyone else. From the main stage of Second City to the writer’s room of SNL to extremely fetch comedy blockbusters, Elizabeth Stamatina Fey has built a national stage with a dry, eye-popping sarcasm and political satire where no one is safe. She has a slew of Emmys, Golden Globes, SAG, PGA, and WGA awards to prove it—plus a recent Tony nomination (her first). But, more importantly, she’s the closest thing we have to a national comic laureate.

Here are 10 facts about a fantastically blorft American icon.

1. SHE DID A BOOK REPORT ON COMEDY WHEN SHE WAS 11.

Fey got a very early start in comedy, watching a lot of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bob Newhart, and Norman Lear shows as a kid. Her father and mother sneaked her in to see Young Frankenstein and would let her stay up late to watch The Honeymooners. So it’s no surprise that she chose comedy as the subject of a middle school project. The only book she could get her hands on was Joe Franklin’s Encyclopedia of Comedians, but at least she made a friend. "I remember me and one other girl in my 8th grade class got to do an independent study because we finished the regular material early, and she chose to do hers on communism, and I chose to do mine on comedy," Fey told The A.V. Club. "We kept bumping into each other at the card catalog."

2. THE SCAR ON HER FACE CAME FROM A BIZARRE ATTACK THAT OCCURRED WHEN SHE WAS A CHILD.

Fey’s facial scar had been recognizable but unexplained for years until a profile in Vanity Fair revealed that the mark on her left cheek came from being slashed by a strange man when she was five years old. “She just thought somebody marked her with a pen,” her husband Jeff Richmond said. Fey wrote in Bossypants that it happened in an alleyway behind her Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, home when she was in kindergarten.

3. HER FIRST TV APPEARANCE WAS IN A BANK COMMERCIAL.

Saturday Night Live hired Fey as a writer in 1997. In 1995 she had the slightly more glamorous job of pitching Mutual Savings Bank with a radical floral applique vest and a handful of puns on the word “Hi.” In a bit of life imitating art, just as Liz Lemon’s 1-900-OKFACE commercial was unearthed and mocked on 30 Rock, the internet discovered Fey’s stint awkwardly cheering on high interest rates a few years ago and had a lot to say about her '90s hair.

4. SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO BE NAMED HEAD WRITER OF SNL.

Four years after that commercial and two after she joined Saturday Night Live’s writing staff, Fey earned a promotion to head writer. Up until that point, the head writers were named Michael, Herb, Bob, Jim, Steve. You get the picture. She acted as head writer for six seasons until moving on to write and executive produce 30 Rock. Since her departure, two more women (Paula Pell and Sara Schneider) have been head writers for the iconic show.

5. SHE’S THE YOUNGEST MARK TWAIN PRIZE WINNER.

Established in 1998, the Kennedy Center’s hilarious honor has mostly been awarded to funny people in the twilight of their careers. Richard Pryor was the first recipient, and comedians who made their marks decades prior like Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, and George Carlin followed. Fey earned the award in 2010 when she was 40 years old, and the age of her successors (Carol Burnett, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, David Letterman ...) signals that she may hold the title of youngest recipient for some time.

6. SHE WROTE SATIRE FOR HER HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER.

Fey was an outstanding student who was involved in choir, drama, and tennis, and co-edited the school’s newspaper, The Acorn. She also wrote a satirical column addressing “school policy and teachers” under the pun-tastic pseudonym “The Colonel.” Fey also recalled getting in trouble because she tried to make a pun on the phrase “annals of history.” Cheeky.

7. SHE MADE HER RAP DEBUT WITH CHILDISH GAMBINO ON "REAL ESTATE."

Donald Glover (a.k.a. Childish Gambino) first gained notice as a member of Derrick Comedy in college, and Fey hired him at the age of 23 to write for 30 Rock. Before jumping from that show to Community, Glover put out his first mixtape under his stage name. After releasing his debut album, Camp, in 2011, Gambino dropped a sixth mixtape called Royalty that featured Fey rapping on a song called “Real Estate.” “My president is black, and my Prius is blue!"

8. SHE VOICED PRINCESSES IN A BELOVED PINBALL GAME.

Between the bank commercial and Saturday Night Live, Fey has an intriguing credit on her resume: the arcade pinball machine “Medieval Madness.” Most of the game’s Arthurian dialogue was written by Second City members Scott Adsit (Pete Hornberger on 30 Rock) and Kevin Dorff, who pulled in fellow Second City castmate Fey to voice for an “Opera Singer” princess, Cockney-speaking princesses, and a character with a southern drawl. (You can hear some of the outtakes here.)

9. SHE USED MEAN GIRLS TO PUSH BACK AGAINST STEREOTYPES OF WOMEN IN MATH.

Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan in 'Mean Girls' (2004)
Paramount Home Entertainment

There’s a ton of interesting trivia about Mean Girls, Fey’s first foray into feature film screenwriting. She bid on the rights to Rosalind Wiseman’s book that inspired the movie without realizing it didn’t have a plot. She initially wrote a large part for herself but kept whittling it down to focus on the teenagers, and her first draft was “for sure R-rated.” Fey also chose to play a math teacher to fight prejudice. “It was an attempt on my part to counteract the stereotype that girls can’t do math. Even though I did not understand a word I was saying.” Fey used a friend’s calculus teacher boyfriend’s lesson plans in the script.

10. SHE SET UP A SCHOLARSHIP IN HER FATHER’S NAME TO HELP VETERANS.

Fey’s father Donald was a Korean War veteran who also studied journalism at Temple University. When he died in 2015, Fey and her brother Peter founded a memorial scholarship in his name that seeks to aid veterans who want to study journalism at Temple.

"He was really inspiring," Fey said. "A lot of kids grow up with dreams of doing those things and their parents are fearful and want them to get a law degree and have things to fall back on, but he and our mom always encouraged us to pursue whatever truly interested us." Fey also supports Autism Speaks, Mercy Corps, Love Our Children USA, and other charities.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios