Cast: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones
SUMMARY: In a California hospital, a psychiatrist is called in to examine a man who is screaming hysterically. When the psychiatrist arrives, the hysterical man explains that he is also a doctor, and knows a terrible secret. In a flashback, this secret is revealed. The hysterical man is Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy), who has just returned to his hometown of Santa Mira, California. Almost immediately, he is called to examine several patients suffering from Capgras delusion, or a belief that someone near them is an imposter. One of these people is Wilma, who believes that her aunt and uncle have been “replaced”. Wilma’s cousin is Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), a former girlfriend of Miles’ whom he soon reunites with. After coming across several of these imposter cases, Miles consults with a local psychiatrist, Dr. Dan Kauffman, who believes that the incidents are just hysterical reactions. However, that evening, Miles gets an emergency call from his friend Jack Belicec, asking him to come over. At Jack’s house, Miles finds what appears to be a human body lying on a pool table; this person bears a slight resemblance to Jack. They cannot determine if this body is alive or dead, so Miles tells Jack and his wife to keep an eye on the body overnight. They do this, and notice that the body becomes to look more and more like Jack; they then flee the house. Miles goes to Becky’s house, where he finds a body of the same type in the basement — only this one looks like Becky. Miles sprints upstairs and carries a sleeping Becky out of the house. After reuniting with Jack and his wife, all four of them go back to Jack’s house to meet Dr. Kauffman, whom Miles has called. To their surprise, the body is not there; consequently, Kauffman thinks that Miles and the others are also succumbing to the hysteria. The next evening, the four are in the backyard of Miles’ house when they notice several large pods growing in the greenhouse. As they watch, these pods open and reveal copies of each person. The group comes to the conclusion that the townspeople are being replaced with these copies, which take over when the real people are asleep. Miles tries to call for help, but determines that the phones have been taken over by the “pod people”, so Jack and his wife drive to the next town to get help. After they leave, Miles and Becky realize that most of the town’s inhabitants have already been replaced, and that these people are desperate to change Miles and Becky, too.
Miles and Becky stay at Miles’ office that night, and in the morning, they see trucks coming into town with pods loaded in the back. As they watch, people with family in neighboring towns take these pods to replace their relatives. Jack finally gets back, with Kauffman in tow, but Miles and Becky quickly realize that they are both now “pod people”. Jack and Kauffman confirm this, and reveal that an alien race is behind the pods and the peaceful invasion. They also explain that this will be good for the human race, because it will eliminate the frustrations and worries of life (because people cease to be individual). Miles and Becky refuse to give in and become pod people too, and try to escape. They are chased clear through town by virtually everybody else, but eventually make it to an abandoned mine. Neither has slept in some time, so that the pod people do not take over them, and both are now nearly done in. Becky is too exhausted to continue, so Miles leaves her in the mine entrance while he does some recon. Outside, he finds that the pods are being grown in huge numbers on farms just ouside of town. He returns to Becky, only to find that she fell asleep and thus became a pod person. Miles flees, and although he is again pursued by a large crowd, he manages to get to the state highway, after which the pod people give up. However, on the highway MIles sees a pod-loaded truck headed towards San Francisco and Los Angeles. At this point, Miles was picked up and brought into the hospital, where the story started. The psychiatrist writes off Miles’ story, but just after leaving his room come across a truck driver recently injured in an accident. The nurses reveal that the man’s truck was carrying giant seed pods. The psychiatrist suddenly realizes that Miles was telling the truth, and calls the FBI.
MY TAKE: This was the first time I’d ever seen this movie, but I had already heard of the term “pod people”, as I’m sure most people have. For something that has apparently become part of American culture, it’s a pretty lousy movie. The plot is pretty weak, and the villains (the pod people) aren’t scary at all. They don’t look or act like zombies or demons or anything remotely threatening, which just made everything seem really cheesy. Frankly, I think the idea of people springing out of pods is ridiculous, because who doesn’t notice some big-ass seed pod in their yard? Furthermore, how exactly do they take people over when they sleep, and what happens to the original bodies? It’s just not a very well-planned story. If it were scarier, like Night of the Living Dead or something, this might be overlooked, but they’re the least scary alien species in a horror movie ever.