Invasion of the Body Stealers [The Body Stealers] (1969)

(aka, Out of Thin Air, Thin Air)

When you are number 3, you have to try weirder.

At least that seems to be the case with this odd little film.

Now, when it came to British Horror films of the Fifties, Sixties and early Seventies, Hammer was king, although Amicus wasn’t far behind.

And then there was Tigon.

When it came to science fiction, the story was more or less the same.  Hammer had the Quatermass films, a lot of Bikini Cavegirls, and a handful of other memorable films like The Damned and Lost Continent.  Amicus had Doctor Who, a few child friendly Quatermass rip-offs, the surprisingly serious The Mind of Mr. Soames, and their series of Edgar Rice Burrough’s films.

And Tigon?

Well, they made the last classic Boris Karloff film, The Sorcerers, about an elderly couple using their mind control invention to entertain themselves.  They also took on the job of adapting of one of the BBC’s most fondly remembered science fiction shows, Doomwatch, only for some strange reason chose to make a film which can barely be called science fiction at all.  Then there are two of their horror films — The Creeping Flesh and The Blood Beast Monster (the one about the giant moth) which flirt with science fiction but end up going in rather disappointing other directions.

And, of course there are two even stranger films to consider.

The first, Zeta One, a softcore space epic about a planet full of attractive barely clothed women features lots of female flesh, nudity and sex, but not much of anything else.

Not even what you’d call a consistent plot.

And the second?

Well, The Invasion of the Body Stealers is a James Bond clone.

A very strange copy, however, one which echoes Roger Moore’s less realistic and more humorous Bond rather than the harder edged Sean Connery Bond (even if Sean’s brother shows up in a supporting role).  In fact, it is far closer in spirit to the Matt Helm films with Dean Martin, or James Coburn’s Flint, which were deliberately absurd and comic if not outright parodies of 007.

A group of soldiers have vanished during a series of routine parachute jumps — vanished in mid-air without a trace.  The RAF do not want to admit to what happened — even though one of these incidents happened at a busy air show — so rather than open an official investigation, they brought in a private security expert, Bob Megan (Patrick Allen) to investigate.

But the only evidence he can find are traces of radiation and a mysterious woman he meets on the beach…

Patrick Allen was a busy TV and voice-over actor, although as far as I can see the only other major leading role he had was in The Night of the Big Heat (aka, Island of the Burning Damned.  Or “Doomed” in some places).  He at least looks the part of the raffish British hero of the Bond variety although he doesn’t have that outsized persona that went with Roger Moore’s take on the character.

He’s not first billed, however: in fact, both George Sanders and Maurice Evans are billed ahead of him.  I suppose, as they were American actors, they were supposed to be the big draw — or at least the best way to get the film into the American market.

Not that either one is in a leading role.  But that was more or less standard in that era of British film, when the actor most likely to sell the film in the U.S. got top billing.  It is also why Patrick Allen wasn’t first billed even in The Night of the Big Heat even though Christopher Lee had less screen time than either Patrick or third-billed Peter Cushing.

Neil Connery looks remarkably like his brother and is reasonably good in the sidekick role until his departure from the story.  But I can’t say he adds a lot other than his name.

Now, if you paid too much attention to the posters and came into this one expecting lots of special effects then you are not going to be happy.  The effects are kept to a minimum — mostly red glows around the people who are vanishing and a few other simple optical effects.  The posters show an instantly recognizable flying saucer, borrowed (for some strange reason or other) from Amicus’ Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. even though that film was only three years old.  It does actually make an appearance, but we only see it sitting still, and there are no signs of the big moving fan blades on its underside.

You have to wonder if there was some Amicus executive sitting in a theater back in 1969 thinking that they should never have sold their prop.

The story has echoes of a lot of the Bond movies of the age, with a variation on the big heist so many of them featured, but there are also hints of the body snatcher theme later on.

Not that this goes in any particularly paranoid direction as it shows up so late in the story.

There is even an attempt to make the alien menace more sympathetic, although it is a bit perfunctory and last minute.

Perhaps the most amusing side plot seems to have been stuck in there to prove that this is more or less the swinging Sixties version of Bond: the secretary of the high-ranking Cabinet official in charge of the project gets very upset with him, quits and storms out when he lets official business get in the way of their very unofficial after-hours session at the office.

The end result — at least in the versions that are available — is the sort of PG with hints film you expected from Bond, although I understand that in the original version it is more obvious in a scene with the mystery girl going for a swim on the beach that she is naked, and with a few more glimpses of her body in a lovemaking scene.

But I suspect that it would probably have passed the PG-13 standard easily if it had been around at the time.

On the whole this isn’t the sort of film you feel great excitement about.  It is pleasant and minor, with a lot of sexy girls.  The big idiot of a hero never really decides which girl, and while the female scientist does at least some of the usual unthawing, it really doesn’t go anywhere.

And, let’s face it, the alien plan is just a touch incoherent.  There has to be a less-obvious way of doing that.

No, let’s put it like this: virtually every other way of achieving your big goal is less obvious than this.

Even showing up with a fleet of flying saucers over Croydon.

Oh, well, I’ll admit it, there is a certain goofy charm to this one.  It isn’t brilliant and has more than its share of dumb moments.

But then you can say that about a lot of other entertaining minor films…

Buy from Amazon (PAL Import — Paid link):



Check out our new Feature (Updated February 16, 2022):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.