I'm a huge fan of dystopian movies like this one. It reminds me a great deal on Carpenter's „They live“ and in some segments on Orwell's „1984“. I'll elaborate this. Both „They live“ and „1984“ use fictional plot to detect some of the most important issues in contemporary world. For Carpenter that's capitalism in it's worst and for Orwell it's a totalitarian society, like communism for example. This movie precedes „They live“ and it possibly influences Carpenter but it comes after „1984“ and bares some resemblance. For example I understood this movie as a metaphor for communist society, or rather, the fear of communist society and what would happen if we lived in such a world. The plants from outer space thereby represent the „red danger“, they infiltrate our homes and our lives turning us into something else, something that looks like us but it aint us. It's power is in numbers, in masses, and in the illusion that everything is normal. This way they can easily transform everyone into a human shaped shell. Once they control the communications and authorities it's almost impossible to stop them.
This is the way that every ideology is distributed, whether we are talking about capitalism or communism, they both use strong and subtle propaganda and relay on masses to be the bearers of their message.
In one point during the conversation between our main character and his „turned“ friend, his friend is urging him to join them because he will be: „…reborn into an untroubled world…where everybody's the same“. He also says: „Love, desire, ambition, fate, without them life's so simple“. We can see here some of the basic premises of communist society as they were seen by the capitalist western world during the cold war period. And the main character represents here a liberated western man, who refuses to live life without emotions and in subordination, which is thought to be like in communist countries.
What is great, on the other hand, the other side of the medal is also questioned in this movie. Main character is indeed a true patriotic citizen of USA and defends all what the American dream stands for, but comes across no understanding from most people around him. At the end he's having a tough time stopping somebody on the highway to help him get away, and the doctors want to put him in the mental institution. He is highly alienated and there is no way to prove what he is talking about. Every attempt to show that there is something wrong with the system is claimed insane, just as he agreed in the beginning: it's all a collective neurosis. But this neurosis, caused by „what is going on in the world“ is dismissed as illusions, or rather something unusual, not normal; even though it pinpoints the problem that actually exists. If we take a closer look of what's going around the world today we may see how every kind of protest against neoliberal capitalism is dismissed as the work of neo – communists, hippies, lazy people or something else like that, while in fact the protesters introduce urgent issues such as monopoly of the banks, health care or education.
So, although filmed in 1956, I think that this movie is still very good piece of work, important for understanding of global tensions today, as I thought of „They live“ or „1984“. And it has a great uncertain and uncomfortable ending. Or you can watch it as another black and white sci – fi movie and wait until you go to sleep, thinking that the morning won't change anything.