|Continuity:||Invasion of the Body Snatchers|
|Location:||San Francisco, California|
|First:||Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)|
Matthew "Matt" Bennell is the main character from the 1978 science fiction film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He is based on the character of Miles J. Bennell as first seen in the 1955 Jack Finney novel The Body Snatchers and brought to the big screen in the 1956 Don Siegel film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where he was played by Kevin McCarthy.
Matthew Bennell was a health inspector working in the city of San Francisco, California in the 1970s. Bennell took his job very seriously and was not above embarrassing and threatening to revoke the licenses of restaurant owners by pointing out violations. In at least one case, the employees of a restaurant repaid Bennell for his comments by smashing the windshield to his car with a wine bottle.
Bennell's life changed forever the day his close friend and colleague, Elizabeth Driscoll told him about her boyfriend Geoffrey. Elizabeth was convinced that Geoffrey was literally not himself and took note of the man's recent cold and dispassionate behavior. Matthew didn't care for Elizabeth's "crazy dentist" boyfriend to begin with, but this was largely due to the fact that he harbored a secret crush on Elizabeth himself. Despite this, he wanted to help her sort out her anxiety so he recommended taking her to see a psychiatrist he knew named Doctor David Kibner. Elizabeth was reluctant to accept aid from a psychiatrist, but agreed to see him and Matthew made the arrangements.
In the days to come, Matthew began to understand Elizabeth's concerns as he started to notice people that he knew acting strangely. A man named Mister Teng, who owned the dry cleaner that Matthew visited, commented that something was "wrong" with his wife.
When Matthew met back up with Elizabeth, he drove her towards a book store where Doctor Kibner was making a special signing appearance. Along the way, a crazed man ran up to his car screaming, "They're coming! They're coming!" Moments later, the man was struck and killed by a passing motorist. Bennell took note of the blank expressions on the face of the witnesses at the scene.
When they reached the book store Matthew tried to call the police to report the accident, but the police appeared to be more concerned with Matthew than they were in the accident victim. He introduced Elizabeth to David Kibner as well as a frustrated poet named Jack Bellicec. Elizabeth expressed her concerns to Kibner, but he dismissed her wild claims, citing that these behavioral patterns are little more than people choosing to shirk responsibility and commitment.
A short time later, Matthew received a panicked telephone call from Jack Bellicec's wife Nancy. He went to their place of business, the Bellicec Mud Baths spa, where Nancy and Jack showed him something truly bizarre. Inside one of the booths was an unconscious, humanoid body covered in a caul of viscous fluid with white tendrils growing across it. Matthew performed a cursory examination of the body and compared it to a newborn fetus. Closer inspection showed vague similarities to Jack Bellicec. Matthew suddenly realized that Elizabeth's assertions were true and that she was in great danger. He told the Bellicecs to telephone David Kibner then took off to find Elizabeth.
He broke into the house she shared with Geoffrey Howell and found a clone duplicate of Elizabeth growing from a large pod plant in a greenhouse. The real Elizabeth was asleep in her bedroom. He snatched her up and took her back to his house. He contacted Jack, Nancy and David and told them what he had found. Elizabeth came to and appeared to be okay. Matthew then telephoned the police to report the duplicate body in the greenhouse.
Kibner and he returned to Geoffrey's house to meet with the police, but the body was now gone. Geoffrey said nothing as the attending police officers heard Matthew's wild testimony. During the conversation, Kibner let it slip that Elizabeth was now at Matthew's place. He asked David to use his resources to get word to the mayor's office about the strange things taking place in the city. He also used his own connections within the Health Department to alert as many government agencies as he could. Despite all of his efforts, he kept getting the runaround and nobody offered to open up an official investigation into the matter.
Matthew retired back to his house with Elizabeth, Jack, Nancy and David. They all began positing their own theories as to what was taking place. Elizabeth correctly theorized that the recent blooming of an exotic flower seen throughout the city was responsible for the creation of large, plant-like pods that were spawning duplicates of people. Nancy added the idea of the plants being extraterrestrial in nature, but Jack scoffed at the notion of a space flower.
As the evening wore on, Matthew went out into the backyard to sit and collect his thoughts. He eventually fell asleep and four pods suddenly sprang to life at his feet. Flower petals bloomed from the mouth of the pods and they opened up, spawning newborn doppelgängers of Matthew, Jack, Nancy and Elizabeth. Nancy came out and screamed for Matthew to wake up. As he got up, he learned that a throng of "pod people" had begun to surround the house. He helped the others get to safety, but stayed behind to destroy the four newborn pods. As he did so, the other pod people became aware of the death of one of their own and aggressively pursued Matthew and the others.
Matthew and Elizabeth split up from Jack and Nancy and and took a taxicab towards the airport. En route however, they discovered that the cab driver was a pod person who was reporting them in to his superiors. They got out of the cab and eventually made their way back to the offices of the San Francisco Health Department. Fearing that their end would soon come, the two finally expressed their unrequited feelings for one another. Moments later, David Kibner and Jack Bellicec, now subverted pod people, came into the room with several other replicants. They restrained Matthew and Elizabeth and David gave them a sedative to help them sleep. They knew that sleep was the catalyst by which the assimilation process began. They fought back and managed to lock Jack and David inside a freezer unit.
Matthew and Elizabeth fled the building and came to a shipyard next to a factory. The factory was filled with people growing the pods en masse and readying them for transport overseas. Matthew tried scouting out the ship in the hopes of using it to escape the city. During this brief moment however, Elizabeth fell asleep and was replicated. Her original body dissolved to nothing in Matthew's arms.
He then went into the factory and ascended a staircase leading to a catwalk. Taking up an axe, he began hacking away at the power lines holding up the electric lighting system. The lights crashed down on the processing tables, igniting chemicals and starting a fire. The subverted workers began screeching and chased Matthew out of the building.
They were persistent but patient, knowing that it would only be a matter of time before Matthew fell asleep. This proved to be true and Matthew was replicated and assimilated into the body snatcher culture.
Notes & Trivia Edit
- The character of Matthew Bennell was created by director Philip Kaufman and screenplay writer W.D. Richter based on concepts originally developed by Jack Finney.
- Actor Donald Sutherland played his own duplicate in the film and also performed all of his own stunts.
- In the 2007 semi-remake The Invasion, the character of Carol Bennell is an analog for Matthew Bennell.
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