It is really a shame that most audiences today are not patient enough to sit through a black and white movie. If they were, they might be lucky enough to see such greats as The Big Sleep or Double Indemnity. However, in terms of horror movies, there aren't many better than most black and white films from the early days of Hollywood. Being restricted to shooting horror films in black and white was not a detractor but a very positive rule. The director could then make the ominous shadows that are so common in scary movies even more pronounced with the stark contrast between what is light and dark. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a prime example of this. Made in 1956 by Don Siegel, this film stars Kevin McCarthy as a suburbanite convinced that his neighbors are slowly being taken over by some evil force, but of course no one believes him. As the soulless duplicates hatch from their pods and infest the town, Dr. Miles Bennell (McCarthy) is running out of time to do something. The intense storyline makes it obvious that such a movie should be, and was, incredibly lit providing deep meaningful lighting and cinematography.
The cinematographer, Ellsworth Fredericks, did an excellent job at creating an intense mood in this fantasy thriller. The predominant shadows, as in most film noir and other black and white movies of the 40's and 50's, defines the tone in which the viewer should read the characters. But what is most interesting about this film, is that only the main character sees the alien townspeople in this light when he is alone and they are attacking him. For the majority of the time, they are lit with high-key lighting, what is typically used in sitcoms today, to give the viewer a sense of perfection. They mow the lawn and walk around in the town square in an eerie brightness that it is almost uncomfortable at how normal they are trying to look. Of course when the sun sets, the mood of the same characters that were painfully boring suburbanites during the day is skewed to reflect their true purpose in the community. As Dr. Bennell hides in the neighbors bushes peeking into the basement of his "old" neighbors' home, the shadowing of him and the creatures in the house can only be described as creepy. The entire film progresses like this, continuously getting more and more shaded like a plague slowly devouring the neighborhood, until the end when Dr. Bennell is running on foot from the aliens in the street and the only light is from the chasing car's headlights. Unfortunately, for many reasons, this ending was deemed too depressing and disturbing for a audience at that time to handle, and Don Siegel was forced to add another, much brighter, scene to the end to put the audience at ease by reassuring them that everything would work out ok.
To say that modern films of today can even come close to the depth of emotion conveyed in a single shot in a film like Invasion of the Body Snatchers is preposterous. In pop culture today, people do not have the patience to try and infer what the director is saying with a certain type of framing of a shot, so therefore, any crucial plot points are written into the script, allowing the cinematography to take on a fast paced, MTV look with poorly constructed shots that simply funnel the ritalin deprived visuals into our head as quick as possible before we lose our concentration