Blu-ray Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers BR CoverDistributor: Arrow Video

BBFC Classification: 18

Director: Philip Kaufman

Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy, Veronica Cartwright, Art Hindle, Don Siegel

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a title that many of you may already be familiar with as it is a film that has been made several times over, sometimes with a slightly different title or a delicately tweaked plot but always with the same basic themes of paranoia and people being taken over by alien beings. The original 1956 film is considered an all-time classic and has rightfully earned its place amongst the great sci-fi/horror films of the era but, somewhat contradictory to todays over-saturation of remakes, this 1978 redux is often cited as being that rare beast that is a remake that, in some ways, improves on the original.

In this version Donald Sutherland (Lock Up/Animal House) plays Matthew Bennell, a health inspector who puts his colleague Elizabeth (Brooke Adams – The Dead Zone) in touch with his psychiatrist friend Dr. Kibner (Leonard Nimoy – Star Trek) after her boyfriend Geoffrey (Art Hindle – The Brood) starts to act distant around her. At the same time, Matthew’s friend Jack (Jeff Goldblum – The Fly) and his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright – Alien) discover a body that bears a resemblance to Jack but still appears to be growing and so they call Matthew to see if he can help.

Matthew takes a look a the body and goes to Elizabeth’s house but finds a duplicate of Elizabeth growing in her garden. Once he has gotten the real Elizabeth to safety he calls the police but the duplicate body has gone, so Dr. Kibner persuades the police to let him take care of Matthew. Matthew realises that something alien is happening but as the authorities don’t seem to want to act he has to work out who he can trust as everything he knows begins to change.

So it’s basically the same plot as the original albeit with one or two slight changes, such as moving the action away from the small fictional town of Santa Mira to the big city of San Francisco. The other notable difference is with the subtext of the film, or possibly the lack of one, as the Cold War paranoia of the original is less of an issue here and the sense of being taken over is more literal. It could be suggested that there is a subtext of impending dementia and mental illness but that is more subjective than the analogy presented in the original.

But otherwise the film remains fairly faithful to the original; it even has that film’s star Kevin McCarthy make an appearance by recreating his final scene from 1956 (prompting the question as to what his character has been doing for the last 22 years apart from running into cars). Donald Sutherland gives a strong performance as Matthew and pretty much holds the film together, especially in the climactic scenes where Matthew’s paranoia is almost palpable, and Jeff Goldblum is a likeable presence in his supporting role. It’s also good to see Leonard Nimoy in something other than Star Trek, although his performance isn’t a million miles from what you would expect and it’s quite clear early on where his character arc is heading. Veronica Cartwright and Brooke Adams also create likeable characters so as well as a classic story the film has a decent cast to bolster the material.

Despite being a remake of a classic film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers stands up as an excellent film in its own right. Is it itself a classic? Perhaps not but that’s probably more to do with when the film came out and the need to drop some of the political leanings to appeal to a late-1970’s audience. The special effects hold up pretty well considering how old the film is and the HD transfer gives the picture a lot more detail than some of the old DVD versions. At nearly two hours in length the film really seems to fly by, especially once the full details of the alien takeover are revealed, so overall this brilliant package is well worth parting with your hard-earned cash for. And be prepared for one of the creepiest and best endings to a horror film you’re ever likely to see.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Special Features: Audio commentary with director Philip Kaufman, Discussing the Pod – A new panel conversation about Invasion of the Body Snatchers and invasion cinema featuring critic Kim Newman and filmmakers Ben Wheatley and Norman J. Warren, Dissecting the Pod – A new interview with Kaufman biographer Annette Insdorf, Writing the Pod – A new interview with author Jack Seabrook, Re-Visitors From Outer Space: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod – a documentary on the making of the film featuring Philip Kaufman, Donald Sutherland, writer W.D. Richter and more, The Man Behind the Scream: The Sound Effects Pod – a look at the film’s pioneering sound effects, The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod – cinematographer Michael Chapman discusses the look of and influences on the visual style of the film, Practical Magic: The Special Effect Pod – a look at the creation of the special effects from the opening space sequence, original theatrical trailer, 52 page collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic David Cairns, as well as re-prints of classic articles including contemporary interviews with Philip Kaufman and W.D. Richter, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.

UK Release Date: 18th November 2013

Arrow Films – Website

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