The easy way to view The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is as an allegory about political mindset sweeping through a community. You stare around at people you thought you knew with a certain horror of how can they think this way. Kinda like when you see a group of “friends” posting the same article on Facebook without anyone trying to be ironic. But rewatching Phillip Kaufman’s remake of the original and my personal life experiences has given me a different perspective. This is a movie about what happens when a relationship goes bad. The film captures the moment when you wake up and haven’t a clue about the person sleeping next to you. They have become emotionally detached from you. All warmth and real emotions vanish from their face when you enter the room. Your formerly mutual friends also treat you with a certain indifference as they bond with your soon-to-be ex-lover. In the midst of this crisis, you’re searching for the pod or organic remains of the person you thought you had emotionally bonded to for the rest of your emotional life. This is the world Donald Sutherland and company encounter when they wake up to a changed San Francisco in 1978’s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Collector’s Edition.
On a distant planet, weird organisms roam a devastated planet. They lift up into space and find themselves on a solar wind heading towards Earth and landing on San Francisco. The creatures put down roots on various plants. People aren’t noticing the new weirdness that’s arrived in town since this is San Francisco in the late ’70s. This was the magical place where people went to let their freak flags fly in all kinda colors. Although these new arrivals going to change this attitude around.
Matthew Bennell (Hunger Games‘ Donald Sutherland) is pretty focused on his job as a city health inspector. He has few friends especially after finding a rat turd in a fancy French place’s special. He doesn’t quite notice that he’s getting a bit close to his co-worker Elizabeth Driscoll (Days of Heaven‘s Brooke Adams). She quickly notices the new arrival when her lover (Art Hindle) wakes up a changed man. He’s running around town meeting strangers and exchanging flowers. She thinks something is wrong. Matthew wants to calm her down by taking her to visit a psychiatrist (Star Trek‘s Leonard Nimoy) during his book signing. This gets things more paranoid as another woman swears her husband has dramatically changed. They also get an earful from a frustrated Jack Bellicec (The Fly‘s Jeff Goldblum) who hates the success of the writer. He has to wind down at a mud bath run by his wife (Alien‘s Veronica Cartwright). Slowly this quartet realize that they can’t trust anyone in San Francisco as everyone around them has lost their emotions. The aliens are turning the city into squares that are concerned about home gardening.
The remake does a stellar job of updating the original for the times and giving it a bigger space. Director Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff) pays proper homage to the original with two great casting moments. First is the arrival of original actor Kevin McCarthy in a critical part. That’s the easy thing to notice. Very few people caught on to the identity of a taxi driver during an escape scene. Turns out this is previous director Don Siegel (Dirty Harry). The film really captures the paranoia as the pod people take over the city. Director of photography Michael Chapman goes beyond his work on Taxi Driver in capturing the emotions of Sutherland’s face. He also brings out the distancing effect as the foursome must deal with all their friends becoming alien to them. The sound amps up the intensity as humans get replaced by pod people. This is the perfect film about what people emotionally go through when relationships sour. These touches make this more than just a studio cashing in on an established title. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an adaption the honors the original and elevates the material on all levels.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out Chapman’s amazing dark scenes so things don’t get completely lost in the shadows. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The mix really brings up the fear levels. There’s also a 2.0 DTS-HD of the original stereo mix. The film is subtitled.
Star-Crossed In the Invasion (9:06) lets Brooke Adams discuss how she wasn’t a fan of the original when she was cast in the remake. She got to write her own scene.
Leading The Invasion (25:04) is an Interview With Actor Art Hindle. The actor had read the book when it came out and his mom took him to see the original film. He was a fan excited to be in the movie.
Re-Creating The Invasion (15:43) allows writer W.D. Richter to explain how he was brought on board to modernize the science fiction classic. The producer brought him on before Phillip Kaufman was signed. The two were pals so it was a good relationship. This was a lower budget film that required a script that wasn’t going to go for too much cash.
Scoring The Invasion (15:43) conducts a chat with Composer Denny Zeitlin. The jazz performer and composer had never done a movie before. He had recorded an amazing piece for Sesame Street. This was his only score having turned down films afterward. He mixed electronic instruments. He also admits that Jerry Garcia contributed to one musical moment.
Audio Commentaries include one with Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman and another with Director Philip Kaufman. Haberman ties this into the other remakes. Kaufman explains how he got a cameo from Robert Duvall (The Godfather).
Re-Visitors From Outer Space, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Pod (16:14) covers the film with interviews with Director Philip Kaufman, Screenwriter W.D. Richter, Director Of Photography Michael Chapman And actors Donald Sutherland And Veronica Cartwright. There’s a lot of discussion how the original version had more comedy in it. The studio didn’t like the mix of laughter and horror so they had to slice out the lighter moments. Kinda sad that they can’t make a director’s cut. He discusses how Kevin McCarthy’s cameo was an extension of his role in the original. So maybe this movie is secretly a sequel.
Practical Magic: The Special Effects Pod (4:38) lets Kaufman discuss how they made the special effects with very little cash. The moon shot was made on a piece plywood. The pod effects were made in reverse.
The Man Behind The Scream: The Sound Effects Pod (12:47) voices off with special sound effects wizard Ben Burtt And Sound Editor Bonnie Koehler. The scream was quite horrific for the time. The sound did so much to make the invasion feel so real.
The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod (5:24) is how Michael Chapman captured a film noir look in full color. Chapman talks about capturing a cinematic paranoia. Chapman deserves a lifetime Oscar for his work.
“Time Is Just A Place” (25:53) is an episode of Science Fiction Theatre based On Jack Finney’s Short Story with Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon) as director. This is about the strange neighbor of Don DeFore (Hazel).
Theatrical Trailer (2:13) promises a creatures from a dying world visiting us to adapt and survive. Very effective.
TV Spots (1:02) is very experiemental with use of stills and chaotic soundtrack.
Radio Spots (4:46) feature reviews read over the most chilling parts of the soundtracks.
Photo Gallery (6:17) is dozens of production photos and promotional items.
Scream Factory presents Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Directed by: Philip Kaufman. Screenplay by: W.D. Richter. Starring: Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright. Running Time: 115 minutes. Rated: PG. Released: August 2, 2016.
Tags: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Scream Factory