Oh man, what a wheeze! I first caught this movie on the box as a teenager and I had an absolute whale of a time whilst watching, the film really caught me by surprise. Sorry all you old-school purists out there 'cause I'll take this remake over the original any time, there's no competition as far as I'm concerned. It's got a great line-up - Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright and Leonard Nimoy. And there's also cameos from Robert Duvall, Kevin McCarthy (star of the original) and Don Siegel (director of the original) to keep your entertained eyes fully peeled for.
Philip Kaufman's sci-fi chiller has a pleasing sense of humour to go with it's almost film noir type look. I like the outrageously dark lighting levels and the back-lit characters which you can see at certain moments. The photography impresses with its use of some really great tracking shots, the heavy stylised use of shadows, generous amounts of steadycam work and many fun angles abound. IOTBS succeeds in making a normal city (San Francisco) and it's everyday inhabitants or situations look suspicious and the film paints a heavy paranoia feel throughout. It's very hard to take a modern-ish film which has alien space pods growing replacement emotionless humans too seriously so WD Richter and Kaufman were very wise to include a lot of their wry sense of humour in this movie.
For me personally, the pre-weightlifting Jeff Goldblum's kooky and neurotic writer character almost steals the flick. Of course we got used to seeing Goldblum carry on like that in all his later films as well but at the time, it must have been an entertainingly original performance for the audiences. Nimoy's logic bound psychiatrist ain't too far removed from Mr. Spock but it's still great to see the actor doing something slightly different. The four non-Nimoy leads are all either eccentric or highly emotional and passionate to counteract the weird emotionless state of all the alien pod replaced folks. As all of the cast are excellent here, it's probably somewhat unfair to single out Jeff's performance but it cracks me up so it's a definite highlight for me.
When you watch the film for the second time, you notice some great little details which probably escaped you on your initial viewing. Like the panicking smartly dressed man seen in the distance running down a street whilst being chased by what I presume to be pod people near the very beginning, or the garbage trucks or bins in the scene backgrounds being full of the strange and suspect fluff residue which is left behind after a person has been replicated and their old body shell collapses.
I've always enjoyed films where the heroes have to stay awake or die anyway, it's a pretty nasty idea and in a rather perverse way, I always find it enjoyable to watch likable sleepy characters suffering. I'm pleased to see a film like this being shot in practical locations quite so often, I sometimes get a bit fed up with the unnecessary use of sets in movies and it's also cool that the body snatchers are almost zombie like with crowds of them screaming and chasing our protagonist heroes. The effects are damn cool too, especially when you see the rank looking body snatchers growing to human size out of their pods. And as for that dog running around with a human head...!
MGM’s two-disc collector’s edition features a feature length commentary by Kaufman, as well as four featurettes that feature interviews with cast and crew, a look into the FX work that went into the film, and more.
This is certainly one of the better remakes of an earlier classic, congratulations to Philip Kaufman and to everyone else who was also involved in the project. BTW Great ending!!