Of all of the paranoid sci-fi thrillers I’ve seen, to this day nothing tops Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake of the 50’s B-movie classic “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. I still find this movie as creepy today as I did when I saw it nearly over three decades ago as an impressionable wee-lad whose father made the mistake of thinking Kaufman’s update would be as goofy and harmless as its progenitor. Wrong, dad! Wrong!
Opening with an admittedly dated looking mass exodus of seedlings floating toward Earth, Invasion of the Body Snatchers doesn’t waste any time before throwing its protagonists into a full-blown alien conspiracy, as the seedlings soon give way to perfect recreations (well, almost perfect) of human beings. When Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) begins to suspect that her husband is no longer her husband, she turns to her co-worker, Matthew (Donald Sutherland), and his friend, renowned psychologist, Dr. David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy), who assures Liz that all of her paranoid fantasies are just that; fantasies. However, when Matthew begins to notice other people complaining about their friends, lovers, and family members in the same way, he finds himself believing Liz’s claims. When Matt narrowly rescues her from her husband’s attempts to sacrifice her to the alien invaders, the couple find themselves pursued through the streets of San Francisco by an army of shrieking pod people, and staying awake is their only chance for survival.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is such a kinetically shot, urgently paced film that it’s hard not to get caught up in the plight of Kaufman’s heroes, especially Sutherland, who is fantastic as Matthew (look no further than the scene in which Matt calls for the police and the operator assures him that help is on the way. “I didn’t give you my name! How do you know my name?”). Buoyed by an excellent supporting cast that also includes Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright (no one does hysterical like Veronica Cartwright!), as well as one of the craziest scores this side of Jerry Goldsmith’s Planet of the Apes soundtrack, Snatchers has held up amazingly well, despite (or, perhaps, thanks in part to) it’s age and occasionally wonky special effects.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory, who presents the film in a spectacular Collector’s Edition set that sports not a stunning new transfer taken from a 2K scan of the film’s original interpositive. Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this is easily the best Kaufman’s film has looked or sounded on any home media. The image is incredibly crisp and detailed, with rich blacks, natural looking colors, and a fine sheen of cinematic grain. This is complimented by an expertly mixed audio track that highlights the film’s inherently creepy soundscape in a balanced, full-sounding affair.
Bonus features include several new goodies as well as many carryovers from MGM’s excellent two-disc collector’s edition from several years back, including a feature length commentary by Kaufman, as well as four featurettes that sport interviews with cast and crew, a look into the FX work that went into the film, and more. New goodies include a commentary track by film historian Steve Haberman, as well as new interview segments with Art Hindle, Brooke Adams, and more! Here’s the complete rundown from Scream:
— NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
— NEW Star-Crossed In The Invasion – An Interview With Actress Brooke Adams
— NEW Leading The Invasion – An Interview With Actor Art Hindle
— NEW Re-Creating The Invasion – An Interview With Writer W.D. Richter
— NEW Scoring The Invasion – An Interview With Composer Denny Zeitlin
— NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman
— Audio Commentary By Director Philip Kaufman
— Re-Visitors From Outer Space, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Pod – Including Interviews With Director Philip Kaufman, Screenwriter W.D. Richter, Director Of Photography Michael Chapman And Actors Donald Sutherland And Veronica Cartwright
— Practical Magic: The Special Effects Pod
— The Man Behind The Scream: The Sound Effects Pod – An Interview With Ben Burtt And Sound Editor Bonnie Koehler
— The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod
— An episode of SCIENCE FICTION THEATRE, “Time Is Just A Place,” Based On Jack Finney’s Short Story, Directed By Jack Arnold
— Theatrical Trailer
— TV Spots
— Radio Spots
— Photo Gallery
While we’ve seen Jack Finney’s novel adapted to the screen a number of ways (including Abel Ferrara’s “Body Snatchers”, Robert Rodriguez’s “The Faculty”, 2007’s “The Invasion”, etc.) I can’t imagine anyone recreating the absolute sense of hysteria and dread that Kaufman managed to capture with this sci-fi/horror classic, and, for folks looking for some primo retro chills, I give Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition my Highest Possible Recommendation!