Every generation gets the Invasion of the Body Snatchers they deserve.
The fifties got the McCarthy referencing pod people.
The nineties got alienation and a bleak final scene.
And I guess the 2000s got The Invasion.
But the seventies?
The pre-millennial tension and end of the world coming soon seventies got director Phillip Kaufman’s blast of pure dread, working with talents like cinematographer Michael Chapman (who ran the camera on The Godfather and Jaws before creating the look of movies like Raging Bull, The Fugitive and directing All the Right Moves and The Clan of the Cave Bear) and sound designer Ben Burtt, the man who gave Star Wars all its well-remembered noises. As for the effects, as many of them as possible were done in camera.
A species has made its way to Earth and one of the first people to notice is Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams), who wakes to find her husband Dr. Geoffrey Howell (Art Hindle) is no longer the man that she’s spent so many days and nights with. The species — do I have to spoil it for you — takes over humans and assimilates them.
A co-worker, Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) wants to introduce Elizabeth to self-help author Dr. David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy) as a way of helping her handle this strange situation, but on the way, a man runs through the street screaming, “They’re coming! You’ll be next!” before being chased by a crowd and killed by a car.
That mystery man is Kevin McCarthy, the star of the original film, who one supposes has been running through America since the end of the last film. Even before the movie was finished, McCarthy told Kaufman that this movie was better than the one he was in. You can also see original director Don Siegel as a taxi driver later in the film.
The seventies were the me decade. So David believes that people behaving so different is their response to stress while Elizabeth just thinks this is how she’s being told her relationship is over. The truth is so much weirder as people begin to find partially formed doppelgangers of themselves and their friends.
By the end of the film, children are being taken for duplication, strange priests (Robert Duvall) swing as the world ends, dogs appear with human heads, women disintegrate in their lovers’ arms — the film takes the basic ideas of the original and makes them as horrifyingly real and unreal as they can be at the very same time.
Plus, there’s Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright, who between this and Alien really was on the forefront of late 20th century science fiction movies.
While Pauline Kael said that this “may be the best film of its kind ever made” and Variety wrote that it “validates the entire concept of remake,” Roger Ebert derided Kael’s love for the remake. But over time, this has become the example of a sequel that’s beyond the original in so many ways.
The true terror of this movie is the ending, which upset me utterly as a child. I’d never seen a movie end this way. Only Kaufman, writer W.D. Richter and Donald Sutherland knew how the film was going to end, so when Sutherland screams at Veronica Cartwright, her reaction is genuine. The hopeful ending that was scripted was never shot, because Kaufman knew that if the studio had the option, they’d pick that, just like they did with the first version of this story.
I’m so excited to have Invasion of the Body Snatchers in my library. It’s a movie that transcends era and genre and one I recommend that you view now if you haven’t and even if you have.
Kino Lorber’s re-release of Invasion of the Body Snatchers includes everything you need to fully savor this film, including a newly restored HD master from a 4K Scan of the original camera negative approved and color graded by director Philip Kaufman, who also provides a commentary track. There’s another track from author and film historian Steve Haberman, as well as interviews with Brooke Adams, W.D. Richter, composer Denny Zeitlin, Art Hindle, Jack Finney expert Jack Seabrook and featurettes such as Re-Visitors from Outer Space, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod, Practical Magic: The Special Effects Pod, The Man Behind the Scream: The Sound Effects Pod and The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod. There are also TV and radio spots and the trailer.
You can get this movie on blu ray or 4K UHD from Kino Lorber.