Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978.
Directed by Philip Kaufman.
Starring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright.
Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a minor classic that has received a nice Collector’s Edition treatment on Blu-ray by Shout! Factory, who commissioned a new 2K scan of the film, along with some new interviews. They’ve also included the bonus features found on previous North American home video releases.
For some reason, the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with Matthew (Donald Sutherland) and Nancy (Veronica Cartwright) confronting each other, has stuck with me ever since I saw it as a kid. (I’ll avoid spoiling the specifics of the ending in case you haven’t seen the movie.) I’ve also always remembered it as a commentary on the strife of the 1970s, although the bonus features on this new Blu-ray from Shout! Factory have disabused me of that notion.
If you’ve never seen this 1978 remake of the 50s classic, it’s worth a shot, at least as a rental, and this new Shout! Factory release is a worthy purchase for fans of the movie. It stars Sutherland and Brooke Adams as friends who find themselves in a situation where everyone they know is being taken over one by one by alien organisms that turn them into monotone pod people.
Leonard Nimoy also stars as a haughty psychologist who’s a few shades removed from his well-known Star Trek character, and Jeff Goldblum joins the proceedings as a failed poet who owns a mud bath spa with Nancy. Don Siegel and Kevin McCarthy, who directed and starred in the original film, respectively, have cameos, as does Robert Duvall. (McCarthy’s character ran down a road in the original to warn people about the pod people, and he does the same in this one; director Philip Kaufman jokes in one of the bonus features that his character ran for 20 years.)
The movie is notable for its use of creepy sound work and Hitchcock-like cinematography to create an uneasy environment that doesn’t need high-end special effects to get its point across. The story is set in San Francisco, rather than the small town of the original movie and the Jack Finney novel on which it was based, a decision which Kaufman and screenwriter W.D. Richter explain was made to comment on the idea of cities as impersonal places where it’s too easy to become part of a faceless herd.
Shout! commissioned some new interviews for this release, separated into individual interviews with Richter, Adams, composer Denny Zeitlin, and actor Art Hindle, along with a new 2K scan of the film and a new audio commentary with writer and film historian Steve Haberman. The interviews are all worthwhile since, other than Richter, the participants hadn’t been approached for Q&As on previous home video releases, at least as far as I know. Haberman’s track is essentially a lecture about the history of the movie, as well as bios of Richter, Kaufman, and others in the movie.
Shout! also ported over the bonus features from MGM’s previous Blu-ray release, along with the audio commentary Kaufman recorded for the movie’s original 1998 DVD. Kaufman’s track is a nice scene-specific recollection of the making of the movie; he offers a good mix of technical details and remembrances.
The other bonus features include interviews with Kaufman, Sutherland, Richter, Cartwright, and Director of Photography Michael Chapman in a featurette called Re-Visitors From Outer Space. Famed sound effects guy Ben Burtt (Google the Wilhelm scream, if you don’t know what that is) also offers his recollections, as does specific effects guy Howard Preston, who explains how, among other things, a $10 bucket of goop allowed him to create the alien creatures in the opening sequence.
Finally, we have the theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, and a photo gallery. There’s also an episode of the 1950s TV series Science Fiction Theatre that’s based on a short story written by Finney.
There was a 2013 UK Blu-ray that has more bonus features, including a panel conversation about the movie, but I assume that rights issues, or perhaps costs, prevented Shout! from including those materials here. That’s a bummer, but the company certainly deserves credit for doing more for the fans than the big studios often do for lesser-known films these days.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★