Saturday, 9 November 2013

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) Pre-Release Blu-ray Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By W.D. Richter
Based on the Novel By Jack Finney
Directed By Philip Kaufman

A Solofilm Film

Science Fiction, Horror


Donald Sutherland as Matthew Bennell
Brooke Adams as Elizabeth Driscoll
Jeff Goldblum as Jack Bellicec
Veronica Cartwright as Nancy Bellicec
Leonard Nimoy as Dr. David Kibner
Art Hindle as Dr. Geoffrey Howell, DDS

Certificate 15


When health official Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) notices that her lover has become strangely distant, this sets in train a series of shocking discoveries that sees both her and colleague Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) fleeing for their lives to the sound of ear-piercing alien screams.

Remakes of great films are usually on a hiding to nothing, but Philip Kaufman’s brilliant update of the 1956 classic is a rare and memorable exception. Transposing the action to the heart of San Francisco allows Kaufman to retain all the suspense of Jack Finney’s original story while adding caustic social commentary about the selfishness of the 1970s “me generation” that remains all too relevant today.

But it’s a paranoid thriller first and foremost, based on one of the most psychologically terrifying of all premises – what happens when you can no longer trust not just the authorities but even your nearest and dearest?

Special Features
  • Audio commentary with director Philip Kaufman
  • Discussing the Pod: A new panel conversation about ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ and invasion cinema featuring critic Kim Newman and filmmakers Ben Wheatley and Norman J. Warren
  • Dissecting the Pod: A new interview with Kaufman biographer Annette Insdorf
  • Writing the Pod: A new interview with Jack Seabrook, author of ‘Stealing through Time: On the Writings of Jack Finney’ about Finney’s original novel ‘The Body Snatchers
  • Re-Visitors from Outer Space: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod – a documentary on the making of the film featuring Philip Kaufman, Donald Sutherland, writer W.D. Richter and more
  • The Man Behind the Scream: The Sound Effects Pod – a look at the film’s pioneering sound effects
  • The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod – cinematographer Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) discusses the look of and influences on the visual style of the film
  • Practical Magic: The Special Effect Pod – A look at the creation of the special effects from the opening space sequence
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh [Amaray version only] 
  • 52-page collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic David Cairns, as well as re-prints of classic articles including contemporary interviews with Philip Kaufman and W.D. Richter, illustrated with original archive stills and posters


As a massive fan of the original movie, this one had a very big legacy to live up to and you know what?  It definitely did that.  In fact, I would even say that this 1970's version is on a par with the original for the sheer creepiness factor.

With this version, directed by Philip Kaufman, the movie really creeps under the viewers skin and stays there for the entire duration of the movie itself.  I loved how from the very beginning, you knew something wasn't quite right.  I would even go so far as to say that the movie isn't just a science fiction movie about an alien invasion, it's way more than that.  It's really got that doom leaden feeling that was so popular in 1970's movies.

That feeling of doom and dread through out the film hooks the viewer in and really doesn't let go.  You find yourself getting slowly and surely drawn in to the lives of the characters themselves and that is down in equal measure  to both the writing and the cast themselves.

One of the highlights of the movie is the performance by Donald Sutherland.  At first sight you just write his character off as a bit of an old fuddy duddy because of how he is at his job but then he starts to have a laugh and a joke with the character Elizabeth, played by Brooke Adams, you find yourself warming to him.  It's the same with the performance by Brooke Adams.  It's a real shame that she didn't become a bigger success in the movies because she really is a fantastic actress and this movie shows that.

However, that's not the strongest part of the movie itself.  That's the amazing cinematography by Michael Chapman.  Famous for 'Taxi Driver' and 'Raging Bull', Chapman makes the movie look grimy, creepy and slightly off kilter adding to the uneasy feeling that the viewer gets.  He never goes for the stereotypical angle when filming a scene, instead going for some strange angles and shots that really shouldn't work but when done by a man of his talent they really do.

Once again, Arrow Films shine like a star with the amount of special features they put on this release.  They really do go all out with the special features when they release the classic movies and this one is no different.  The sheer amount of choice here is staggering and, if I'm completely honest, there's not a single bad addition to that side of the release.  It's definitely on the same impressive level as their fantastic 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2' release earlier this year and the readers to this side know how much that one impressed me.

All in all, this is a rare movie for one reason.  It's a remake that actually works and not only works but matches the quality of the original movie.  The very strong performances and intelligent writing combine with the creepy cinematography to create one of the creepiest movies I've seen in a long time.

Movie 9/10
Picture 8/10
Sound 9/10
Special Features 10/10
Overall 36/40

'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' is released on 18th November 2013 

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