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Feature


San Francisco health inspectors Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) and Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) discover a major health crisis in the form of alien spores. It turns out that the spores become pods, and grab onto people when they are sleeping to create a perfect physical clone. The clone’s host is then exterminated. The process is changing the entire cities population into emotionless army of Pod People. Of course, none of the people around them believe the tall tale.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (78)
This new viewing of the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers brings up two very important questions – 1. What is the greatest remake of all time, and 2. Who is America’s must underrated directorial talent of the late ’70-‘80s era? What wars rage over such subjects, but I’d like to humbly toss both Body Snatchers and director Philip Kaufman to the top of these piles. The case for remake value is the easiest to argue against. The film itself starts a mini-tidal wave of classic horror remakes – The Thing, The Fly and The Blob – all of which must top someone’s best remake list. Then there’s all the old stuff you didn’t even know were remakes, like The Maltese Falcon, House of Wax, or  Mutiny on the Bounty. There are also those who’d lea towards a more modern pick like Dawn of the Dead, Ring or The Departed, but I like to think Body Snatchers comes in a close third behind The Fly and The Thing (too many memories). It isn’t a sequel to the original film, but it doesn’t play out as a clone either, bringing something new to the plot and all important subtext (it’s not Communists we have to fear, it’s the ‘Me Generation’, making the film a perfect double feature with the original Dawn of the Dead). And is one of the only horror films of the 1970s that still genuinely frightens me to this day.

This leads me to question number 2 and Philip Kaufman. The guy hasn’t made very many movies, but most of his quests have turned dramatic gold. Other directors may have made dozens of movies, but how many of them can lay claim to The Right Stuff and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. And yet Kaufman is still a relative unknown to no-obsessive fan types, even after a tasty comeback flick like Quills (OK, I surely Twisted didn’t do him any favours). Body Snatchers isn’t his masterwork ( The Right Stuff is about a fly’s tongue from a perfect film), but it’s a damn fine earlier effort. Kaufman of course owes a load of the film success to the divinely touched, diverse, and unexpected cast featuring top performances from Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and a cheeky Leonard Nimoy. The actors play what could be seen as some of the goofiest sci-fi schlock strait as an arrow, and as human as possible. For his part, Kaufman sets the so tightly certain scenes are almost unbearable.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (78)

Video


Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a really dark film, dark enough that even 1080p video can’t make it any easier to tell what’s going on sometimes. There are times when this new transfer becomes sharper than the old DVD release, but in all I’d say the transfers are pretty comparable. Grain is lessened and certainly finer than the DVD, but there’s still plenty of it to go around. I didn’t catch any major compression artefacts, there’s no edge enhancement. Colours are natural and clean, but thanks to the dependence on minimal light nothing ever really pops. I’d say that video-wise it’d take a pretty sharp eye and huge set to dive in for the double dip, assuming you own the anamorphic release.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (78)

Audio


Sound is a very import piece to the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and sounds great in DTS-HD Master Audio, thanks to an already special Dolby Surround. Star Wars sound-star Ben Burtt really embraces the abstract for the film, which makes it all the more frightening. Heart beats are an integral part of the mix, and the LFE bump allows these scenes to throb. Besides the overwhelming nature of the abstract effects and music, there aren’t a lot of directional effects, but the pod people shriek definitely surrounds the viewer. The dynamic nature of the noise

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (78)

Extras


‘Revisitors from Outer Space, or How I Stopped Worrying and Loved the Pod’ (16:30, SD) is a solid retrospective featured, Discussion includes working with original director Don Siegel, the psychological aspects, metaphors, casting, location choices, cameos, and the final shot. ‘Practical Magic’ (4:40.SD) covers the film’s budget special effects, from top to bottom. ‘The Man Behind the Screams’ (12:50, SD) is, like most Ben Burtt features, a pleasant discussion with the sound designer. ‘The Invasion will be Televised’ (5:20, SD) covers Taxi Driver and Raging Bull cinematographer Michael Chapman’s contributions to the film, and his inspirations. Things end with the original theatrical trailer.

Apparently out of laziness the collection’s producer’s had some problem moving over all the extras from the special edition, so you get that with the included DVD. The track features Kaufman whose soothing voice softly rolling out basic behind the scenes information (covered mostly in the featurettes). There are nice anecdotes, funny stories, and few blank spaces.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (78)

Overall


Having been remade four times already, this is the best version of the story, followed very closely by the 1956 original. Abel Ferrara’s 1993 version has a clever premise (co-written by Larry Cohen), and is truly frightening at some points, but is, like Ferrara’s other films a bit ‘challenging’ in terms of pace. I’ve not seen the Oliver Hirschbiegel flop The Invasion but haven’t heard anything good. I’m gonna call this release only if you don’t have the DVD, otherwise there basically the same thing.

Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


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