Invasion Of The Body Snatchers [1978]

Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams
Director: Philip Kaufman

Edition Details: Region 2 encoding (Europe, Middle East & Japan only); PAL, Dubbed
Special Features
: Audio Commentary by director Philip Kaufman



invasion.jpg (10535 bytes)Ever watched on in helpless disbelief as your best friends turned into soulless materialist yuppies as the years progressed?

Um, well, OK ? so maybe that's just me.

Ever witnessed someone close to you, a friend or relative, do something so out of character that you wonder whether you ever knew that person at all in the first place?

Ah, now we're getting closer to the truth. This is the lasting appeal of Jack Finney's novel, "The Body Snatchers" and why its concept has inspired countless science fiction movies throughout the years - from three versions of the novel itself (in 1956, 1978 and 1994 as Body Snatchers by director Abel Ferrara of Bad Lieutenant fame) to Heinlein's The Puppet Masters (finally in 1994) and the 1980s remake of The Thing - all of them dealing with people being surreptitiously taken over by alien presences.

This 1978 version of the tale set in San Francisco along with John Carpenter's The Thing are the best of the bunch, proving that remakes need not be trash necessarily. However, the two movies couldn?t be more different: Invasion is virtually blood and gore-free and special effects are kept to a minimum. Instead we have a well-acted, brooding piece of paranoia.

In a sense it is the ultimate 1970s paranoid flick: everyone - the cops, your neighbors, the government, your colleagues and friends - is on it this time as a group of friends helplessly watch on everyone around them is taken over by aliens.

Along with Roman Polanski's underrated masterpiece The Tenant this has to count as being amongst the most paranoid films ever made about urban alienation (and hey, who never experienced that?) Kafka himself would have been proud . . .

THE DISC: This is the Region 2 (Europe, Middle East & Japan only) disc. Once again Region 2 seems to have gotten a raw deal as this disc seems to boast fewer extras than the Region 1 (U.S. & Canada) version. In addition to the Region 1 disc's audio commentary and theatrical trailer, the Region 1 disc also boasts production notes and a "Pod Culture" Retrospective ? whatever that might be.

While this DVD is definitely a step up on video, it unfortunately isn't as good as it could have been when it comes to image quality. There is some grain and artefacting during some night scenes (and there are a lot of those in this movie!), and this isn't an anamorphic transfer either.

Image quality isn't too bad, but there is room for improvement. Unfortunately this movie passed the opportunity to be re-issued as a ?25 Years Old? special edition or something or the other disc last year, so we'll just have to make do.

The audio commentary by director Philip (The Right Stuff) Kaufman has some quiet moments, and he seems to focus excessively on the film's noirish camera work (which is impressive, yes). One is left with the feeling that he could maybe have discussed some other aspects of the film's production. What did the story mean to him personally? How does this version differ from the novel and the 1950s version? Why remake it (actually it's more of a variation of themes than a strict remake)?

One gets the idea that for Kaufman the story might be a paean to the hippy ideal hence the San Francisco setting. (If it's about everyone in America turning into conformist and conservative Republicans, Kaufman didn't know half of it! Two years after this movie was released, Ronald Reagan would become president for two consecutive terms, followed by another term by Dubya's daddy. All in all twelve years of uninterrupted Republican rule!)

WORTH IT? Since its initial release, this version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers has undergone a critical reappraisal and is recognized as an underrated sci-fi and horror classic which is actually better than the original version.

RECOMMENDATION: At the least a rental. Otherwise add it to your collection of 1970s conspiracy flicks such as Capricorn One and The Conversation . . .



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