Reviewed by MattFini
Starring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, Leonard Nimoy
Directed by Philip Kaufman
Here is the first movie I can recall watching in its entirety as a kid that scared the ever long shit out of me. My mother, being among the strictest parental presences ever, deemed this to be an acceptable viewing experience for me – a child of six years old at the time. Her criteria? She recalled Don Siegal’s brilliant original from her own youth and figured this one couldn’t be all that bad, either. Not with its PG rating and pedigree cast, after all.
Cut to me, two hours later, terrified to fall asleep. My mind wide with a crazy barrage of images: the creepy transference to pod person, a smirking and fully nude Brooke Adams – complete with her seductive attempts to claim Donald Sutherland and, of course, that absolutely terrifying dog with a human’s face. I was already on the edge of my seat before that horrifying final shot and, to be perfectly honest, that one still gives me the creeps today.
Partly because director Philip Kaufman approaches the material brilliantly, applying a noir sheen to the proceedings. Things are horribly amiss in the opening scene and Kaufman lets the audience know looooong before our protagonists stumble onto the invasion. Spent pods are constantly being discarded and strange behavior is simply written off as being exactly that: strange. It’s the old Hitchcock bomb under the table adage and Kaufman uses it to begin crafting tension and suspense right out of the gate. Waiting for Donald Sutherland to wise up and realize what we already know is part of the fun and it holds up perfectly today.
Kaufman’s approach to the pod people is beyond creepy too. Instead of showing their faces he wisely chooses to convey them as an amorphous mass of conspirators. When aliens give chase, we see their legs and feet. The bob and weave in and out of shadows. But we never see them. It creates a spooky feeling of uncertainty as we’re not quite sure just how far this conspiracy extends. It’s not until the final act, when some of the characters we’ve come to care about get ‘snatched’ do we see their faces and by then, we’re just rooting for our heroes to get the hell out of dodge.
Jack Finney’s source novel The Body Snatchers has been adapted four times and while I’ve enjoyed each version on their own terms (even the oft-maligned Nicole Kidman vehicle The Invasion had some great moments), Philip Kaufman’s remains the best. Thirty plus years after its release it remains … creepy. A great cast doesn’t hurt matters but Kaufman absolutely nailed this one. Just remember, they’re not coming … they’re already here.
MGM brings Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Blu-ray with an MPEG -4 encode that fares a bit better than their simultaneous Return of the Living Dead release. It looks like there’s a bit of compression noise mixed in with the film grain but this release looks pretty good in high definition. Textures are strong (so much so that you can see the individual hairs on Donald Surtherland’s moustache – if you’re into that sort of thing), creating an immersive experience that details clothing fibers and strong exterior detail. There’s a bit of crushing going on with black levels (as they’re occasionally a weak grayish hue) but, for the most part, this is a nice little HD transfer that should please fans of the film.
The DTS HD 5.1 track is another welcome surprise. Rear channels are constantly producing ambient noise and music while dialogue is separated clearly through the front channels. Nothing to complain about here.
Supplement-wise, this is the same content offered on MGM’s last DVD release. The commentary by director Kaufman (a holdover from the original 90’s release) is a bit disappointing for how dry it is. The featurette, Re-Visitors From Outer Space, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod, runs 16 minutes and features a somewhat superficial look back at the film through selected cast/crew interviews. The Man Behind the Scream: The Sound Effects Pod examines the film’s terrifying sound design through interviews with Ben Burtt and Bonnie Koehler. Two brief, five-minute, featurettes discuss the pod FX and their impact on pop culture. Rounding out this set is a trailer and a non-anamorphic DVD copy of the film (MGM must’ve had tons in a warehouse somewhere).
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a modern horror classic and MGM gives us a high definition version of it with rock solid PQ/AQ. The extras are a bit on the disposable side but you simply cannot do any wrong with taking this movie for a spin this Halloween weekend. It gets under your skin and stays there for the duration.
5 out of 5
3 out of 5
Discuss Invasion of the Body Snatchers in the comments section below!