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Shortly after Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) discovers a strange
plant in her San Francisco-area yard that she cannot identify, her
boyfriend begins acting strangely--he looks the same, but Elizabeth
swears he's a different person. Before long, more and more people are
claiming the same thing about their friends and relatives. Just what is
going on? Although not quite as good as the original Invasion of the
Body Snatchers (1956), this remake is very interesting and well worth a
watch. Some things it does better than the original, although slightly
more is not done as well. But it is full or intriguing ideas, some
beautiful cinematography, and quite a few quirky charms.
One oddity about this film is that it seems to assume that very few people will watch who aren't already familiar with the original. Scripter W.D. Richter and director Philip Kaufman give away the "twist" immediately, and there are a number of statements from characters in this film (such as the first time we hear the advice to not fall asleep) that only make sense if one already knows from Don Siegel's original just why they shouldn't fall asleep. For this reason, I strongly recommend that anyone interested in this film who hasn't seen it yet should make sure they watch the original first.
The opening shots, which firmly set this remake into sci-fi territory, are a great idea, even if the execution is somewhat questionable. I'm not sure that Kaufman's "art gel" works, and the way it moves through space, as if blown by trade winds, is slightly hokey. But I'm willing to forgive a misstep if it's in service of a great idea, and especially if the misstep is the result of budgetary limitations.
Early in the film, the major asset is the cinematography. There is an excellent, slow tracking shot down a hallway, where we only see our main character by way of her feet and a slight reflection in a window. There are a lot of great "tilted" shots. There are a lot of subtle lighting effects to set mood, and a just as many subtle instances of symbolism for the horrors to come.
The cast, featuring Adams, Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy and Veronica Cartwright, is an interesting combination of stars who tend to give idiosyncratic performances. Kaufman exploits the collection of personalities well, although occasionally gives us odd "everyone talk at once" scenes which can verge on the brink of annoying. Although I'm not usually the biggest fan of Goldblum (in some roles, such as The Fly, I like him, in some roles he tends to irritate me), I noted an odd similarity between him in this film and an actor and performance I'm much more fond of--David Duchovny and his X-Files character Fox Mulder.
Speaking of that, there is a strong X-Files vibe to this film overall. Whereas the original Invasion had thinly veiled subtexts of fear and doubts of "The Other"--whether politically-rooted (the common analysis is that the original Invasion was a subtext for U.S. fears of communism), religiously-rooted (some see it as a parable about cults, or religions in general) or simply about personal identity (in a philosophical sense of "Who am I/are you?" "What makes one oneself?"), Kaufman's take has stronger subtexts of encroaching mental illness--fear of losing one's mind and a generalized, "clinical" paranoia.
Given that difference, it's perhaps odd that there are so many similarities between the two films. The character structure and relationships are largely the same, with some mostly insignificant differences, including slightly different occupations. There are many scenes taken almost verbatim from the original film, often only with differences of setting, but staged the same, with similar scenarios and occasionally identical dialogue. There is even a wonderful moment where Kevin McCarthy, star of the original film, comes running down the street, screaming that we're all doomed.
A number of quirky moments push the value of Kaufman's film up a notch. These are sprinkled throughout the film, but some highlights are a Robert Duvall cameo as a priest inexplicably on a swingset next to toddlers, the "mud bath" parlor, a brief spurt of marvelous, Zappa-sounding avant-garde classical as we witness a chase down a staircase, and a greenhouse in a shipping yard, through which Elizabeth eventually strolls naked, casually walking by employees. The "creature" effects may be better here than in the original, but they are not more effective for that.
But overall, this is a great film. Just make sure you don't miss the superior original.
You gotta love the '70's! It was really the golden age of cinema. '70's
movies were real, gritty, they had a sense of realism, had an unusual
and often revolutionary style of movie-making. Many of the best movies
ever made are from the '70's. Not sure if "Invasion of the Body
Snatchers" classifies as one of THE best movies ever but it certainly
is one of the very best alien invasion movies ever made and therefor
remains still one of the very best movies out of its genre.
The realism turns out to be a perfect combination with the horror and science-fiction elements in the movie. It makes the movie haunting and makes us really feel with all of the characters. Their fear becomes sensible and their actions understandable. Nothing 'big' or 'impressive' is ever shown and very little is explained in the movie. The movie and how the events unravel are totally told from the main characters view point. None of the main characters are 'heroes' and instead they are just normal every day persons. Those two elements are the main reason why this movie is so realistic and haunting to watch. It also is the reason why alien invasion movies made present day fail to impress ("Independence Day", Spielberg's "War of the Worlds") They are all told 'big', with special effects and lots of violence with big name actors in them. They are made for entertainment and most of them surely also work well as entertainment, especially in my opinion "Independence Day" which I, unlike many others, find to be a very entertaining and good movie to watch. Those movies are surely good and entertaining enough and its not the cast or crews fault that those recent movies fail to impress the general audience, it's just that those movies were made in the wrong decade and it misses the '70's touch that makes the movies so gritty, raw and realistic to watch.
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is told slow and things happen in a low pace. Since nothing is really explained as the movie unravels, you never really fully understand what is happening and why. It gives the movie an almost paranoid kind of atmosphere, which helps to make this movie more of an horror movie than a science-fiction movie, even though the story itself is obviously fictional. The story to be honest is quite far fetched and perhaps even ridicules at moments but due to the realistic and slow way it is told, none of this matters. It helps to make this movie one of the most haunting ones ever created, also due to its unforgettable haunting ending that is one of the very best out of cinema history, it really is!
The typical unusual '70's cinematography is from Michael Chapman. Leave it up to Chapman to give a movie a realistic look and feeling. ("Taxi Driver", "Raging Bull", "The Fugitive")
The cast of the movie is great. Like every good genre movie from the '70's, it has Donald Sutherland in the main lead. He plays an average, not perfect guy, which again adds to the realism and our involvement with the character. Other fine roles are being played by Veronica Cartwright, Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Goldblum in one of his first really big role.
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is way more than just another average, unlikely alien invasion movie. It's brilliantly told, crafted, acted, thoughtful, haunting and realistic. '70's film-making at its very best and it makes this movie still one of the very best out of its genre.
This is a solid horror/sci-fi story with good production values. Those
values include outstanding direction by Philip Kaufman, camera-work by
Michael Chapman and acting. The cast of main characters was comprised
of Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum and
Veronica Cartwright. Of the group, Sutherland had the most lines and
was the most impressive. All of it added up to a pretty classy film, a
lot more than you'd except reading the movie title.
There was some profanity and nudity so maybe it wasn't totally classy, but the profanity was light and the nudity was a few shots of Adams' breasts.
The movie clicked because it built up the suspense beautifully, and proved you don't need a lot of violence and gore to scare the viewer. Too bad modern filmmakers of horror films can't seem to understand that. In fact the scariest thing of the movie - and it WAS scary - might have been the eerie noises emanating from the "re-born" humans.
The photography is good and I loved the facial closeups and interesting camera angles. The film is a visual treat. The original film in 1956 is a good one but it's generally conceded this re-make is superior. The star of that first film, by the way - Kevin McCarthy, makes a cameo appearance in here. That was a nice touch.
The original 'Invasion Of The Body Snatchers' is one of my favourite thrillers of all time, and a very hard movie to top. I'm always sceptical about remakes of classic horror and SF films, but this version by Philip Kaufman is much better than one would expect, and ALMOST as good as the original. I still think Don Siegel's version is the best because it really evokes small town life in middle America, and that makes the horror and suspense all the more effective. Kaufman transplants the setting to San Francisco and the big city location means it loses its sense of intimacy and community, and instead has more of an alienated urban feel to it. But it's still an excellent movie, and along with Cronenberg's 'The Fly' and Carpenter's 'The Thing' the most successful remake of a 1950s horror classic to date. What really helps this movie is the cast. Donald Sutherland, one of the 1970s most interesting and intelligent actors, is excellent in the main role, played by Kevin McCarthy in the first film. And the lovely Brooke Adams ('Days Of Heaven', 'The Dead Zone', 'The Unborn') is first rate as the main female lead, her role being much more substantial than Dan Wynter's in the original. I've had a major crush on Adams ever since I first saw this movie. She is beautiful but goofy and I really thought she was going to be a major star. The supporting cast is excellent, led by the wonderful Jeff Goldblum and 'Alien's Veronica Cartwright, and of course Leonard Nimoy, in his most memorable non-Trek role. Also keep an eye out for cameos by the star and director of the original version (Kevin McCarthy and Don 'Dirty Harry' Siegel), and a very brief but eerie one by Robert Duvall! 'Invasion Of The Body Snatchers' is a superb example of how to remake a horror classic, and is one of the creepiest and most nerve-wracking thrillers of the 1970s. I highly recommend it and the original 'Body Snatchers', they are two of the scariest movies ever made!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even more than the original film, which channeled a mounting zeitgeist of suspicion in a way that some found to be vaguely reminiscent of McCarthyism, the 1978 "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" relies on a paranoia that was distinctly related to the 1970s. In other words, it's re-envisioned as my favorite genre of all: what I call the "70s Doom Film".
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" presents an adventure that has few equals in movies of this type, an adventure that finds our main characters staying awake together at night, dashing down dark alleys and hiding behind shipping crates, whisking away in taxicabs, and hiding under desks in darkened offices after hours. Philip Kaufman has given us a vision of an entire city gradually giving way to a conspiracy helmed by extraterrestrial plant life that has randomly fallen from the sky to take root on the Earth, duplicating human beings (and destroying them in the process).
The reason this movie is so effective, and one of the reasons why I love it so much, is that the characters are all lovably odd. Donald Sutherland's Matthew seems like a real stone-faced health inspector who berates a snobbish restaurateur about finding a "rat turd" in the grain, until you see him talking to Elizabeth and cracking jokes about the job. Elizabeth, played by the wonderful Brooke Adams, is a little offbeat, laughing nervously a lot and rolling her eyes in a bizarre manner. Jack and Nancy Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright) are completely off-the-wall, Jack being the tortured poet and Nancy buying into outlandish theories of alien colonization and health food while compulsively reading novels written by authors who were more than likely tripping on acid. We believe them as odd but genuine characters in real situations, particularly the touching romance between Elizabeth and Matthew. Specifically, they are people with oddball characteristics in danger of having those differences stripped bare by the alien pod life. This film is a real credit to all of the talent involved in it.
The tense and increasingly grim third act finds our heroes on the run from people whom they may have suspected all along of wanting to harm them. Shots of prowling police are interspersed with seemingly ordinary people who have suddenly taken on an ominous attitude. The fact that a good portion of it takes place without dialog shouldn't be a liability, but it is here that the film begins to bog down a bit, and I think it's because Kaufman so effectively portrays the exhaustion of the characters that this begins to transfer to the audience as well. Like the contagious quality of a yawn, the desperation that Matthew and Elizabeth feel becomes pervasive.
What seals this movie's place in history as something that freaked a lot of people out in the 70s is the fact the conclusion is so downbeat and agonizingly bleak. There is no happy ending for anybody; the characters we grow to like are systematically worn down until their fight is gone and their very need to sleep forces them to succumb. The tragedy of Elizabeth's conversion to a pod seems very real, especially when we see her soulless clone rising up out of the weeds like an ugly vine. The starkness of her nudity, and the utter disregard that the other pods have for it, strikes at a bleakness that is far more terrifying than anything else in the film. Likewise, the final confrontation between the converted Matthew and the still-human Nancy is chilling not only because of the horrendous scream that she is met with, but also because of the naiveté that does her in. As she crosses the street, you can see her smiling at Matthew in a conspiratorial way, never dreaming that he could have become a pod himself. The way his face morphs into the grimace of one of the pod people represents a betrayal of the worst kind. It suggests the very real fear that even our most trusted friends and lovers can suddenly become different overnight, turning on us for reasons unknown.
Kaufman's dark fantasy has tapped into these emotions with stunning ease, and he has created a beautiful, heartbreaking, and lyrical film that is loaded with good stuff. Any serious fan of film or the horror/sci-fi genre in particular should find this a really witty, funny, and sometimes horrifying experience.
Phillip Kaufman's adaptation of Jack Finney's classic novel had a lot
to live up to after the classic 1956 take on it - and I think it lived
up to expectations. Though not as great as the more politically
orientated original, Kaufman's film is still a lesson in suspense and
the central story has lost none of the intrigue that it captured in the
original. The story follows an alien life form that has come from outer
space and taken residence here on earth. Not content with living in
sibilance with humans, the aliens become 'body snatchers' and make
duplications of people while they're sleeping. These duplicates take
the original host's place and are everything their originals were, only
all forms of emotion vanish. Our story takes focus on Martin and
Elizabeth, two workers at the US Health Department. After taking home a
supposedly new type of flower, Elizabeth finds her boyfriend acting
strangely and later discovers that she's not the only one with
relatives who aren't quite themselves...
This film works because of a constant sense of paranoia. In the 1950's, this was tied in with the then 'reds under the beds' idea of communism spreading through capitalist America. This film seems to have dispensed with that idea, which gives way to more opportunity for sci-fi horror, which is more than welcome in my opinion. The special effects on display are bold and lavish, and therefore exciting to watch. They are a little hokey, but still not bad at all - the parts where you see the alien duplicate forming are fantastically gruesome, and also rather frightening. The whole idea of the film is frightening, even in spite of the fact that it ever happening is very unlikely. The idea that an alien race can take over almost an entire city in one night, and without anyone realising it, is not one that I'd like to have if I was a paranoid conspiracy theorist! Then there's the notion that they'll get you if you sleep as it's like one man in the film says..."gotta sleep sometime". Invasion of the Body Snatchers is also notable for featuring a great cast, which not only includes the excellent Donald Sutherland and the beautiful Brooke Adams, but also Jeff Goldblum (in his first of two successfully good remakes) and Leonard Nimoy, a.k.a. Captain Spock from Star Trek. Also watch out for cameos from original Invasion of the Body Snatchers director Don Siegel and said film's star.
I first saw this film in a movie theater at midnight, as part of an
horror-movie festival. I almost didn't go; I had always had this movie
figured as another stupid Hollywood remake of a great film from the past,
and thought they were probably only showing it instead of the original
because of that weird, vague prejudice against black and white movies that
still for some reason permeates this country, even though the novelty of
color wore off about forty years ago. But I figured what the hell, it
wouldn't hurt to check it out, and when will I get a chance to see any of
these movies in a theater again? So I went, and was almost immediately
sucked in by the mind-bending direction and the terrific acting. But not
only that; it was after midnight, remember, and I was getting sleepy, and
found myself in that kind of hypnotized, pseudo-dreaming state you can get
into when you're watching a movie really late at night. I was really into
the movie, mind you, but it was like a dream, I wasn't wholly conscious.
And just as I was at my most out-of-it, as I was almost technically
the movie hit me with that last shot, you know the one I mean, and jolted
wide awake like a bucket of ice water. It was just like waking up from a
nightmare. I thought I was gonna start crying. I haven't been that
freaked out by a movie since I was a little kid. As the end credits
and the house lights came up, I heard some other people in the theater
talking about what a stupid movie it was, man, was that a waste of money,
I'm glad it was only three-fifty, and it was a really surreal moment;
just had one of the most horrifying moments of my waking life, and they're
talking about how silly it was (although, truthfully, they may have been a
little shaken up themselves and just covering for it, I dunno). A week or
so later I was talking about it with my dad, who had seen it when it came
out, and I mentioned the ending, and he did a dead-on mimic of the last
shot, and I said "God! Don't do that!" I was STILL shaken up by this
There aren't a lot of movies that even try to be frightening--most horror movies (and novels and so on) actually have other concerns: being funny, or shocking, or gory, or surprising, or bizarre, or whatever--and even fewer actually pull it off, actually scare you. Man, does this one pull it off.
The story we have here, filmed once before in 1956 (I haven't seen that version) and once again later, in 1994, is so strong and thought-provoking that even a just-adequate film based on it would be quite effective. This 1978 remake goes beyond "just-adequate", though. It's a creepy, scary chiller, and also one of the most intellectual films of this genre I've ever seen. Maybe it lags in a few places, but excellent performances, methodical direction and a LITERALLY chilling finale make it first-class entertainment. (***)
While some contend the original was a better version, I still prefer this one. Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy was excellent, providing more logic and insight to the film where the original failed to accomplish. Sure, it was tougher to make a secret invasion of a large city seem more believable, but the more believable and rational appeal of this film puts it heads and tales above the rest. Also, the fact that it is a little more drawn out and conceptualized, it makes for a better night of movie making than the original.
Invasion of the Body Snatcher (1978)
The original 1950s version of this movie is such a favorite of mine, I hesitated to watch this one. But fear not. This is great, too. It's got the same theme, but very richly and creatively rendered, some superb photography, great night stuff, and most importantly, great acting by the key 3 or 4 people.
Director Philip Kaufman works sporadically as director and writer (he hit it big with "Raiders of the Lost Ark") and he clearly has a unique and somewhat fearless vision that remains rooted in Hollywood sensibilities. That is, this is no independent film, yet it's creative.
And it's scary. Between the development of fear over the actual biological invasion, and the old fashioned chase and hide sequences, this is a tense movie. But yet it's convincing, given the realistic, nuanced acting by the main couple, Donald Sutherland (as a Health Department official) and Brooke Adams (as a lab analyst in the same department). Of course, what happens isn't believable at all, somehow, but it's so close to feasible, and in fact so close to what we live with already (some people without feelings, out for themselves, part of a conspiracy, etc.), it isn't hard to pull it off.
Cinematographer Michael Chapman is about as good as it gets in the Hollywood vein, polished and with amazing, varied lighting (he also did "Raging Bull," "The Fugitive," and "Taxi Driver," for starters). So this movie works on every level. The one thing it isn't, of course, is original, but as a remake, we have to take it for how it handles it, 1970s style. Impressive.
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