Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Post  BoG on Mon Mar 15, 2010 3:02 pm

One of the rare remakes that work almost as well as the original. Maybe one reason is that it also works  as a follow-up to the 1956 version, upgrading from a small town setting to the big city of San Francisco. Maybe another reason is that I was still living in that city when I saw this in the theater. The familiar locale lent an extra layer of eeriness for me and it all seemed like it was really happening (or was about to happen).  This begins (unlike the original) with a scene on the home planet of the alien plants, showing their departure through space. Then we're in San Francisco, in the early morning; a priest (Robert Duvall in cameo) swings on a kid's swing, his p.o.v. suggesting that things have shifted.

This goes a little slowly in the first act and I admit that I found the film a bit slow when I first watched it. But, it's the kind of story that creeps up on you and I appreciated it a lot more as I got older. The suggestions, the hint of paranoia and all the small bits of disturbing flotsam reach a pay off around the midpoint, as things get quite creepy and grotesque. Donald Sutherland stars as a city health inspector; his main problem until the invasion had been dealing with hostile restauranteurs. He works with Brooke Adams, with whom he has a very friendly relationship, but she's married to dentist Art Hindle. However, Hindle is one of the first citizens to suddenly start behaving unlike his old self one fine morning; he becomes cold, sort of sterile. Adams notices almost immediately, but people like celebrity psychologist Leonard Nimoy convince people like her that it's all in her head and she's rationalizing.
Things take a turn for the grotesque at the mudbath place run by Jeff Goldblum, a failed poet and friend of Sutherland's, and Veronica Cartwright. They discover a half-formed body and it soon becomes evident that it's a duplicate of Goldblum. When he sleeps, the body becomes better formed. Sutherland saves Adams from also being duplicated and then they are on the run - oh, wait, no, not yet.  The evidence disappears and there's no where to run to, at first. By this point, the audience gets the feeling that things have tilted too far already and it's too late, even though we're only halfway done. The main characters appear to be stuck in the middle of a city that is over half taken over and it's a despairing situation. Soon, they will all be replaced and join the collective...

The final act is indeed a chase and hide scenario, mostly during the night. The pursuing pod people, though they look human, emit a strange, alien wailing noise (the one other big distinction from the first film version)  and begin to resemble the zombies of the George Romero films, though they move as swiftly as normal humans. The more interesting scenes, however, involve trying to blend in with the pod people - this features a momentary full-on sci-fi/horror gasp when we see a 'flawed' result of the duplication process, a combo man/dog hybrid. Good performances all around, especially from Goldblum and Cartwright, whose character reads a lot of science fiction and can deduce a few things better than average. Don Siegel, director of the original, is in a bit part as a cab driver. BoG's Score: 8 out of 10

Snatched Trivia: Kevin McCarthy also appears in a bit part, presumably playing the same character from the first film, just 22 years older and still running around yelling warnings.  The next remake was in 1994, titled Body Snatchers, from Abel Ferrara; then the 2007 version, The Invasion.

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