I had a hard time going to sleep the other night. Invasion of the Body Snatchers has to be one of the most successful psychological science fiction thrillers of the last 30 years and its impact has not weakened even slightly with the passage of time. Paranoia is a universal and ageless concept that is not dependent on historical context. Author Jack Finney's story of an alien species taking us over, person by person in its effort to survive feeds on fears that live in each of us. The fear of waking up in a world full of strangers, the fear of having nowhere to turn, being alone, being unable to trust even our spouse or relatives, and the fear of being ridiculed and ignored by everyone we try to talk to about it,
It was a scary movie when I was a kid, merely from the sci-fi aspect of pods taking over the world. It was terrifying on a whole new level as an adult. I watched this DVD, had a fitful night's sleep and then got up and watched it again.
In the course of reviewing movies for this site I've seen several classics of the 70s and 80s transferred from the original film and with "re-mastered" soundtracks, most of which still looked old and dated. I thought this transfer looked and sounded fabulous. Yes, it is an older movie and sure, movies made in the 70s almost always seem sepia-toned and washed out to me, but Invasion's cinematography -- a film noir style, with lots of hand-held camera sequences shot from one angle -- prevents this film from looking ridiculously dated. Director Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff) and his team deliberately used minimal lighting, lots of shadows, and scenes viewed through glass and mirrors to create a mood of increasing fear and claustrophobia. A mood that intensifies the very weird reality of everyday life when viewed through the eyes of someone who no longer trusts humanity.
The sound is exceptional and the images are clear and sharp with good shadow transitions and true blacks. What little color there is in the movie is muted, but because it was filmed without an abundance of studio lighting (most of the film was shot on location in real houses and restaurants) the typical 70s washed-out effect is minimal.
There is some of that snap, crackle, pop effect, particularly at the beginning of the movie, that seems to indicate that perhaps the film was dirty or not in the best of shape there, but it goes away fairly quickly. On the whole, better than I expected.
Theatrical trailer and commentary by director Philip Kaufman.
Kaufman's voice never changes; he's completely monotonous and droll. He's also full of himself and likes to drop names all over the place. However, his commentary on the movie is really interesting and informative. He sheds a great deal of insight into how the film was made and why things were done in certain ways, and also points out several inside jokes and asides, including naming most of the extras in the movie and explaining their significance. On the whole, it's well worth tolerating Kaufman's voice and his perpetual lamentations about losing the Star Trek: The Motion Picture deal.
While many people will argue that the original 1956 version of Body Snatchers is the true must-have sci-fi classic, don't discount this DVD. It's well worth the price and you'll probably find yourself watching it late at night, again and again.
Amy Morrison, 1/9/2001