Reviews of Invasion of the Body Snatchers
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This is one of the best remakes EVER (in my opinion). This is also a nice a little artifact in that its one of the few memorable movies that star Leonard Nimoy outside of the star trek series (at least from the movies I can recall). With a few exceptions, like the location and the obvious advancements in special effects since the 1950’s version, the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers remains true to the first one (there’s even a cameo from Kevin McCarthy, who starred in the original). After an Alien race crash lands on planet earth (san francisco to be exact), they leave behind a lethal poison that’s spreads in to the flowers and plants. Anyone who comes in contact with these plants has their body taken over by an alien (or ‘replica’). These replicas look exactly like the humans they’ve replaced, with the exception that they’re emotionless. Slowly, these replicas take over in an effort to eliminate humans, and create a new society free of war, crime, hatred and all the evil things these aliens believe are brought on by human emotion. A group of scientists (Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright and Brooke Adams), uncover what’s going on and try to stop it, but their efforts becomes more and more difficult due to the fact that everyone around them (including the police) have been turned in to aliens (lead by Leonard Nimoy) and are trying to stop them. The standout performance in Invasion of the Body Snatcher is Veronica Cartwright who plays damn near the same exact role that she played in Alien. Most people who’ve seen this would agree that the best part of the movie is the ending. For those of you interested, this movie is available on youtube (broken up in 11 parts).
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
Jack Finney’s science fiction novel has been made numerous times and in the first two attempts the filmmakers succeded by showing us a fantastical story but grounded in reality. If the first one was made like a straight up film-noir, with a screenplay by the pulp writer Geoffrey Homes, author of “out of the past”; this version was made to look almost like an Alan Pakula political conspiracy thriller. It holds up pretty well comparing it to the original and even goes beyond it with a darker and unforgettably chilling finale. Philip Kaufman is indeed an interesting filmmaker.
- Currently 4.0/5 Stars.
Philip Kaufman and W.D. Richter’s 1978 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a classic example of a moment in American cinema when a genre film could be as unique and tangible as the characters that inhabit it: real people thrust into fantasy situations and reacting as someone we know might, rather than superheroes behaving with the shallow,
stylized determination of a character in a video game, or as mindlessly shrieking prey condemned to die the moment they are introduced onscreen.
The original 1956 version of the film, helmed by gifted action director Don Siegel, was weakened when the studio tacked on an incongruous prologue and epilogue. Without those, the film has a grim feeling of inescapable paranoia. Often read as an anti-communist screed, Siegel resisted specific political interpretations. He maintained that the film used broad strokes that could just as much encompass the McCarthy HUAC witch-hunts of the 1950’s as the specter of Communist infiltration itself. In short, the film is simply anti-conformist. The power of the best in science fiction has always been to state the fantastic literally in a way that suggests a world of metaphor. As our world changes so too do our political and philosophical readings of these films. This is why they stay fresh and relevant while specifically political films often become dated or the dogmatic views of their creators begin to show through. Our own apophenia creates new meanings for the fantastic in each new context in which it is placed.
Inspired by the Jack Finney book with nods to the Siegel version, Philip Kaufman’s updated Invasion of the Body Snatchers escalated the red-scare paranoia of the original film to a more potent and personal existential fear- The terror of loss of identity, a fear and mistrust of society as a whole, from governments, to cities, to the relationships between lovers, friends, and those we look to for comfort and guidance. The film is set in a post-Watergate culture of paranoia, and steeped in the self-help craze of 70’s San Francisco- a city of self proclaimed individualists desperately searching for equilibrium in a world where traditional values had been exposed as facades, or worse, as outright lies. Pauline Kael was noted for exalting the film as possibly the best of its kind, and as a genre movie it is certainly an iconoclastic standout.
In the film, health inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland), his co-worker (Brooke Adams), and their married friends (Jeff Goldblum and the classically histrionic Veronica Cartwright) are part of a small group of San Franciscans who begin to dimly sense an encroaching invasion of alien doppelgangers, gradually replacing the cities’ inhabitants. As their nameless dread mounts, self-help guru Dr. Kibner (Leonard Nimoy) tries to assuage their fears and return them back to their routines, using a combination of EST-flavored psychobabble and clinically incredulous condescension. The film manages to build an air of paranoia with only minimal effects, through the use of vertigo inducing camera angles and unsettling visual cues. For instance, Robert Duvall dressed as a priest sitting silently on a playground swingset is a red herring in terms of advancing the plot, but as one of many images that steep the mood of the film towards hysteria and doom, it is intensely effective.
Director Philip Kaufman’s career began with his 1965 film Goldstein . Written and directed by Kaufman, the film won Prix de la Nouvelle Critique at Cannes and opened the door (albeit slowly) for writing and directing jobs in Hollywood for the filmmaker. After gaining attention with Invasion of the Body Snatchers , Kaufman helped pen Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and received a story credit. A string of filmmaking landmarks followed, including The Right Stuff (1983), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), and Henry and June (1990).
Writer Richter is also notable for directing the 80’s cult film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984), which did poorly at the box office and caused Richter to fold his fledgling production company.
That the story of Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been retold so often in cinema shines a light on its position in our collective unconscious, along with the grandest and oldest of myths. Each retelling has been unique in its tone and message, but, in my opinion, the 1978 version you are about to see is the most unique, the most immediate, and the most relevant. In that science fiction uses broad Rorschach blots to show us our own fears, hopes and conflicts, this film seems to hold the mirror closer than most, eliminating the topical and painting an all too vivid picture of the terror of dissolution that lives in us all.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.