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Philip Kaufman
Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, Leonard Nimoy, Art Hindle, Lelia Goldoni
Writing Credits:
Jack Finney (novel), W.D. Richter

Get some sleep.

In this remake of the 1956 cult classic, terror slowly and silently strikes San Francisco as the city is mysteriously covered by alien spores that produce strangely beautiful flowers. Unbeknownst to the people, the flowers are the bearers of alien pods that make a spiderlike webbing that captures their victims as they sleep and replicates their human form. Although they still look human, the victims are transformed into emotionless creatures by a strange race of aliens out to consume and control humanity - and only four people are left to stop them.

Box Office:
$3.5 million.
Opening Weekend
$1.298 million on 445 screens.
Domestic Gross
$24.946 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 3/31/1998

• Audio Commentary by Director Philip Kaufman
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 10, 2007)

Although itís dangerous to remake a classic, that doesnít mean that the updated take will always fail. Case in point: 1978ís Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a satisfying reworking of the 1956 original.

A prologue shows some space fluff that arrives on Earth, rain spreads onto plants, and develops into little flowers. Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) brings one home and sees that it grows rapidly. The next day, her free-spirited boyfriend Geoffrey (Art Hindle) all of a sudden becomes rigid, unemotional and uptight.

She suspects something is wrong and shares her concerns with fellow San Francisco Department of Health employee Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland). He initially pooh-poohs her worries but grows to agree with her as he sees more and more strange developments with the people in the city. Matthew also glimpses some form of bizarre undeveloped humanoid that grows at the spa of pals Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum) and his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright). The rest of the movie follows the spread of the ďpod peopleĒ and attempts to deal with them.

Although Iím not sure if Iíd seen Invasion in the 29 years since its theatrical release, I still remember quite a few moments from it. I recall its creepy ending shot vividly, and I maintain very pleasant memories of Brooke Adamsí nude scene; that was awfully impressive to my then-11-year-old eyes. And even though Iíve seen them many times since then, I still kind of associate Adams, Cartwright and Goldblum with this flick since I first got to know them here.

Perhaps because Iím much more familiar with the story and its other iterations, the 1978 Invasion doesnít quite impress me like it did when I was 11. However it remains a pretty strong film and stands as a rare remake that has something to say. It doesnít simply rehash the original, and it manages to stand on its own as a quality flick. Not only do most remakes lose points for their absence of originality, but also they usually just arenít as well made. Thatís not an issue for the professional and compelling Invasion.

It helps that the movie boasts an abnormally strong package of folks both behind and in front of the camera. Director Philip Kaufman would go on to greater heights in the Eighties with memorable dramas like The Right Stuff and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Invasion doesnít match up with those deeper efforts, but it brings good depth and urgency to what could have been a simple genre flick.

Whereas the original film gave the story a McCarthy-era paranoia, the remake goes for more of a Seventies ecological message about pollutants in our systems and the ease with which we can be infected. Of course, it still includes much of the paranoid nature of the first flick, and the new twists do nothing to diminish the basic creepiness of the premise. After all, the concept that we could just beÖ replaced so easily with imposters digs to the core of our beings, and the nonchalant way that the movie develops the theme makes it work quite well.

To be sure, Invasion isnít above a few typical horror movie scares, but I think it usually stays with a relatively low-key approach. It creates a reaction in the viewer from the believable manner in which the pop people slowly infiltrate society. Kaufman knows the tale doesnít need hysterics and histrionics to succeed, so he allows it to dig under our skin.

Some will argue that 1978ís Invasion of the Body Snatchers was an unnecessary remake since the 1956 original was so good. I canít argue that the first version wasnít a winner, but that doesnít make the update a waste of time. Indeed, the movie succeeds in every way other than originality. Itís a good reworking of a creepy story.

The DVD Grades: Picture D/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+

Invasion of the Body Snatchers appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. The lack of anamorphic enhancement was only one of the many problems that cropped up during this flawed transfer.

Sharpness varied and caused some of the distractions. Actually, much of the flick showed decent delineation, but it also often became fairly soft and undefined. Prominent edge haloes created many of these distractions, and I also noticed shimmering and jagged edges throughout the film. Source flaws presented specks, marks, streaks, nicks and other problems. These werenít tremendously heavy, but they cropped up pretty frequently.

Colors tended to be quite bland. The movie showed a very flat, brown tint that left it lifeless. Some of this may have stemmed from the flickís visual design, but I donít think the filmmakers intended for it to look this drab. Blacks were muddy and inky, while shadows tended to be thick and dense. I found little to like about this ugly visual presentation.

At least matters improved in terms of the surprisingly ambitious Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Invasion. Not surprisingly, the mix emphasized the forward channels. Audio spread fairly well across the front channels, but localization of effects seemed somewhat mushy and ill defined at times. The material didnít appear to show great placement and integration. This meant the track created a ďwall of soundĒ at times, but I still felt the definition and movement seemed fine for the era. The score presented nice stereo imaging.

I thought the soundfield lost a few points due to some flawed placement of elements. Most of the stems came from the appropriate spots, but occasionally some pieces popped up on the wrong side. Some bits that should have come from the left appeared on the right and vice versa. These tendencies occurred infrequently, but they created enough distractions to rob the audio of some appeal.

The rear speakers offered pretty high levels of activity, though the elements remained moderately ill-defined. They were more noticeable than usual but not incredibly well-placed. Still, the overall package was considerably more involving than Iíd expect for a film from 1978.

Audio quality was also somewhat flawed but decent for the era. Speech sounded acceptably natural most of the time, but I noticed some edginess at times. Effects presented fairly accurate and distinct elements, but they lacked much range and also showed some mild distortion at times. The score appeared to show similar qualities, as the music sounded acceptably clear but could be somewhat flat. Bass response tended to appear fairly deep but came across as somewhat muddy. In the end, the audio of Invasion had its problems but also boasted some strong moments.

Two extras appear here. We find the movieís trailer and an audio commentary from director Philip Kaufman. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion. Kaufman goes over visual choices and the filmís tone, updating the original flick and storytelling decisions, shooting in San Francisco, various effects, camerawork, cast and performances, and a few other production issues.

Though Kaufmanís chat never threatens to become great, the director does offer a pretty good examination of his flick. Kaufman covers matters to a satisfying degree and provides some nice insights. This does come with more than a few slow spots, though, especially during the movieís third act; Kaufman often goes MIA at that time. Otherwise, he fleshes out the material to create an informative chat.

Film fans can argue whether 1978ís Invasion of the Body Snatchers is better or worse than its 1956 precursor. All I know is that the remake stands on its own as a creepy, chilling horror story. Unfortunately, the DVD has problems. Although it offers decent audio and a fairly interesting commentary, picture quality is absolutely abysmal. While I like the movie, I canít recommend such a flawed DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3846 Stars Number of Votes: 13
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