‘You’ll never close your eyes again.’
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is a 1978 science-fiction horror feature film directed by Philip Kaufman from a screenplay written by W. D. Richter (Dracula ; Needful Things). It is a remake of the 1956 film of the same name, which was based on the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney.
The movie stars Donald Sutherland (Don’t Look Now), Brooke Adams (Shock Waves), Veronica Cartwright (Alien), Jeff Goldblum (The Sentinel; The Fly; Jurassic Park) and Leonard Nimoy (Them!; The Brain Eaters; Star Trek).
A box office success, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was also well received by critics and is considered by some to be among the greatest film remakes.
In deep space, a race of gelatinous creatures abandon their dying world. Pushed through the universe by solar wind, they make their way to Earth and land in San Francisco. Some fall on plant leaves, assimilating them and forming small pods with pink flowers. Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams), an employee at the San Francisco health department, is one of several people who bring flowers home.
The next morning, Elizabeth’s partner, Geoffrey Howell (Art Hindle), suddenly becomes distant, and she senses that something is wrong. Her colleague, health inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland), suggests that she see his friend, psychiatrist Doctor David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy). Kibner suggests that Elizabeth wants to believe that Geoffrey has changed because she is looking for an excuse to get out of their relationship.
Meanwhile, Matthew’s friend Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum), a struggling writer who owns a mud bath with his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright), discovers a deformed body on one of the beds and calls Matthew to investigate. Noticing that the body (which has adult features but lacks distinguishing characteristics) bears a slight resemblance to Jack, Matthew breaks into Elizabeth’s home and finds a nearly complete double of her in the bedroom garden. He is able to get Elizabeth to safety, but the duplicate body has disappeared by the time he returns with the police…
Variety wrote that it “validates the entire concept of remakes. This new version of Don Siegel’s 1956 cult classic not only matches the original in horrific tone and effect but exceeds it in both conception and execution.” The New York Times‘ Janet Maslin wrote: “The creepiness [Kauffman] generates is so crazily ubiquitous it becomes funny.”
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a masterclass in slowly building paranoia, but also allows itself to have spectacular action scenes and impressive moments of visceral horror. The semi-formed pod creatures are creepy – a single moment of blood running from the nostril of one a far more potent moment that many a horror set piece – and the scene where the pods give birth to these half-formed creatures while the human version sleeps and begins to rot remain impressively grotesque. The few moments of gore – Sutherland smashing in the head of a semi-formed pod, a character’s face collapsing as their duplicate is completed – are suitably horrible, while Adams gets the most unsettling topless scene in film history.
This is a truly great film – evidence that a remake can actually bring something new to a story and a great stand-alone piece. Jack Finney’s original novel is the gift that keeps giving – there have been two more versions of the story since this one – but Kaufman’s movie remains the one to beat.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
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