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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Urban and social paranoia take center stage in Philip Kaufman's 1978 Neo-noir thriller Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The second adaptation of Jack Finney's novel, Kaufman's film takes place in San Francisco and sports an incredible cast, including Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright. Film fans split on whether this version or Don Siegel's 1956 adaptation is best, and Finney's novel was also adapted into Body Snatchers by Abel Ferrara in 1993 and The Invasion, Oliver Hirschbiegel's troubled 2007 film that stars Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig and that saw the Wachowskis and James McTeigue come in during the fourth quarter to salvage the production. This film works as science fiction, a thriller and social commentary, and Kino offers an excellent new release stocked with bonus materials.
Mysterious flowers start popping up around San Francisco, and laboratory scientist Elizabeth Driscoll (Adams) picks one on her way home from work. The next morning, she notices her boyfriend (Art Hindle) is acting strangely distant. She confers with a colleague, Matthew Bennell (Sutherland), and the pair begins to suspect some force is taking over the bodies of San Franciscans. Psychologist Dr. David Kibner (Nimoy) offers no explanation, but the pair, along with friends Jack and Nancy Bellicec (Goldblum and Cartwright) discover the flowers evolve into alien pods from which humanoid clones appear to form. As more and more citizens turn into emotionless drones, the friends must flee from antagonists and run for their lives on the increasingly hostile city streets.
This adaptation opens up the playing field substantially compared to the 1956 version, and more characters are in on the secret of what is going on. This also allows for an increase in snatched bodies, which creates an excellent air of paranoia throughout the film. The director and his cinematographer Michael Chapman's visuals, coupled with the unsettling score from jazz musician Denny Zeitlin, amp up this paranoia, and viewers feel increasingly boxed in as the 115-minute film races toward its climax. There are moments of stark humor during this extended chase, and Kaufman's 1978 film offers more visually arresting and frightening alien artifacts and creatures than the previous adaptation. Some of the effects are downright fantastic, and it is easy to forget you are watching a film that is now almost 45 years old.
Kaufman was under less directive to provide a happy ending than his predecessor Siegel, which leads to an unsettling, memorable conclusion for Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The screenplay, from W.D. Richter, offers interesting commentary on mental health, individualism, collective delusion, and mass hysteria. The film unnerves without resorting to constant jump scares or audible stingers, but the sound effects and related images dictate a memorable experience. The cast is uniformly excellent, particularly Sutherland and Adams, and Kaufman's nimble direction provides little dead space during the film. Invasion of the Body Snatchers works in many genres and is both thought-provoking and entertaining.
This 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is from a recent 4K remaster and is a fantastic presentation. Fine-object detail and texture are excellent. Close-ups reveal intimate facial features, the textures of fabrics and the intricate sets, and plenty of spooky alien artifacts. Wide shots are crisp and deep, and the streets of San Francisco are gorgeously rendered. Image density is excellent and the film grain is natural and expertly resolved. Color saturation, highlights and black levels are all uniformly excellent, and I noticed no issues with print damage or digital manipulation. This is an excellent transfer and should please fans of the film.
Audio is offered in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio variants. Effects and score play a big part in the overall experience here, and both tracks do an excellent job reproducing the audio. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and there are no issues with distortion, hiss or crowding. The expert effects work makes use of the surrounds, and the score is also given room to breathe. All elements are layered appropriately, and both mixes offer immersive experiences. English SDH subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release arrives in an eco-case and recycles a number of extras from the Shout! Factory Collector's Edition that was released a few years ago. There are Two Audio Commentaries: the first is an archival commentary from Director Philip Kaufman, the second is from Film Historian Steve Haberman. You also get Star-Crossed in the Invasion: Interview with Actress Brooke Adams (9:06/HD); Re-Creating the Invasion: Interview with Screenwriter W. D. Richter (15:43/HD); Scoring the Invasion: Interview with Composer Denny Zeitlin (15:34/HD); Leading the Invasion: Interview with Actor Art Hindle (25:04/HD); Writing the Pod: Interview with Jack Finney Expert Jack Seabrook (11:14/HD); Re-Visitors from Outer Space, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod (16:14/HD); Practical Magic: A Special Effects Pod (4:38/HD); The Man Behind the Scream: The Sound Effects Pod (12:47:/HD); The Invasion will be Televised: The Cinematography Pod (5:24/HD); and Promotional Materials (8:01 total/HD).
Philip Kaufman's 1978 adaptation of Jack Finney's novel blends science fiction with paranoid thrills in a Neo-noir environment to excellent results. The cast and crew are immensely talented, and the film is thoroughly entertaining. Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray release provides a remastered image, solid audio, and plenty of recycled supplements. Highly Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.