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Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Kino // R // November 23, 2021
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted March 8, 2022 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:

As long as social and political paranoia and the fear of "the other" permeates society, there will always be room for a new adaptation of Jack Finney's pulp sci-fi/horror novel Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Or its inspiration, Robert Heinlein's Puppet Masters, or any of the multitudes of comedic takes on the premise like The Faculty or The World's End).

The premise of "pod people" from space integrating their consciousness into ours by making copies of ourselves that look and sound like us, but aren't us, can always be and is always retooled over certain periods in order to take full advantage of the social paranoia that it can bring to the audience. Considering the period when an Invasion adaptation is made is almost as fascinating as watching that adaptation.

Don Siegel's 1956 film was almost all about the red scare and 1950s idyllic small-town Americana's wholesome soul being threatened by the xenophobic fear of a communist invasion. The 1994 version utilized the premise as symbolism for AIDS. The 2007 adaptation was a harrowing cautionary tale that reminded audiences how boring and inconsequential a big-budget Hollywood movie can be when soulless moneymen executives took over the production.

Philip Kauffman's bone-chilling invasive horror masterpiece is still the best adaptation of this story and a textbook example of a remake that improves on every single aspect of the original.

Apart from the exceptionally eerie terror that's meticulously built to gather the most amount of unease as possible from every scene, the reason it works so well lies in Kaufman leaving the xenophobic and political symbolism of the story and turning the paranoia inside, the intimately familiar. It's one thing to know that the enemy is outside, it's another terror to realize that it's in our home, in our bed, sleeping next to us.

The 1970s was the perfect breeding ground, if you pardon the pun, for an Invasion remake that contemplated the inner paranoia that Americans were facing. The country was going through a painful identity crisis after getting through one of the most conflict-ridden and transformative decades in its history. People were emotionally depleted and looked to the betterment of self in order to find some answers about how to psychologically and spiritually find a connection with the ailing soul of the nation.

It's not a coincidence that the main characters who get taken in by the pod people as they struggle to escape from the clutches that seek to assimilate them into their collective conscious all work in some form of inner human health.

Donald Sutherland's Matthew and his love interest Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) work for the health department, cracking down on establishments that might insert something impure into human bodies. Matthew's best friend Dr. Kibner (An especially stoic and spooky Leonard Nimoy, even by Leonard Nimoy standards) is a psychologist who writes self-help books alleviating social anxieties that plague the modern human. His other friend Jack (Jeff Goldblum) is a rationalist whose wife (Veronica Cartwright) owns a holistic mudbath spa.

Therefore, the story begins amongst a society that already feels sick inside and has trouble identifying what ails them. The sense of calm that the aliens seem to bring to the collective table even sounds like a good deal to find some form of inner peace, as one of them explains that there will no longer be anxiety or hate.

However, the character also hauntingly adds that there will be no love. The motivation for the characters to escape the aliens isn't wrapped around some didactic exposition regarding the individual soul of humans, they're solely depicted as survivors and Kaufman's tonal approach is one of intense and focused fear.

Instead of talking down to the audience, he allows us the understand the fundamentals of why these characters would reject what's sold to them as an easy solution to humanity's problems when they were also the ones to offer such solutions through their respective fields.

Kaufman masterfully builds a sense of dread from the very first frames of his film utilizing the entire frame to constantly insert the paranoia raising in the background. He doesn't pay close attention to the people who act "differently", who leer on the characters and in turn, the audience, from the background. Ben Burtt's sound design also contributes to this rising dread.

The Blu-ray:


I have the MGM blu-ray release of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers and there are some distinct differences at play here. The new 4K restoration, supervised by Kaufman, does a much better job of showcasing the stark contrast that's essential to the film's sense of horror.

In the previous release, the transfer tried to lighten up sections of the frame that were meant to be in complete darkness, resulting in some forced grain and brightness in some of the shots. This is fixed in this transfer, and there's solid contrast between the blacks and the vibrant colors that symbolize some of the characters still being human.


As mentioned above, the sound design is essential in capturing the rising dread of the film. Ben Burtt gradually stripped the soundtrack of all-natural sounds in order to give the soundscape an unnatural and mechanical feel. Even though the DTS-HD 5.1 track doesn't show a lot of surround presence, the terrific dynamic range is essential in getting the whole experience.


There aren't any new extras for this release, but Kino did an excellent job of compiling extras from a bunch of previous releases, turning this into an ultimate experience.

Commentaries: Both of these are from previous releases but both are valuable. Kaufman's commentary digs into his vision for the property and how he used certain tricks to take advantage of the full paranoia he was going for. Film Historian Steve Haberman's commentary is more for academics. We get a complete look at Kaufman's career, as well the impact of the other adaptations across decades.

Star Crossed in the Invasion: This interview with Brooke Adams, ported from the Scream Factory release, is a brief 10-minute featurette that goes over her working relationship with Kaufman.

Re-creating the Invasion: This interview with screenwriter W.D. Richter digs into the whole pre-production of the film and is essential for understanding the aesthetic differences between this version and the original.

Scoring the Invasion: Danny Zeitlin's score doesn't take the foreground and isn't showy, and that's what makes it effective for the premise and the tone. This interview gives us more context into the working process.

Leading the Invasion: Actor Art Hindle talks about his connection to this version of the story.

Writing the Pod: This interview with a Jack Finney expert digs into the differences between this adaptation, which just takes the initial premise, and Finney's source material.

Revisitors from Outer Space: This older featurette is a good one for those looking for more of an all-inclusive and brief making of documentary.

Practical Magic: A very quick look into the special effects.

The Man Behind the Scream: This featurette with Ben Burtt is fascinating in the ways that it showcases how some of the iconic sounds were created.

The Invasion Will Be Televised: A quick featurette about the stark cinematography.

We also get a bunch of TV and Radio Spots, as well as a Trailer.

Final Thoughts:

With Kaufman's playful and meticulous manipulation of the audience's innermost fears, combined with strict adherence to the story's themes, this version of Invasion is still the best of the bunch, and is a masterwork in cerebral horror. There aren't new extras in Kino's release, but it's a great combination of old releases. The real reason for fans to double-dip is the terrific new 4K restoration.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and

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