Invasion of the Body Snatchers


Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Written by W.D. Richter

Based on the novel by Jack Finney

Directed by Phillip Kaufman



Theatrical:  Solofilm

Video: MGM Home Entertainment


Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: 41.00 GB

Feature Size: 37.98 GB

Bit Rate: 37.94 Mbps

Runtime: 115 minutes

Chapters: 32

Region: All


English DTS-HD MA 5.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0


English, Spanish, French & none


• Visitors From Outer Space or How I stop Worrying and Learned to Love the Pod (16:14)

• Practical Magic - The Special Effects Pod (4:38)
• The Man Behind the Scream - The Sound Effects Pod (12:47)

• The Invasion Will Be Televised - the Cinematography Pod (5:24)

Original Theatrical trailer

DVD (double-sided) with Director’s commentary.


Blu-ray Amaray case

BRD + Double-sided DVD

Release Date: September 14, 2010


The Movie: 6

Don Siegel’s 1956 Superscope rendering of the iconically titled Invasion of the Body Snatchers was first introduced on video in a widescreen format on one of Criterion Collection’s earliest laserdiscs (spine number 008) and, despite one or two halfhearted attempts to bring it out on DVD, the film has not yet found an advocate that would do it justice on either DVD or Blu-ray.  We can only hope.  Until that day, there is Phil Kaufman’s recreation some thirty years later, complete with 1970 psychobabble and 70’s angst (and “The Invasion,” the 2007 remake with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.)


Audiences and critics often find themselves on one side or the other on the Siegel vs. Kaufman question.  The earlier film (either as originally scripted or in its final theatrical version) is introverted in its approach - its latent malevolence slithering slowly into consciousness. The latter movie is more explicit, hysterical and diabolical by turns – the casting of Veronica Cartwright and Lenard Nimoy is telling in this regard.  Siegel’s movie never introduces us to the “snatchers” themselves, but only recounts their voyage to our planet in a manner so offhand its absence would not have been missed.  Kaufman introduces us to the villains in his opening shot, a decision that shepherds the story from psychological thriller to horror film in one easy step.


My difficulty with the Richter/Kaufman story begins here with the spores prior to their trip to Earth and continues through its relentless detailing of place and person.  Now that we see what form the spores were in before their arrival, we become interested in them and are inclined to ask questions like: what were they doing previously and what will become of them here?  Do human “pods” procreate?  If so, what are their offspring?  Do the pods ever devolve into their spore mode again?  Is that what became of them on the previous planet?  Nimoy (who else!) speaks on their behalf about how they travel from one planet, adapting, surviving, moving on.    What bothers me is that they surface at all in their native form – and they don’t in Siegel’s movie.  This is the danger of providing too much detail – focus is lost, energy becomes diffused, and all you have left is shock, character of place, person and time, and performance.


These last are not small matters, to be sure, and I think they are what most people find worthy about Kaufman’s film.  However, for all of Kaufman’s insightful portrait of a struggle for a society to overcome isolating architecture of city-dwellers, Goldblum’s dizzying neuroticism, Nimoy’s pontifications, Cartwright’s unraveling hysteria, Brooke Adams’ heartbreaking despondency, and Sutherland’s transition from skeptic to knight in a sport coat, my favorite moment is much quieter, and is without precedent in Siegel: It occurs when Geoff (Art Hindle) observes the trash compactor as it leaves his home with his “remains.”  There is something lonely and regretful about that shot even though not framed in close-up but from a considerable height with Geoff looking away from the camera.  It’s a thread that is never picked up, and I wished it were.


Even after four or five viewings I still haven’t made up my mind about how the 1978 movie plays out Elizabeth’s observation that the impostors are without feeling. Whatever that may suggest to us it turns out not to mean that they are without intelligence or emotion, as Kibner’s deceit ably demonstrates. Nor are they without primal instincts.  Often enough we see people walking the streets in a trancelike state, but at other times they are invested with a determined and, occasionally, cunning malevolence.  The idea being that once the spores take over, it is they, not the original human, who are in command of behavior.


Finally there is the matter of sleep which, in both films, settles the question of hope for humanity.  At first it would appear that the spores need to be in proximity to the victim in order to complete possession, but later it is fairly clear that all that is required is for their human accomplices to identify the target.  Once the victim falls asleep, that’s it.  This is not some miscalculation of plot but rather the heart of the matter:  We regard our intelligence and our “soul” rather highly, but the message here is that compared to the infecting “virus” – whether the bug that will one day destroy us, or an idea that engages our paranoia – in this we are helpless.  Eventually we must rest or sleep or let down our guard – and when that happens we are vulnerable to the point of extinction.  The fact that we are social creatures and prey to groupthink only accelerates the process.


Image: 6/8

Even MGM’s generous bit rate of over 37 Mbps cannot keep occasional noise at bay, which peeks through in many darkly lit scenes.  It would appear that MGM’s increase of black levels compensate for this to some degree while boosting contrast as well.  I feel they went a little far in this regard, as some shots look artificial in this regard - this despite the filmmakers’ intention to create a “noir” film in color.  (Consider the lighting of Nimoy and Sutherland in their close-ups where the light is strong.) Daylight outdoor scenes look quite natural, however.  Otherwise, the print is remarkably clean and there are no transfer problems, which can only be a good thing.


Audio & Music: 6/8

Denny Zeitlin’s modern chamber music score and Ben Burtt’s eerie sound effects deserves a more exquisite rendering than they get here, though I’m guessing this is not so much the fault of the mix.  On the other hand the dialogue is oddly balanced with the effects, the former too low and the latter too loud.  Some traffic effects are nicely cued to the surrounds, though most of the mix is fairly front-directed.


Extras: 2

The Lord MGM giveth and taketh away.  They giveth in the person of four bonus features in high definition that were in the 2007 Collector’s Edition DVD.  They may not be much in terms of content but they are far from a waste of time. The best of these: the “Man Behind the Scream” with Sound Designer Ben Burtt and "Visitors From Outer Space or How I stop Worrying and Learned to Love the Pod" features Screenwriter Richter, Sutherland, Kaufman and others talking about the making of the movie.  I should add that even though these are presented in 1920x1080 resolution they appear to have been upscaled from the DVD, not even from the original film source.

Minus points, however, for including an outdated DVD, double-sided no less, AND with the only commentary.  This is mindless and insulting.  Why would anyone who can play high definition material opt to play a DVD, and a comprised DVD at that, just to listen to the commentary, which could easily have been ported to the Blu-ray!


Recommendation: 7

Phil Kaufman’s film is nothing if not provocative, and ought to generate useful discussion about its social and philosophical implications.  Critics never fail to mention the cameos by Don Siegel (as the cab driver) and Kevin McCarthy, reprising his role from the original film in a particularly clever way.  I mention it because McCarthy died earlier this week at 96.  Do yourself a favor and watch Siegel’s film along with Kaufman’s.  The inclusion of the DVD in this package passes understanding.  Contrast is a tad high, blacks a shade crushed. Audio is flat, but respectable.

Leonard Norwitz


September 21, 2010

DVD Empire

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