Thursday, August 18, 2016

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) (Blu-ray Review)

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) 

Label: Scream Factory 

Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 115 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Philip Kaufman
Cast: Veronica Cartwright, Jeff Goldblum, Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, Art Hindle, Brooke Adams


Synopsis: One by one, the residents of San Francisco are becoming drone-like shadows of their former selves. As the phenomenon spreads, two Department of Health workers, Matthew (Sutherland) and Elizabeth (Adams), uncover the horrifying truth: Mysterious pods are cloning humans — and destroying the originals! The unworldly invasion grows stronger with each passing minute, hurling Matthew and Elizabeth into a desperate race to save not only their own lives, but the future of the entire human race.

I first watched the sci-fi horror classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) on late night cable TV in the early eighties during a sleepover at a friend's house. As was typical of these nights he had fallen asleep on the couch and I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning watching scary stuff till I couldn't keep my eyes ope. This is how I first watched  Phillip Kaufman's phenomenal and eerie remake, which was the second movie adaptation of a novel by author Jack Finney, the first adaptation came out in 1958 and starred Kevin McCarthy, who makes a great cameo in this film.  


Kaufman's movie opens on a barren planet somewhere in the cosmos, a planet soley inhabited by gelatinous creatures which leave the surface of the planet and make their way through space to our lovely planet Earth, where they rain down upon the city San Francisco. There they take root in the local flora and sprout pretty pink flower blossoms which are attractive to the indigenous people. San Francisco Health Department employee Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) picks one of these blossoms and takes it home where she places it in a glass of water on her nightstand hoping it will take root, which it does but not in the way she intended. Overnight the flower sprouts a pod while she sleeps, which clones and replaces her husband Geoffrey (Art Hindle, Black Christmas) with an emotionless clone. Unaware of the sinister happening she awakens in the morning and is startled by the transformation of her formerly loving partner, who suddenly treats her coldly and acts rather strangely. 

She confides her worry in her friend and co-worker Matthew (Donald Sutherland, Don't Look Now) who advises her to seek the advice of his celebrity psychiatrist friend Dr. David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek). Kibner is a psychiatrist of the "tell me how you REALLY feel" variety, and while at the party Elizabeth overhears a hysterical woman who tells Kibner that her husband is not really her husband, which perfectly captures how she feels about Geoffrey. Kibner calms the woman and advises Elizabeth that her feelings of detachment are merely her inner yearning to leave Geoffrey. 



The movie does a phenomenal job of creating a sort of big city paranoia from the very beginning, everyone seems to be staring and observing, it creates a palpable sense of dread and deep-rooted paranoia. Our first good look at a pod cloning a human takes place at a bath house run by Matthew's friend, a struggling writer named Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum, The Fly) and his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright, Alien). While Jack takes a nap a pod begins to clone him, however, he wakes up before it can finish and his wife discovers the not completely formed body, horrified and at a loss to explain what they've discovered they call Mathew who arrives to investigate. He brings with him Kibner and the group surmise that San Francisco is amidst an alien-invasion of some sort. 

The dread and paranoia of this one is dripping right off the screen, it gets under your skin and stays there right on through to the shocker of an ending, which as a kid watching it for the first time was a serious gut-punch, this was maybe my first downer of an ending and it made me feel small and helpless and haunted me for days. 


Kaufman crafted an intensely dread-filled movie with the help of screenwriter W.D. Richter who did great work re positioning the story from rural California to the metropolis of San Francisco, plus the cinematography from Michael Chapman (Hardcore) is awesome, capturing the sprawling city and bathing the paranoia in swathes of shadow and light, this is a gorgeous movie, one enhanced by some fantastic special effects, some of which are quite horrific, a scene of pods attempting to clone Mathew in his backyard is grotesque stuff. 

The cast is uniformly excellent beginning with Brooke Adams and Donald Sutherland who are the heart of the movie, while romance is not a high priority the two convey an affection for each other that drives their characters. Additionally Goldblum and Cartwight are fantastic in their limited roles, Cartwright is always fun in these small tasty roles, her wide-eyed wonder and terror are conveyed nicely, and Goldblum does good work at the struggling writer with a serious distaste for Nimoy's psychiatrist character. Nimoy's character is about as cold-blooded as his Star Trek character Spock, espousing 70's era psycho-babble with a cold detachment that is tone-perfect. Art Hindle plays an alien clone with a cold detachment that somehow manages to come across as more sinister than flat, which isn't easy. Everyone does good work, conveying the sense of unease, helplessness and paranoia that drives the movie.  



Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) arrives on Collector's Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a brand new 2K scan of the interpositive, color reproduction and shadow detail are rich and deep, skin tones look warm and natural and there is some nice depth and clarity to the image along with some impressive fine detail. The new 2K scan looks awesome, the new color timing is impressive and does appear a bit different from the MGM Blu-ray from a few years back, looking a bit warmer in tone to my eyes.. Audio options on the disc come by way of English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 or DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, both are rich and nicely balanced, and the eerie and unusual score from Denny Zeitlin comes through with some real vibrancy. 

Extras on the disc include all the bonus material from the MGM Blu-ray which were pretty substantial to begin with, highlighted by the Re-Visitors from Outer Space: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod documentary which features interviews with Director Philip Kaufman, Screenwriter W.D. Richter, Director Of Photography Michael Chapman And Actors Donald Sutherland And Veronica Cartwright. This also includes a great audio commentary from director Phillip Kaufman, plus featurettes about the sound design, special effects and cinematography of the movie. 


Onto the new stuff exclusive to Scream Factory's Collector's Edition we have a new audio commentary track from Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman, who has done some commentaries for Scream Factory before, notably on Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) and The Dunwich Horror (1970). The track is loaded with facts and trivia about the original '58 film and the production and behind-the-scenes of this version of the story, it can sound a bit too scripted at times but there's no denying that this one is loaded with some great info. 


Scream Factory also have new interviews with stars Art Hindle and Brooke Adams, screenwriter W.D. Richter and composer Denny Zeitlin, which are all fantastic watches. The nine-minute interview with Adams covers the audition, her non-familiarity with the original, working with the cast and crew, and she even demonstrates her wobbly-eyes from the movie. Art Hindle gets a 25 minute interview covering a lot of his career, this was more in-depth than I would have anticipated, also covering is work with Bob Clark and David Cronenberg. Composer Denny Zeitlin speaks about how he scored the movie, his approach combining the organic and electronic elements and confirming the participation of Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead on one notable scene. Screenwriter W.D. Richter speaks about adapting the story, moving it from a rural area to San Francisco.  Scream Factory have not only upgraded the image of the movie with a new 2K scan but they've also upgraded the extras, this is a fantastic release from Scream Factory, which comes with a sleeve of reversible artwork and a slipcover. 

Special Features: 

- NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
- NEW Star-Crossed In The Invasion – An Interview With Actress Brooke Adams (9 Mins) HD 
- NEW Leading The Invasion – An Interview With Actor Art Hindle (25 Mins) HD 
- NEW Re-Creating The Invasion – An Interview With Writer W.D. Richter (16 Mins) HD 
- NEW Scoring The Invasion – An Interview With Composer Denny Zeitlin (16 Mins) HD 
- NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman
- Audio Commentary By Director Philip Kaufman
- Re-Visitors From Outer Space, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Pod – Including - Interviews With Director Philip Kaufman, Screenwriter W.D. Richter, Director Of Photography Michael Chapman And Actors Donald Sutherland And Veronica Cartwright (16 Mins) HD 
- Practical Magic: The Special Effects Pod (5 Mins) HD 
- The Man Behind The Scream: The Sound Effects Pod – An Interview With Ben Burtt And Sound Editor Bonnie Koehler (13 Mins) HD 
- The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod (5 Mins) HD 
- An episode of SCIENCE FICTION THEATRE, "Time Is Just A Place," Based On Jack Finney's Short Story, Directed By Jack Arnold (26 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 
- TV Spots (1 Min) 
- Radio Spots (5 Mins) HD 
- Photo Gallery (76 Images) HD 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is superb slice of science fiction with some seriously horrific moments, the new Scream Factory release is top notch, loaded with bonus content, and worth the upgrade, highly recommended. 

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