Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 film)
|Invasion of the Body Snatchers|
Movie poster by Bill Gold
|Directed by||Philip Kaufman|
|Produced by||Robert H. Solo|
|Screenplay by||W. D. Richter|
|Based on||The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney|
|Music by||Denny Zeitlin|
|Editing by||Douglas Stewart|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release date(s)||December 20, 1978|
|Running time||115 minutes|
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a 1978 science fiction-psychological horror film. It was directed by Philip Kaufman, and stars Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams and Leonard Nimoy. Released on December 20, 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 plot involves a San Francisco health inspector and his colleague who discover that human beings are being substituted by aliens. The duplicates, who appear to be perfect copies of the persons replaced, but are devoid of any human emotion, attempt to install a tightly organised, conformist society.
A box office success, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was very 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 Dr. 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.
Matthew realizes that what is happening is extraterrestrial, not realizing that Dr. Kibner has also been changed. He calls several state and federal agencies, but they all tell him not to worry. In addition, people who had earlier claimed that their loved ones had changed seem to have been converted as well.
That night, Matthew and his friends are nearly duplicated by the pods while they sleep. The pod people try to raid Matthew's house, but the humans are able to slip away. During this, they discover that the pod people emit a shrill scream once they learn someone is still human among them.
Jack and Nancy sacrifice themselves to a crowd of pursuing pod people to distract them and give their friends time to escape. Matthew and Elizabeth are chased across San Francisco. They are eventually found by the doubles of Jack and Dr. Kibner at the Health Department. Kibner's double tells them that their species is incapable of hating humanity; that what they are doing is the only way for their species to survive and that they are even doing humanity a favor by ridding them of emotion. They are both injected with a sedative to make them sleep. However, having already taken a large dose of speed, the couple is able to overpower them and escape the building.
In the stairwell, they find Nancy, who has learned to evade the pod people by hiding all emotion. Outside, Matthew and Elizabeth are exposed as human when Elizabeth screams after seeing a mutant dog with a man's face. They flee, and discover a giant warehouse at the docks where the pods are grown. After Matthew and Elizabeth profess their love for each other, they hear "Amazing Grace" being played nearby. Matthew goes out to investigate, only to discover a cargo ship being loaded with hundreds of pods.
Matthew returns to find that Elizabeth has fallen asleep. Although he tries to wake her, her body crumbles to dust and Elizabeth's naked double arises behind him, telling him to go to sleep as well. With no one left, Matthew destroys the pod-growing facility by cutting the overhead lights. Within moments, the entire warehouse is on fire and the unhatched pods begin to die. He is pointed out by Elizabeth's double and hides under a pier while the pod people search for him.
The next morning, Matthew watches dozens of children being led into a theater to be replaced. At work he sees Elizabeth, but she is completely oblivious to him. While walking towards city hall, he is spotted by Nancy, who has avoided conversion into a pod person. She calls his name, to which Matthew responds by pointing to her and emitting the piercing pod scream. Realizing that Matthew is now a pod person, Nancy screams in helpless anguish.
|This section, except for one footnote, does not cite any references or sources. (December 2012)|
The film features a number of cameo appearances. Kevin McCarthy, who played Dr. Miles Bennell in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, makes a brief appearance as an old man frantically screaming "They're here!" to passing cars on the street. Some reviewers have taken this scene to mean that the film is not a direct remake, but a sequel to the original, with the man on the street being an older version of Bennell. The original film's director, Don Siegel, appears as a taxi driver who pretends to drive Matthew and Elizabeth away from the city. Robert Duvall is also seen briefly as a silent priest on a swing set in the opening scene. Director Philip Kaufman appears in dual roles both as a man wearing a hat who bothers Sutherland's character in a phone booth, and the voice of one of the officials Sutherland's character speaks to on the phone. His wife, Rose Kaufman, has a small role at the book party as the woman who argues with Jeff Goldblum's character. Cinematographer Michael Chapman appears twice as a janitor in the health department.
 Comparison between the 1956 and 1978 versions
- In the original, the aliens are never seen in their pre-human-like form, only as emotionless human doubles. In the opening scene of the remake the aliens are formless gelatinous creatures struggling to survive on their dying home planet.
- Both films are set in the San Francisco Bay Area; in Mill Valley in 1956 and in San Francisco in 1978.
- In the original film the leading man, Miles Bennell, is a small town doctor. In the remake, Matthew Bennell is an urban health inspector.
- The remake drops the protagonist's voice-over narration.
- The 1956 film depicts Becky Driscoll as Miles's former high school girlfriend. The 1978 film portrays the relationship of Matthew and Elizabeth Driscoll as nothing more than friends (and colleagues, since they both work at the health department) until they fall in love late into the film. In both films, Becky/Elizabeth has just separated from her former relationship or is in a relationship on the edge of breaking up.
- The first film never shows what happens to the original human bodies after duplication. In the second, they are shown disintegrating and being disposed of in garbage trucks.
- In the 1978 version, Elizabeth Driscoll is startled by the mantel clock chiming in her apartment as she watches the pod duplicate of her partner Geoffrey taking a trash can filled (as she will later realize) with the decayed remains of his original body out to the garbage truck. In the 1956 original, Becky Driscoll is startled by the cuckoo clock in the Belicec's house as she watches Miles examining the developing pod duplicate of Jack Belicec.
- In the original movie, the name of the psychiatrist Bennell asks people to consult is Danny Kaufman; in the remake it's David Kibner.
- Both films depict Jack Bellicec/Belicec being duplicated early on with the partially formed duplicate being discovered by Jack and his wife. The line, "It has no details, no character ... it's unformed" delivered by Jack in the remake is similar to the line spoken by Dr. Miles Bennell in the original. In both movies it is pointed out that the developing pod replacement has no fingerprints.
- In the original film, Jack Belicec is a moderately successful writer who lives with his wife, Teddy, in a fashionable bungalow. The 1978 film depicts Bellicec as a frustrated, hapless writer who owns a mud bath spa with his wife, Nancy.
- Both films show the four remaining human characters watch in horror as their duplicates are developing from "hatching" pods in a greenhouse or garden, respectively. Both times, Bennell destroys his duplicate, with a pitchfork in the first, with a garden hoe in the second movie.
- The scene in which Matthew, Elizabeth, Jack and Nancy are fleeing a mob of pod people down several flights of stairs is reminiscent of the scene in the first movie in which Miles and Becky are fleeing a similar mob up a long outdoor stairway.
- In the original, a pod duplicate who sensed the presence of a non-duplicated human would alert its fellow pods by simply pointing toward the human. In the remake, the pods emit a piercing, shrill scream, which resonates for great distances and alarms other pods that there is a human presence.
- Both films have the police department playing a prominent role in spreading the invasion and preventing humans from escaping.
- The 1956 movie has Miles and Becky taking refuge in Miles' doctor's office. The 1978 version has Matthew and Elizabeth taking refuge in the Health Department office where they both work. In both films a night watchman enters the office shining a flashlight and leaves without discovering the couple. Both films also have the couple taking pills to keep them awake, and share a kiss as they are hiding out. In both movies, the couple looks out the office window to discover a large crowd of duplicates carrying unhatched pods bound for surrounding cities in order to spread the invasion.
- In the first and second film a duplicated Jack and the duplicated psychiatrist corner the couple in the office. The 1956 version has Dr. Dan Kaufman remarking that going to sleep would have made things easier, in the remake the line is given to Jack. In the original Miles uses syringes filled with poison to kill the duplicates. In the 1978 film hypodermics are also used in the office setting, only this time the syringes are filled with a mild sedative and administered to Matthew and Elizabeth by the psychiatrist. In this version, Jack's double is killed when Matthew jabs a dart into the base of his skull and Kibner is locked in the lab's freezer.
- The first film has Becky alerting the pods to her and Miles' humanity when she screams in reaction to a dog almost being hit by a truck. In the second, Elizabeth similarly alerts the pod people when she screams in reaction to seeing a pod duplicate with a dog's body and a human's face, the result of a duplicating process gone wrong.
- In the original, Miles leaves Becky behind in an abandoned mine to investigate the source of music coming from over the hills. Both hope the music emanates from genuine humans. Miles discovers a huge greenhouse complex growing thousands of pods instead. The music had come from a radio, which is switched off. In the 1978 film, Matthew leaves Elizabeth behind in a field to investigate a seaship playing "Amazing Grace" over its loudspeaker. The ship is being loaded with pods, and the music is also turned off shortly thereafter. In both films, Becky/Elizabeth has transformed when he returns.
- In the original, Miles remains himself long enough to warn humanity of the pod people and is still himself at the film's end. In the remake, Matthew is not only subsumed by the end of the film without having warned humanity, but also betrays Nancy, who had managed to survive.
 Critical reception
Reviews for Invasion of the Body Snatchers have been nearly unanimously positive. It maintains a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and is regarded as one of the best films of 1978, as well as one of the greatest film remakes ever made.
The New Yorker's Pauline Kael was a particular fan of the film, writing that it "may be the best film of its kind ever made". 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."
The film was not without its criticism. Roger Ebert called Pauline Kael's praise for the movie "inexplicable", while Time magazine's Richard Schickel labeled its screenplay "laughably literal". Phil Hardy's Aurum Film Encyclopedia called Kaufman's direction "less sure" than the screenplay.
The film received a nomination from the Writers Guild of America for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium. The film was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was also recognized by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. Philip Kaufman won Best Director, and the film was nominated Best Science Fiction Film. Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams and Leonard Nimoy received additional nominations for their performances.
 Home video
The final scene is parodied in the Futurama episode "Fear of a Bot Planet", where Fry and Leela are exposed as humans by a screaming robot. It is also parodied in the Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode "Where Walks Aphrodite," the South Park episode "Britney's New Look", the The IT Crowd episode "The Haunting of Bill Crouse", and the Community episode "Regional Holiday Music". A reference also occurs in the episode "GI Twayne" of Ugly Americans. The film is also parodied in the "Spongebob Squarepants" episode "Planet of the Jellyfish".
 See also
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers
- The Host (2013 film)
- The Host (novel)
- The Invasion (film)
- The Puppet Masters
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- Invasion of the Body Snatchers at the Internet Movie Database
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers at Rotten Tomatoes