Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)

AUGUST 26, 2007


Tonight, at the last minute, I found out about a great double feature, John Carpenter’s The Thing and Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. They were showing at the New Beverly Cinema, aka the best revival theater in LA. It’s a great idea for a double feature: both were superb (and in Carpenter’s case, superior) versions of 1950s films, and deal with paranoia, isolation, etc. while delivering the suspense and scares one would want from a movie about alien takeovers.

The Thing of course I have seen several times, so it’s ineligible for a Horror Movie A Day review. Suffice to say I think it’s a masterpiece, one of only three in Carpenter’s career (the others are Assault on Precinct 13 and of course, Halloween). The cast is perfect, the makeup is phenomenal, and I still jump at the blood test every goddamn time.

But the ‘78 Body Snatchers was new to me, in fact it was the only one of the four “legitimate” versions of Finney’s novel I had never seen. And like the original and 1993 ones, I dug it a lot. The sound design alone makes the film worth seeing, as it is eerily quiet at times, and unnervingly loud at others. There’s a scene early on, before anything has even happened, with a random Robert Duvall as a priest on a swing, that is more terrifying than anything in the new version with Nicole Kidman. And he’s just swinging! The makeup effects, sparingly used, are also fantastic.

Why aren’t more horror/thriller movies filmed in San Francisco? It’s got such a distinct look, and when used right (The Game comes to mind) it really does become a character in itself.

The great thing about all versions of the film (even the new one) is how it was able to tell the exact same story and yet totally reflect the fears of the respective era: Communism in the 50s, post-Vietnam lack of faith in the government/cover ups in the 70s, pro-war/military might in the 90s, and self medication/global war in the 00s. The 80s were pretty much covered by They Live.

Jeff Goldblum made one of his earliest appearances in this one, and he’s already got his trademark oddness down to a science. But, and I don’t know if it’s intentional, for some reason Leonard Nimoy seems just as cold and alien-like when he’s human as he does when he’s taken over. The Kevin McCarthy cameo is great, and while it’s a bit of a wink at the audience, it’s far more effective than Veronica Cartwright’s likewise appearance in the 2007 one.

Also the film offers a nude Brooke Adams back when that wasn’t a horrible thing to imagine.

There’s a new 2 disc DVD of this one, I can’t see why you shouldn’t own it if you’re a fan. Since it’s such a sparse, somewhat intimate version for the most part, I think it would play even better at home.

What say you?


  1. This is my favorite version, I love it when Veronica Cartwright runs into Donald Sutherland at the end... Man, love it when they point and scream - it's just too creepy!

  2. This is one of my favorite movies of all time. You wouldn't expect a remake of a remake to be so good, but then again maybe I just like that 70's campy feel.

  3. Excellent film, and I too think it's the best of the first three. Haven't seen the new version, but from what I've heard, I don't think this version will be dethroned. The half human/half dog is almost enough to reccomend this.

  4. I'm a fan to Horror movies and Literature alike, and I must say that I'm really enjoying your blog. I read your review on Lady Frankenstein back during July, and you said you wanted some film recommendations. I see you haven't done In the Mouth of Madness or Event Horizon yet. Hell, you're even missing The Gate. There are a few for you. Keep up the good work BC. You now have a million and one readers!

  5. Brilliant version - I agree it's the best one of the lot. I also agree with almost all the comments on this - from sound design to the point-and-scream bits :-)

    I notice Cronenberg didn't dare show Maud Adams nude in Dead Zone....

  6. I re-watched this one relatively recently, and was completely gob-smacked by the practical effects--not just with the pod people, though those are great (even the dog in the rubber mask--the shock and oddness of it overwhelm the obviousness of the latex, for me), but at the very beginning, during or immediately after the credits, I think, when the spore is growing on that leaf, tendrils and pseudopods extending in the goo, and you know that somebody had to figure out how to do that with fishing line and cornstarch. Awesome, and much more effective than CGI could ever be.

    And it makes me happy to see a PG movie from the time when such a movie could and would show you some boobs. I don't know why, but it does.

    After watching Driller Killer (BUDGET PACK 4EVAH!), I'm very interested now to see Abel Ferrara's version. I would have thought it'd be terrible, but everything I hear about it is good.

  7. The scream at the end, and the human headed dog are enough to buy this movie, both are very scary. You saw this at the New Beverly Cinema, didn't you? I wanted to go, but I was too tired after a long day of working for the man. My friend went though. I usually catch their Grindhouse double features.

  8. Man... I can't believe i forgot to mention the damn dog! This is why I need to take notes at all times.

    But yeah, the New Bev is where it's at. If i get out of work early enough tomorrow I'm gonna go check out El Topo and Holy Mountain. Love that place.

  9. This one's in my Top 10. God, what a great movie.

    I always feel so sorry for Veronica Cartwright at the end. She's so glad to be reunited with an old friend, so relieved to discover that she's not alone after all . . .

    . . . and then all her hopes are destroyed.


  10. Isn't Donald Sutherland just spectacular?! So was Brooke Adams. I just loved those characters. Jeff Goldblum? Eh. I'd like him more if he wouldn't push it. Know what I mean?

    The dog was truly wonderful. I loved the shock ending. Great makeup. But my favorite part of all was the sound design and the score (except for the bag pipes. I'm so sick of Amazing Grace played on fucking bag pipes!).

  11. One of the best horror (or sci-fi!) films of all time. The original from the 1950s is excellent too, but this one reigns supreme.


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