Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 film)

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Invasion of the body snatchers movie poster 1978.jpg
Theatrical release 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
Starring
Music by Denny Zeitlin
Cinematography Michael Chapman
Edited by Douglas Stewart
Production
company
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • December 20, 1978 (1978-12-20)
Running time
115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3.5 million[1]
Box office $24,946,533 (North America)[2]

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a 1978 science fiction thriller[3] directed by Philip Kaufman, and starring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy. Released on December 20, 1978, it is a remake of the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which is based on the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. The plot involves a San Francisco health inspector and his colleague who discover humans are being replaced by duplicate aliens who appear to be perfect copies of the persons replaced, but devoid of any human emotion.

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.[4]

Plot[edit]

In deep space, a race of gelatinous creatures abandon their dying world. Pushed through space by the 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 the flowers home. The next morning, Elizabeth's boyfriend, Geoffrey Howell, DDS (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). While driving to a book party Kibner is attending, they are accosted by a hysterical man (Kevin McCarthy, in a direct homage to the original film). The man runs off, and is soon seen dead, surrounded by a crowd of emotionless onlookers. At the party, Matthew calls the police about the incident, and finds them strangely indifferent. An agitated party attendee starts declaring that her husband is not her real husband. Kibner works to reconcile them. He also 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 bathhouse 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 is adult sized but lacks distinguishing characteristics) bears a slight resemblance to Jack, Matthew breaks into Elizabeth's home and finds a semi-formed double of her in the bedroom garden. He is able to get the sleeping Elizabeth to safety, but the duplicate body has disappeared by the time he returns with the police. The body at the bathhouse has also disappeared when Matthew returns there.

Matthew realizes that what is happening is extraterrestrial, and that people are being replaced by copies while they sleep. Matthew 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, including (unbeknownst to him) Dr. Kibner, and repudiate their earlier claims of their loved ones being imposters.

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 he and his friends are able to escape. During this, they discover that the pod people emit a shrill scream once they learn someone is still human among them.

Jack and Nancy create a diversion within a crowd of pursuing pod people to give Matthew and Elizabeth 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 building. Kibner's double tells them that what the alien species is doing is purely for survival and that they are even doing humanity a favor by ridding them of emotion. Matthew and Elizabeth are injected with a sedative to make them sleep. However, having already taken a large dose of speed, the couple 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, 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. He tries to wake her, but her body crumbles to dust and her naked double arises, telling him to embrace his fate and sleep. Matthew returns to the warehouse and sets it on fire, destroying many pods. He hides from the pod people under a pier, but they know he will have to fall asleep eventually.

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, now the only human left in the city, screams in helpless terror.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

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 coming!" 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,[5] though McCarthy is simply credited as "Running man" in the film's credits. 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.[6] 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.

The film score by Denny Zeitlin was released on Perseverance Records. Despite its popularity and critical praise, it is the only film score Zeitlin has composed.[7][8]

The film featured a number of sound innovations. Bay-area sound designer Ben Burtt, who had just completed the groundbreaking sound effects for the 1977 Star Wars, created a number of "Special Sound Effects" for this film. The film's sound was mixed by Mark Berger at American Zoetrope in the four-channel Dolby Stereo process, which was not yet standard exhibition equipment in most theaters.

Philip Kaufman said of the casting of Leonard Nimoy, "Leonard had got typecast and this [film] was an attempt to break him out of that," referring to the similar perks that Dr. Kibner and his pod double had with Spock, the Star Trek character that Nimoy was most well known for. According to Kaufman, it was Mike Medavoy, head of production at United Artists, who suggested the casting of Donald Sutherland. Sutherland's character had a similar curly hairstyle as that of another character he portrayed in Don't Look Now (1973). "They would have to set his hair with pink rollers every day," recalled co-star Veronica Cartwright.[9] According to Zeitlin, Sutherland's character was originally written as an "avocational jazz player" early in development.[7][8]

Release[edit]

Invasion of the Body Snatchers earned nearly $25 million in box office revenue in the United States.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

Reviews for Invasion of the Body Snatchers have been nearly unanimously positive. It maintains a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes,[4] the consensus reading "Employing gritty camerawork and evocative sound effects, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a powerful remake that expands upon themes and ideas only lightly explored in the original," and is regarded as one of the best films of 1978,[11][12] as well as one of the greatest film remakes ever made.[13]

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".[14] 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."[15] The New York Times' Janet Maslin wrote "The creepiness [Kauffman] generates is so crazily ubiquitous it becomes funny."[16]

The film was not without its criticism. Roger Ebert called Pauline Kael's praise for the movie "inexplicable",[17] while Time magazine's Richard Schickel labeled its screenplay "laughably literal".[18] Phil Hardy's Aurum Film Encyclopedia called Kaufman's direction "less sure" than the screenplay.[19]

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.[20]

Home video[edit]

Invasion of the Body Snatchers was released on DVD in the United States, Australia and many European countries. The film was released on Blu-ray Disc in the United States in 2010 and in the United Kingdom in 2013.

Legacy[edit]

The Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 59th scariest film ever made.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Box Office Information for Invasion of the Body Snatchers. IMDb. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
  2. ^ Box Office Information for Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
  3. ^ Dillard, Brian J. "Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) – Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast : AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved October 1, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  5. ^ Knowles, Harry (March 26, 1998). "Invasion of the Body Snatchers...". aintitcool.com. Retrieved November 13, 2012. 
  6. ^ In the director's commentary on the DVD release, Kaufman states that Duvall, who had worked with him in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, happened to be in San Francisco at the time of filming and did the scene for free. Kaufman also notes that Duvall's character is the first "pod" to be seen in the film.
  7. ^ a b Denny Zeitlin: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  8. ^ a b Denny Zeitlin: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  9. ^ "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Retrieved 19 April 2015. 
  10. ^ "Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  11. ^ "The Best Movies of 1978 by Rank". films101.com. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1978". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Best Remakes: 50 Years, 50 Movies". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  14. ^ Menand, Louis (March 23, 1995). "Finding It at the Movies". nybooks.com. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  15. ^ Hurtley, Stella (December 31, 1977). "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Variety 332: 147. Bibcode:2011Sci...332U.147H. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  16. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 22, 1978). "Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): Screen: 'Body Snatchers' Return in All Their Creepy Glory". The New York Times. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 9, 2009). Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2010. Andrews McMeel. p. 218. ISBN 9780740792182. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  18. ^ Time (Time Inc.). December 25, 1978.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ Hardy, Phil (1991). The Aurum Film Encyclopedia – Science Fiction. Aurum Press. 
  20. ^ "Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Award Wins and Nominations". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Chicago Critics' Scariest Films". Alt Film Guide. 26 October 2006. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 

External links[edit]