In this, the first significant remake of the 1956 black and white sci-fi classic of the same title, Donald Sutherland stars as Matthew Bennell, a health inspector whose own health is put in serious jeopardy when he encounters clone-like humanoid aliens.
Bennell's introduction — a distorted view of his face through a peep hole — is an excellent indication of the out of this world movie that's to come: this socially aware 70s cinematic stew artfully blends cool, shadowy noir with steamy, gooey horror.
Bennell gets wind of the chilling changes to come via one of his employees, brainy beauty Elizabeth (Brooke Adams), after her once-vigorous boyfriend becomes an emotionless pod-person. Leonard Nimoy plays a super-smooth pop psychologist with a weird leather thing lashed onto his left hand, and Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright round out the small main cast as the hip, well-read proprietors of a private spa. While each of these characters are quirky and odd, they're all rooted in reality and are given enough back story to flesh them out without bogging down the suspenseful story line. There are also some cool cameos (Kevin McCarthy and Don Siegel, from the first filmed version of Jack Finney's novel) and neat nods to the sci-fi genre.
Briskly directed by Philip Kaufman and gorgeously lensed by Michael Chapman, this thought-provoking, pulse-pounding version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a complete sensorial experience for the brain and the body.
The special edition DVD is a two disk set with commentary from Kaufman, who, while he speaks in a quiet, low-key manner, still holds one's interest throughout the track. It's quite fascinating to hear him talk about everything from the use of Dutch tilts (a favorite film noir camera angle) to what happened when the legally-blind Siegel removed his eyeglasses for his big close-up while driving a taxi (nothing, actually; but it's a funny story the way he tells it).
Disc Two: The Extras
Re-Visitors From Outer Space or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Pod: This mini-doc features Sutherland, Cartwright, Kaufman, Chapman, and others reminiscing about the making of the movie, the impact its had over the years, and how it stands up. For those not very familiar with the mores of the "me generation", watching this documentary will definitely help in understanding the film's unique subtext.
The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod featurette: This one's for the cinefiles, and it reveals a lot about the way in which Chapman shot this film — the crazy tilts and swirling-perspective moments are effective and judicious, so it's interesting to learn how it was done (even though much of the movie was shot hand-held, it never once wades into the usual galaxy of nausea one must contend with nowadays).
- Practical Magic: The Special Effect Pod featurette
- The Man Behind The Scream: The Sound Effects Pod featurette
- Original Theatrical Trailer
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson