In the 1950’s, we were introduced to many different alien invader movies including “War of the Worlds”, “Invaders from Mars”, and “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers”. However, aliens didn’t always come to earth on flying saucers. In my opinion, the most effective and unique film was the 1956 Sci-Fi masterpiece “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. This was a rather intense and honestly suspenseful flick, it’s all about aliens that take on the appearance and likeness of other humans and while it has little to no special effects, it still leaves a powerful and almost disturbing feel. You feel the paranoia around you, that you can’t trust anyone and your all on your own. However, I’m not reviewing the original, I’m reviewing the 1978 remake of the same title, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. When it comes to remakes, there very hit or miss, but this film escaped that net and is often regarded as a classic in its own right and when a remake is labeled a classic, you have to check it out for yourself to see if it’s really as good or even better than the original that I know and enjoy so much.
Unlike the first film which focused on one individual character, this one focuses on four people, Matthew (played by Donald Sutherland), Elizabeth (played by Brooke Adams), Nancy (played by Veronica Cartwright) and Jack (played by Jeff Goldblum). These folks just start out as regular city people but they all meet under the same strange circumstance, people they’ve known for years are starting to act stranger than usual and they begin to realize that most of this town’s population is acting the same way. Our leading characters are good, but they don’t hold a candle to the main character of the first film, it was just so much easier to feel like you were in his place feeling everything he felt and feeling as isolated and alone as him. Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame, makes a few appearances as the towns doctor and adviser, plus the star of the original movie (Kevin McCarthy) has a nice little cameo that’s very reminiscent of what he said at the end of the first film, where he shots, “There here already, Your next!”
Now about these pod aliens, basically they start off as cells in space, then they merge with plants, creating the pods, and whenever a person falls asleep near one, there killed in their sleep and the pods then take on their form, appearance and even their memories but not their personalities or emotional qualities. The explanation for how the pods do this is actually handled a lot better in this film and is far easier to understand. We also see in full detail how these things take on the appearance of others and I must admit that these visuals are pretty impressive by 1978 standards. We also get this really cool opening credit sequence where we see the pods descending to earth as these space cells and it almost makes you feel you’re watching a documentary film that you’d see in astronomy class. It’s actually quit disturbing when we see so many people just walking around the town with normal blank expressions, it gives you an eerie feeling that there spreading and there’s no stopping them. There’s a moment when our hero’s walk on a bus and you wonder how many of these passengers are real people or the pod imposters.
It’s still a great concept but I honestly feel that it was handled better in the original. This film goes for more of an art house effect, with lots of strange camera shots, disjointed images, bizarre sound effects and there’s just a lot of really strange moments that make you feel like you’re on drugs. At times it’s too wired for the films own good and what always sticks in my mind the most, is this one scene where a pod alien is born as a dog with a man’s head, it’s so up surd that it comes off as unintentionally funny. The lighting is very effective too, it’s a very gritty look symbolizing that life is dying all around our main leads. Every time a pod person realizes that someone is still human, they point and do this annoying yet kind of disturbing scream. One thing that I’ll certainly complement this film on is that the ending is far more effective and unsettling but it also leaves you feeling really empty. In the original, we can assume that things are going to get better but it’s never fully revealed that the pods are defeated, your just left to assume for yourself, which I really liked. However this film comes right out and says that the humans have been trampled underfoot, no chance at all for a happy ending. Perhaps that’s why it was such a success because it was just so unexpected and disturbing, a lot of my friends still have trouble silencing that last scream at the end of the film.
In the 90’s there was another remake titled “Body Snatcher” but I didn’t bother to see it, there’s only so many times you can see a movie done differently. Then is 2007 there was yet another remake titled “The Invasion”, this one I did see and to my surprise, I didn’t think it was that bad. It had a much better cast of characters to latch onto, most notably the female lead played by Nicole Kidman, she’s great an anything and this was no exception. Nicole has a talent for taking the simplest things and turning them into gold. However, this one didn’t fare as well with the general public, for this generation it offers nothing that special and it has a 100% happy ending with the aliens defeated and the humans surviving. So if you want the more sinister and effective film, then you’d probably prefer the 1978 remake. I honestly thought “The Invasion” was a little better, simply because it had more likable characters that you want to see survive. Either way, none of the remakes will ever top the original in my opinion, it’s just a timeless Sci-Fi classic.
As for the 1978 remake, it has its fare share of improvements, the effects are certainly better, the exposition behind the pod aliens is a lot more understandable and it’s a film that’s not afraid to take risks. But the two big things that don’t elevate this film to greatness for me are that you don’t get as invested in the characters and it just seems to lose itself in one too many wired moments. I give the 1978 remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” 3 stars.