Monday, October 12, 2015

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (USA, 1978) - Color, Director(s): Philip Kaufman
MPAA Rating: PG
[UK: 15]
Approx. 115 min.

Z-rating: 4 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 2 stars out of 5

Considered to be among the best movie remakes, the premise of this film follows the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers pretty closely. Extraterrestrial plant pods are creating clones of people, the duplicates replace them in their sleep, a small group of people resist and try to stop them before it's too late. They do a fantastic job of taking the key elements of the original film and updating them. Dare I say, maybe even improving upon them?

I dare say.

This movie takes place in San Francisco rather than the fictional town of Santa Mira, California. I know I'm being biased but they get an extra point from me for setting this movie in my hometown. While this might not make difference to most viewers, it was a trip seeing places I recognized the way they were in the late 70's. The pods aren't just seeds that drifted through space and landed here on Earth, the movie opens with a translucent gelatinous material that looks like alien jism floating off into space. (Hmm, I guess they are alien seed that drifted through space then.) The space goo rains down onto plants and assimilate them, growing little flower pods that replicate people.

The Condor Club! Also, the barker is promoting Big Al's.

Dr. Miles Bennell is now Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) who works for the Department of Health. When we first see him, he's inspecting a fancy restaurant where he finds a rat turd in the stock. I have to say, I laughed out loud when he called it a rat turd and the restaurant owner insisted it was a caper. Becky Driscoll is now Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) who works with Matthew at the Department of Health. She's the one who notices her husband acting strangely and goes to Matthew for advice. Jack and Teddy Belicec are now Jack and Nancy Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright), owners of a mud bathhouse. There they discover the first "body" of an incomplete pod person, which looks like an adult-sized fetus covered by a stringy membrane. As Jack gets close, little "webs" reach out in an attempt to assimilate his body. Once they realize what's happening, they try to get out of the city but it may already be too late.

This movie features a powerhouse line-up of Sci-Fi genre celebrities like Donald Sutherland (The Puppet Masters), Brooke Adams (The Dead Zone) Jeff Goldblum (The Fly, ID4), Veronica Cartwright (Alien), Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek), and Art Hindle (The Brood). There's even a cameo appearance by Kevin McCarthy (Dr. Bennell in the original) who's shouting hysterically like he does at the end of the first film. (The truck he comes across at the end of the original film did say it was headed for San Francisco!) Don Siegel also makes a cameo appearance as the cab driver who pretends to drive Matthew and Elizabeth out of the city.

"They're already here! Help! You're next!"

Nudity: We see Brooke Adams' breasts a couple shots.

Kinda makes you feel like a perv, doesn't it?

Gore: Donald Sutherland bashes a clone's head in with a shovel. I'm total a gorehound and I just adore practical effects. The special effects in this movie were great, the duplicates growing out of the pods looked fantastic! I loved how gooey and slimy they looked. The effects were definitely a welcome addition even though the original worked fine without them.

Awesome: Very. I think this movie does a great job of updating the original film. Setting it in a more modern city rather than a quiet suburban town, the characters taking speed to keep to themselves awake, and the addition of that noise the aliens make. In the original film, the pod people just yell out "He's here! He's over here!" to each other. This one introduces that screeching sound they make to alarm the others while pointing at a non-pod person trying to escape. I've seen this referenced in Futurama, South Park, Despicable Me 2, The World's End, and probably countless other places. The original is a classic that I think everyone should see but this remake is so good, I would definitely put it up there alongside the original. I think my biggest complaint against the original is the way they don't explain how the pod people take someone's place. At the end, someone falls asleep in a cave and wake up as a pod person even though their duplicate was not nearby. This movie at least shows a woman shrivel up as she's assimilated by her clone instead of some body switching magic trick. This is another one I would recommend watching in a double feature with the original. Invite some friends over and serve edamame with Japanese beer for fun!