Sunday, January 6, 2013
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)
(December 1978, U.S.)
The opening sequence to the 1978 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is a creepy sight, indeed. It's an alien arrival and invasion unlike anything you've seen on screen before because it comes in a very subtle and unsuspecting way when a race of gelatinous creatures abandon their dying world, are pushed through the universe by solar winds and then make their way to Earth and land in San Francisco. Some fall on plant leaves, assimilating them and forming small, manacing-looking pods with pink flowers. It's creepy because it defines itself as a new form of human violation through our plants and flowers; life that we, as humans, are exposed to every day. The seed is now planted and the terror is about to begin...
Updated from it's preceeding version of 1956, the plot involves San Francisco health inspector Matthew Bennell (played by Donald Sutherland) and his colleague Elizabeth Driscoll (played by Brooke Adams) who discover that human beings are being substituted by aliens. The duplicates, who appear to be perfect copies of the persons replaced, but are devoid of any human emotion, attempt to install a tightly organised and conformist society. Like the first film, they "attack" and develop through the use of freaky-looking pods when the genuine human being is asleep. Like the first film, as well, it doesn't appear the invaders are, nor will they be defeated by humankind. Unlike the first film, though, the action and the terror take place in a major city and most of it is at night, which visually and psychologically add to the film's intensity and fear.
While Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams play their roles just fine for a Hollywood remake, I'd like to call special attention to the presence of Leonard Nemoy as psychiatrist Dr. David Kibner in this film. For myself, it's one of the few times I've seen the man in front of the camera that didn't involve STAR TREK in some way. So to watch him in this role smiling all the time with those bright, white teeth is unusually intruiging. There's also a very deep irony in his character in that as Mr. Spock, he plays a character virtually devoid of any human emotional qualities. As Dr. Kibner, he's attempting to rationalize to our heroes as to why society around them is mysteriously behaving in a state devoid of any human emotional qualities.
This version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is not only a thrilling science fiction spectacle, but it's also, in my opinion, one of the greatest remakes I've ever seen, and THAT, my friends, is not something I'm accused of saying too often. It not only matches the original black and white classic in horrific tone and effect, but exceeds it in both conception and execution. It's a film that effectively updates itself with the modern flavor of the 1970s and also a film where director Philip Kaufman knows how to properly borrow the right inspiration from terrifying predecessors like THE EXORCIST (1973), CARRIE (1976) and THE OMEN (1976), films that knew just how to offer the right amount of fear and creepiness without necessarily going too far overboard with traditional blood, guts and filth. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS was rated PG (today it would've likely earned a PG-13 rating) and it's a truly scary event not only in story, but in the effect it can have on its viewers who enjoy a good scare. And speaking of a good scare, tell me this final shot of Donald Sutherland at the film's conclusion where he betrays his last remaining human friend is not something that would give you the shivers in a dark viewing room...
Favorite line or dialogue:
Elizabeth Driscoll: "I have seen these flowers all over. They are growing like parasites on other plants. All of a sudden. Where are they coming from?"
Nancy Bellicec: "Outer space?"
Jack Bellicec: "What are you talking about? A space flower?"
Nancy: "Well, why not a space flower? Why do we always expect metal ships?"