Blu-ray Review: INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS

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SHOCK reviews Scream Factory’s stunning Blu-ray re-release of Philip Kaufman’s perfect horror classic.

Phillip Kaufman’s masterful 1978 remake of Don Siegel’s 1956 McCarthy-era shocker INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (itself an adaptation of Jack Finney’s serialized book) is arguably a better film, transplanting all that cold war dread onto a post-Vietnam, pre-1980s, increasingly corporate America. In it, the great Donald Sutherland stars as Matthew Bennell, a San Francisco health inspector who, along with the woman he loves (Brooke Adams, who’s great) and his closest friends (a young but still awesomely neurotic Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright) finds himself in the middle of an insidious, identity thieving alien invasion. It seems aggressive pods are implanting themselves in the earth’s foliage and, while their victims sleep, are duplicating human beings, creating exact replicates that look and talk just like the original subjects. Except they are fully, completely devoid of emotion; dead-eyed droids bent on crushing both love and hate.

What makes Kaufman’s film so great is that both the characters (great time and care is taken to develop the eccentricities of our protagonists, making us weep for the loss of their humanity), ace direction, brilliant performances (Sutherland is at the peak of his powers and a post-Spock Leonard Nimoy is chilling as a new age psychiatrist who denies the escalating horror) and, perhaps most viscerally, a remarkable score by jazz composer Denny Zeitlin. Said score is an avant-garde amalgam of electronic pulses, minimalist orchestral movements and what sounds like a sampling of an in-utero infants heartbeat.

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All of that operatic, terrifying splendor screams off the screen in Scream Factory‘s sumptuous new Blu-ray Collector’s Edition. The first thing ardent fans of BODY SNATCHERS will notice is just how gorgeous the film looks in High-Def (a 2K scan from the inter-positive), with details I’ve never noticed in the dozens of times I’ve seen the film. Like the tempra-paint consistency and color of blood coming from Goldblum’s nose, the textures in Sutherland’s wild hair, the deep blacks and warm tones of the eerie night sequences. This does not look like a near 40-year old film, this looks new, alive, urgent and absolutely breathtaking.

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Most of the supplements on the back-end of the disc have been ported over from previous MGM releases of the film, including an amazing commentary track with Kaufman and interview with Sutherland as well as FX docs and a fascinating look at the sound effects (this film has some of the most alarming screams and sound design in horror history). New additions come in the form of Aine Leicht-produced interviews with Art Hindle, Adams, screenwriter W.D. Richter and Zeitlin, all of them fantastic.

From its spacey opening frames to its soul-murdering final shot, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS very well may be the greatest science fiction horror movie ever made. I’m pretty sure it is.

What do you think?

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Weekend: Sep. 19, 2019, Sep. 22, 2019

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