- Movie Rating -

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

| December 22, 1978

Back in ’78 when the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers was reviewed by Siskel and Ebert (their show as then called “Sneak Previews”), Roger Ebert questioned why this property needed to be remade.  Having (rather belatedly) seen the film, I have a simplistic answer.

There is probably no other science fiction story that is more pliable to differing generations than the body snatchers.  Jack Finney’s 1955 book and Don Siegel’s subsequent feature film released a year later, yielded a very Cold War narrative – the idea that communists were burrowing into the American way of life.  Phillip Kaufman’s remake was made at a different time – the famed Me Generation and that, I think, makes it adaptable and not just another, excuse me, clone of the original.

This Me Generation remake dropped onto the populace in the middle of a culture steeped in self-help books, gurus, spa treatments and speculative methods of therapy.  Laying on top of this, a plot to take over the world by an alien race bent on replacing us with emotionless clones.  What was the message here?  Perhaps that we had become too human?  Perhaps that we had lost the basis of our humanity?  Possibly that we had lost our way and needed to be hauled back in?

Of course, this remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is far less thoughtful than I have probably made it out to be.  Director Phillip Kaufman – whose best-known work up to this point was the western adventure The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid and still to come had The Right Stuff, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Henry and June and a story credit for Raiders of the Lost Ark – creates a film that is less interested in speculation and more interested in the applications a straight-up chiller.

Of this, it succeeds.  This isn’t a movie in which the characters stand around with a bunch of theories.  It is a well-crafted, slow-building horror thriller that is mounted on an idea that is so basic that our minds are always tuned to what is happening – the horrifying notion living your life without passion, without curiosity, without the capacity for love or even a sense of justice.  And the characters, played by Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright are so hysterical so much of the time that we do worry about their safety.  We want them to survive, even when the world is turning against them.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1978) View IMDB Filed in: Horror