Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Collector’s Edition – Blu-ray Review

The re-make is a time honored tradition in filmmaking. All kinds of directors have indulged from time to time: whether it’s John Struges taking on Kurosawa with The Magnificent Seven, Neil Jordan doing his best Michael Winner impression with 2007’s The Brave One, Matt Reeves’ profoundly uninspired Let the Right One In remake Let Me In, or James Cameron’s spirited remake of Ferngully, Hollywood loves telling successful stories in perpetuity. The quality of such remakes, though, is something audiences have learned to be suspect of. Few remakes ever match the successes of their predecessor(s), both in box office and in overall presentation, and fewer still manage to surpass their source material. Today, however, we get to take a fresh look at one of those storied few that bested their original by leaps and bounds: Philip Kaufman’s 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a re-make of the 1956 film of the same name. Expanding and developing the concepts and ideas at the heart of the original film, and to some extent, the short story that inspired them both, Kaufman’s film is an absolute masterclass in dread. Yet again, Scream Factory brings another horror classic to home video with a collector’s edition presentation. Is this one worth conquering the world for, one pod at a time? Let’s find out.

Body Snatchers

The Film – 4/5

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a character piece first and foremost. While the alien invasion drives the plot and forces the characters into various situations, the relationships involved are what really sets the film apart both from its predecessor and the glut of horror films on the market. Donald Sutherland stars as health inspector Matthew Bennell who begins to suspect more may be going on in his city as co-worker and close friend Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams of Days of Heaven) tries to get him to believe that her boyfriend Geoffrey isn’t just acting strange, he’s not really Geoffrey at all. After meeting with Matthew’s friend Dr. Kibner (Leonard Nimoy, having some fun), Elizabeth starts to think she may have been imagining thing, but when Matthew is called to investigate a strange “body” at the bathhouse owned by Jack (Jeff Goldblum) and Nancy Bellicec (Veronica Cartwright), the threat becomes all too real. Soon, each of the friends has to question not only the true identity of the people on the street but even if one among them has been replaced by invaders from beyond the stars.

A success upon release in cinemas, the stature of Invasion of the Body Snatchers has only grown over time. While there are some easy criticisms to make about the leaps in logic some of the characters make, especially early on, the film as a whole ratches up the paranoia at a startling pace. Clues are sprinkled throughout the first act for the attentive viewer that all is not as it seamed, and while these things are missed by our protagonists entirely, the “secret” communications between the filmmaker and the audience only serve to further enhance the overarching fear that builds throughout the film. The unease is shared between the characters and the audience with a steady commitment to building the tension in each scene before letting the whole of society unravel around the characters as the film reaches its infamous climax. If you’ve never seen the film or have managed to get through life without spoilers or seeing that shot, then you’re in for a heck of a treat.

The Video – 4/5

This is Invasion of the Body Snatchers third landing on Blu-ray, so fans of the film have likely already picked up either the 2010 release from MGM or the collector’s steel book from Arrow released in the U.K. in 2013. Scream has provided a new 2k scan of the interpositive in the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ration and the results are a marginal improvement over previous editions. Scream’s tendency to go to the interpositive rather than the original negative on many of its releases may have some hardcore fans up in arms, but the truth is that regardless of their source, this is a strong release and a step up over the previous presentations. The film relies on strong, bright colors (especially its whites and grays) and this works well with deep blacks with no noticeable blocking. Grain is consistent and uniform throughout the entirety of the film and does not fade into the background on wider shots or close-ups, but the colorization and clarity here is an improvement, if somewhat minor, from the previous releases. Fans of the film will likely be very pleased with Scream Factory’s results, and if this is your first time purchasing the film in high definition, you’ll likely be very satisfied.

The Audio – 4.5/5

Scream Factory’s release comes to us with two beautiful audio presentations that will likely divide up the purists and the AV junkies over which they prefer more. The default audio selection for most viewers will be the Dolby stereo track featured on previous high definition releases and mimicking the film’s theatrical release. This is a strong presentation with good usage of the dual speaker set up despite its obvious limitations. Conversations are clear and robust yet never drown out the background noise and ambiance, not to mention the strong score and you’ll perceive some lateral movement. New for this release, however, is a 5.1 mix that does a great job of stretching its legs throughout the entirety of the sound system’s range and placement. Screeches, sirens, and screams will erupt across the front and back speakers in your array with a surprising blend of dynamic moments with overarching balance. Even the score gets in on using the full array available to 5.1 systems. While it may not be the presentation that accompanied the film on release, it’s a fun and worthwhile accompaniment for those with more robust home theater set-ups and a renewing experience for long time fans of the film.

The Packaging and Extras – 4/5

Scream Factory is celebrated by home video horror fans for their dedication to bringing new and exciting extras to their Blu-ray releases, but compared to many of their other offerings, Invasion of the Body Snatchers feels a little light. As is the case with most of their releases, the film arrives with new artwork from Justin Osbourn (who provided the new art for Scream’s releases of Body Bags and The People Under the Stairs, among others) on the slipcase and front cover (with original promotional art offered on the inverse). Inside is a single BD-50 disc which includes a large amount of previously available featurettes. Scream’s new additions are a wide selection of audio commentaries and one-on-one interviews from a range of people involved in the film’s production, but no new production featurettes have been included. From Scream Factory’s database:

  • NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
  • NEW Star-Crossed In The Invasion – An Interview With Actress Brooke Adams
  • NEW Leading The Invasion – An Interview With Actor Art Hindle
  • NEW Re-Creating The Invasion – An Interview With Writer W.D. Richter
  • NEW Scoring The Invasion – An Interview With Composer Denny Zeitlin
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman
  • Audio Commentary By Director Philip Kaufman
  • Re-Visitors From Outer Space, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Pod – Including Interviews With Director Philip Kaufman, Screenwriter W.D. Richter, Director Of Photography Michael Chapman And Actors Donald Sutherland And Veronica Cartwright
  • Practical Magic: The Special Effects Pod
  • The Man Behind The Scream: The Sound Effects Pod – An Interview With Ben Burtt And Sound Editor Bonnie Koehler
  • The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod
  • An episode of SCIENCE FICTION THEATRE, “Time Is Just A Place,” Based On Jack Finney’s Short Story, Directed By Jack Arnold
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Radio Spots
  • Photo Gallery

The Technical Stuff (click for Technical FAQs)

Feature Duration: 115 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Film: 35mm

Color: Technicolor

Language: English, English Subtitles

The Verdict – 4/5

A great movie, great presentation, stunning audio, and a wide variety of special features new and old: these are the hallmarks of a Scream Factory release and they’re here in spades for Invasion of the Body Snatchers. While the new scan may not be the revelation that diehard fans are looking for, first time buyers of this horror classic will be bringing home the finest home video release of this film available today. Audiophiles will be in for a particular treat with two strong audio presentations available and Scream has added quite a few new interviews to pair with previously available featurettes for the hardcore fans to peruse.  If you’re already an owner of this film in high definition, then you’ll have a tough call to make: I can’t say that the scan and special features make this release a required upgrade for anyone but the most dedicated completists, but for those of you who have yet to take the plunge on this horror classic, make it a priority. They just don’t make ’em like they used to.