INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) — Scream Factory Blu-ray Review with Screen Comparisons

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978) returns to Blu-ray in a new deluxe Collector’s Edition, available now from Scream Factory.

This article contains several comparisons which contrast the older MGM Blu-ray transfer with the new Scream Factory restoration. The frames aren’t necessarily exact matches, but should give a solid indication of the visual differences.

When discussing great horror remakes, 1982’s The Thing is categorically hailed as the greatest. But Philip Kaufman’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, released just a couple years prior to Carpenter’s masterpiece, is a strong candidate for the #2 spot. Like The Thing, it’s a modernized and fairly faithful take on a classic 1950s tale of alien invasion paranoia, reinvigorated with a sober approach, gruesome effects, and an incredible ensemble cast.

Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory

Body Snatchers treats the idea of an alien invasion in an atypical fashion — what if, rather than flying saucers and “take me to your leader”, alien life arrives on Earth in the far more likely scenario of a more subtle microbiological or vegetative life form? As one character, Nancy (Veronica Cartwright) says, “Why do we always expect metal ships?”

Why, indeed?

Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory

The invasion of the body snatchers is a silent one. The alien life forms are practically invisible, hiding in plain sight. Spread through simple plant life, they replicate humans and discard the originals in a process that maintains their hosts’ memories and individual personas — but not their humanity or capacity for love.

In the original 1956 film directed by Don Siegel, Kevin McCarthy plays a small-town doctor who becomes suspicious of the strange behavior of his patients, and then eventually the entire town. In a place where everyone knows everyone, the suspicion that your neighbor might be an alien is intimate and personal. The film came out in a time when McCarthyism (no relation to the star) encouraged a national red scare that your neighbor might be a Communist, and one wonders if the film was in some ways an embodiment of that mentality.

Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory

The ’78 remake trades the small town environs for the bustling cultural metropolis of San Francisco. By opening up the population to a million strangers, this setting fundamentally changes the nature of the paranoia — now the unseen enemies are not neighbors and acquaintances in whom you might detect a change, but the faceless masses of already alien strangers.

The film is also keenly mindful of its status as a remake, and makes the most of it by not only remaining quite faithful in the retelling, but by paying tribute to the original with cameos from McCarthy and director Don Siegel. The McCarthy scene is especially rewarding for viewers familiar with the original film.

Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory

At the center of the story are health inspectors Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) and Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams). Elizabeth begins to suspect something deeply wrong with her boyfriend Geoffrey, who has become so cold as to seem as if he were no longer the same person. This situation pits them against the silent invasion, but also encourages their already growing attraction to each other, now unfettered as Geoffrey is pushed out of the picture.

Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory

Though Elizabeth, the film also introduces us to Matthew’s friends (Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum, and Veronica Cartwright). Together, it’s this group that we follow as the invasion, at first barely detectable, takes over exponentially more people and becomes more brazenly open.

Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory

This cast does tremendous work, and it’s no surprise that Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is simply a phenomenal horror movie, and it manages to terrify without the threat of violence — the threat is assimilation, the loss of self and soul. That said, there’s no shortage or strikingly memorable gruesome and gory images to take in. Witnessing the “birth” of the pod people is chillingly disturbing, as is their blood-curdling scream when identifying a human person among their number.

Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory

The Package

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers arrives on August 2nd in a new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory. The package features a reversible cover with new artwork by Justin Osbourn on one side and a classic poster design on the other, plus a slipcover with the new art.

The film is rated PG, though with its nudity, gore, and freaky gross-out imagery, this is hands-down one of the gnarliest and most “R-rated” PG movies of all time.

Like last month’s Return of The Living Dead, Invasion of The Body Snatchers is already available on a pretty respectable and inexpensive Blu-ray edition, so there’s a sense in which this new release needs to justify its existence.

The disc looks great, though the same could be said of the previous disc as well. In comparing them, there are some differences, the most consistent being that the new transfer is a bit darker, and more opened up, showing more of the frame. As the screen comparisons indicate, both transfers may run more vibrant at times, but overall the the new scan has a more subdued color and natural palette. For these reasons I’d give the new transfer a slight edge, but they’re both pretty great. In some scenes, mostly outdoors, they look practically identical. Here are a few more screen comparisons — you can judge for yourself.

Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory
Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory
Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory
Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory
Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory
Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory
Top: Old MGM // Bottom: New Scream Factory

Special Features and Extras

The disc features several brand new interviews and a new commentary track in addition to the already substantial classic bonus features. Philip Kaufman and Donald Sutherland are notably not present in the new interviews, but feature prominently in the previous materials.

• NEW Star-Crossed In The Invasion with Brooke Adams (9:06)

• NEW Leading the Invasion with Art Hindle (25:04)

• NEW Re-Creating The Invasion with W.D. Richter (15:43)
 As cool as the actor remembrances were, I found this interview with the screenplay’s writer the most intriguing — mainly because it discusses more about the genesis of the film.

• NEW Scoring the Invasion with Denny Zeitlin (15:34)
 Fascinating mainly because Zeitlin isn’t a composer by trade, and this was his only film score

• 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 (16:14)

Practical Magic: The Special Effects Pod (4 minutes)

The Man Behind The Scream: The Sound Effects Pod (12:47)
 Featuring Ben Burtt and sound editor Bonnie Koehler

The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod (5:24)

  • Theatrical Trailer (2:13)

TV Spots (1:02)

Radio Spots (4:46)

Photo Gallery (6:17)

Science Fiction Theater: Time Is Just A Place (25:53)
 Classic TV episode adapting a short story by Jack Finney, author of The Body Snatchers.

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
 Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978) — [Blu-ray]

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