San Francisco biologist Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) turns to health inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) for help when her live-in beau begins acting odd — and distant. Matthew and Elizabeth notice that suddenly almost everyone around them has become impassive. When their friends discover a developing doppelgänger in their commercial mud baths, the foursome realizes an alien invasion is under way. Can they stop it?
Rating: 8 out of 10
Philip Kaufman’s 1978 grand and paranoid sci-fi film, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” is the first of three remakes of the franchise of films based on author Jack Finney’s novel. It is pretty unusual that this film was made in the 70’s because remakes were a rare entity then (Oh how we long for those days!). The film completely succeeds in being a total creepfest and stars Donald Sutherland not as the typical stoic hero but as a public health officer who unwittingly stumbles onto aliens among us as plant pods. His associate and best friend, played admirably and believably by the talented Brooke Adams, is actually married to one of the very first creepy victims of the pod people from outer space. She in turn has a tough time making him believe what is going on and at one point he has her seeing a shrink played wonderfully with that wink of the eye glamor by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy in one of his few meaty, non-Spock roles.
Kaufman deftly adds and layers mood, the accurate zeitgeist of the 1970’s, paranoia and even some well placed nudity into this evenly paced mood piece. Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright round out the cast as a frantic couple who get wrapped up in the alien take-over conspiracy and Kaufman extracts just the right hysteria from all of his actors without ever going over the edge and never revealing too much at a time. He manages to intertwine some very strange moments (strangers on the street all behaving eerily and entranced) with some lighthearted scenes of mundane everyday life in San Francisco (mud baths anyone?) but those moments are fleeting and we get back to the very intense undercurrent of fear and impending dread and finality. I may even go as far as to say it plays out as some sort of strange precursor to the goings on over at the X-Files. Keep and eye out for some well placed cameos that pay homage to the 1956 original directed by Don Siegel. Don’t watch this one alone and make sure the doors and windows are locked when you view this one.