I think that most people have been in a situation where we feel outcast or intimidated. You maybe at a dinner party where you get too many forks or perhaps a Newcastle supporter in Sunderland - the list goes on. There is something primal about our gut reaction to these situations and that something is encapsulated superbly in the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
It is unfortunate that the title puts many folk off, leaving a cheap B movie taste in their mouths. Nothing can be further from the truth in this, the best version of this oft told tale. The introduction begins in a cold desolate part of the universe where an alien race abandons their planet and travels to pastures new. Or Earth as the locals call it. This is probably the least subtle and worst part of the entire movie. Luckily, though, the rest of the movie improves considerably into one of the most oppressively intense sci-fi horror movies I can think of. This is mainly because for some time, nothing much happens, at least on a first audition. People get on with their jobs, talk to their husbands enjoy their hobbies. The great Donald Sutherland plays Matthew Bennell a department of health inspector who enjoys his job far too much. He is friends with Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) who also works for the DOH. Their relationship is platonic but intimate and is explored at the beginning of the movie with a really fresh, lively performance by both actors. This ultra natural style of acting is brilliantly realised by Jeff Goldblum who plays upcoming writer Jack Bellicec and Veronica Cartwright playing his wife Nancy. There is a down at heel, resilient determination to make the best of their lives until that one lucky break crops up. That lucky break is a little more break than lucky when it finally arrives.
I can't do a review of Body Snatchers without mentioning a good performance by Leonard Nimoy as world famous psychiatrist Dr. David Kibner. It is so refreshing to see actors, outside of their stereo-cast roles, stretch their acting muscle. Having re-viewed this movie I feel that good old Mr Nimoy has been rather restricted, if not financially rewarded, in his Trek cannon.
Then things begin to fall apart in a subtle slow burning way. The subliminal humanities of the above relationships are brilliantly contrasted with the creeping solemnity of the alien invaders. Small nuances, small occurrences, begin to penetrate the outside of the filmed frame. Whether the sight of a priest on a swing in the middle of a playground to the sound of dustbin wagons as Matthew contemplates the worsening situation in his back garden, the onset of the invasion is quite memorable and wonderfully well done. Velikovsky's Collision of Worlds is also used wherein the author maintains that vermin came to earth by way of a comet. I thought this to be another subtle allegory for the aliens and an indication of the thought that went into Body Snatchers.
Obviously things get worse, especially after a good scene in a taxi cab. The driver, played by original Body Snatchers director Don Siegel, has a good line which goes something like “Six ten, southbound, two Type-H, repeat two Type-H,” It is at this point that you begin to realise the invaders aren't passive or ignorant, but very well organised. Indeed much of this movie, with code-speak radio communication between drones and the general oppression of humanity, reminds me of 1984 or Half Life 2. It is with this frame of mind that you should watch Body Snatchers, a movie describing how humanity can change in the face of the unknown, rather than a cheap B-movie.
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