Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Reviewed on 2013 March 11
Here is a ’70s take on the tale of the pod people, very well-made, wonderfully jarring since it’s set in beautiful San Francisco, and reflective of the decade without being dated.
Right after a sinister and creepy opening, a cynical health inspector named Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) wins a humorous argument with a snooty restaurant maítre d'. This spare bit of humor is only one of a couple of funny bits in this creepy thing. Matthew and his friend Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) soon realize that things are very wrong, and that very soon puppy-sized rats scampering through pretentious restaurants will be the least of their worries.
The City by the Bay is awash in pink flowers, odd little blossoms that Elizabeth can’t identify, and shortly after that people are crawling out of the woodwork, claiming that their friends and loved ones simply aren’t their friends and loved ones any more. By the time Matthew and Elizabeth realize what’s going on, they may be too late to escape.
In a lot of ways, this is more frightening (and a lot freakier) than the classic 1956 version. It conveyed a sense of doom, of foreboding, the excellent original did not. Even the music is cold and spooky. Sutherland and Adams make the audience fear for them, and it’s fun to see Jeff Goldblum in an early big role. I mentioned it was a Seventies movie, and without dialing down the creep factor, director Philip Kaufman had some sly fun with that too. Veronica Cartwright played the owner of a mud bath who liked to play symphonic music for her plants. Define irony.
Three chocolate morsels. Look for the wonderful cameo by Kevin McCarthy.