Since its publication in 1955, Jack Finney’s Sci-Fi novel has been adapted many times for the big screen. The first adaptation was directed an year later by Don Siegel starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter. The story took place entirely in a small Alabama town where some of the locals began mysteriously behaving in strange and detached manners, but more than twenty years later Philip Kaufman decided to remake this film and relocate the story in the populated city of San Francisco instead. The circumstances were different and the underlying political themes weren’t necessary so this film focused entirely on the growing sense of paranoia behind the invasion. The mystery element is gone here, because from the very first scene we witness how this strange organic life form, similar to gel spores, begins drifting from a far away planet through space until it reaches our atmosphere and is washed down by rain in San Francisco. Here the spores develop into plants with pink flowers and the people who come into contact with them begin behaving in strange ways, which is of course a result of this life form taking over the bodies. The first to notice the change is Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) who shares her concern with co-worker, Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland), a public health inspector. She tells him that her husband has begun to act in a very mysterious manner and that he seems detached from any emotion. Matthew recommends she talk with his friend, David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy), a renown psychiatrist. When Elizabeth goes to speak with him, David mentions that other people have come up to him with similar concerns. Their fears are confirmed when Matthew’s friends, Jack (Jeff Goldblum) and Nancy (Veronica Cartwright) discover a strange corpse that is being formed by the plant to duplicate one of them. By this time the invasion is in full force in the city and they must find a way to escape before it’s too late.
The original film was already considered to be quite good, but this remake is probably the most referred to when mentioning Finney’s novel. All the other adaptations after this one haven’t met the same reception. The way in which cinematographer, Michael Chapman, shot the film gave it a much more disturbing atmosphere with the skewed angles, deep compositions, and dark shadows which only adds to the bizarre qualities of the film. It is an eerie sci-fi movie with some memorable sequences (who can forget the moment that mutant dog with a human face suddenly shows up on screen?) and you never know what direction the story is going to go. Unfortunately the film is a bit outdated and the effects don’t look as great. The performances are solid, but sometimes they were over sold. Invasion of the Body Snatchers wasn’t as fun as I had anticipated it to be, and the pacing began to drag at times. I probably would’ve enjoyed this film more if I had seen it several years ago, but by now the plot is overly familiar so the suspense and the scares don’t work as well.
Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams play the two lead characters and they manage to engage the audience and allow us to sympathize with their cause. Adams is especially cute here and she can move her eyes like no one else. Nimoy gets a very conventional role and his character doesn’t do much for the film. We’ve seen Goldblum play very similar roles as well and he did manage to get on my nerves during some of his freak out scenes. The cast delivers, but they were all far from being memorable. I can imagine the story freaked audiences out during the 70’s and 80’s, but for today’s standards it isn’t as effective.