Invasion of the Body Snatchers Olive Signature Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Olive Films
Directed by Don Siegel
Written by Daniel Mainwaring
1956, 81 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on October 16th, 2018
Kevin McCarthy as Dr. Miles Bennell
Dana Wynter as Becky Driscoll
Larry Gates as Dr. Danny Kauffman
King Donovan as Jack Belicec
Carolyn Jones as Teddy Belicec
Kenneth Patterson as Stanley Driscoll
Jean Willes as Nurse Sally
Ralph Dumke as Police Chief Grivett
Virginia Christine as Wilma Lentz
Dr. Miles Bennell returns to Santa Mira after a medical conference and discovers a growing wave of curious behavior spreading across the community. People claiming their relatives have been replaced by imposters, perfect replacements but imposters all the same. The local psychiatrist dismisses the reports as mass hysteria. Miles is eager to reconnect with one-time flame Becky Driscoll and he invites her to dinner. Their evening is interrupted when their friends Jack and Teddy urge them to come over right away. A mysterious body has appeared in their house, one without fingerprints or any distinct facial features. Miles finds it odd initially, but a growing sense of dread leads him to believe something sinister may be at hand. Together with his friends, Miles tries to piece together what is shaping up to be a wide-reaching conspiracy, one that involves giant seed pods. The group tries to keep their wits about them and figure out that they must stay awake to avoid becoming part of the change. They split up in an attempt to get help, but their efforts may be too late.
Actors Kevin McCarthy (Piranha) and Dana Wynter (Airport) deliver career-defining performances in the classic sci-fi horror movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). They are both great in the film, especially McCarthy, who does all of the heavy lifting. Not only is he in almost every scene, he seldom gets a chance to sit down and spends much of the second half running for his life. Wynter adds a touch of class to the role and shares great onscreen chemistry with her co-star. The supporting cast is made up of familiar faces, including Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family) as Teddy, King Donovan (The Defiant Ones) as her husband Jack, and Larry Gates (In the Heat of the Night) as Dr. Kauffmann. Everyone plays well off of each other and react believably to the increasingly strange events taking place around them.
Don Siegel (Dirty Harry) directs this cautionary tale of conformity and paranoia into a taut thriller that builds terror from one gripping scene to the next. He gradually unfolds his mystery at a deliberate pace before turning up the heat in the second half of the picture. Novelist Jack Finney wrote the original story The Body Snatchers as a serial for Collier’s magazine. The film, adapted by Daniel Mainwaring (Out of the Past), sticks close to the source material but includes a much darker, more satisfying ending. That being said, the studio felt the climax was too downbeat and ordered a pair of bookending scenes to serve as a framing device and provide a more optimistic conclusion. This additional material does not derail the picture, but it does release some of the tension ratcheted up over the previous 70 minutes.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers maintains the power to terrify audiences and I still love it. The story, the acting, the cinematography and the score all hit their marks with ease and I revisit it at least once a year. The film has been remade three times; Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Body Snatchers (1993) and The Invasion (2007) and each have their merits but pale next to the original. This makes for a great late-night viewing experience with the lights off and the blanket pulled up close for protection. If you have somehow missed it, correct this now and if you are a long-time fan, share it with someone new.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 2.00:1 aspect ratio, this is the same transfer used for the 2012 Blu-ray release. The picture looks nice and the black-and-white photography is well represented. Contrast levels are strong and black levels are rich.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio is another holdover from the previous release, and it does a fine job delivering the chills. Music and effects are well balanced with dialogue levels and the track is free from hiss or distortion.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
This is the area where this new release really shines. The Olive Signature Collection comes loaded with special features that are quite wide ranging in content and cover most all of the bases. Fans are sure to find a lot to like.
There are two audio commentaries included, the first with film historian Richard Harland Smith, who provides a lot of historical information about the production. He provides biographical information for the cast and crew and points out specific locations as they appear in the movie. Smith covers a lot of ground and keeps the information interesting.
The second commentary is a vintage track with actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, moderated by a longtime fan, filmmaker Joe Dante (The Howling). The discussion is very relaxed and conversational in nature and definitely worth a listen. The actors share many great memories from the set and Dante keeps things focused while providing additional context for the material.
The Stranger in Your Lover’s Eyes (12 minutes) is a two-part visual essay with Kristoffer Tobori (son of director Don Siegel) reading from his father’s memoir. The first part focuses on the production of the movie while part two includes some anecdotes about how family life shaped Siegel’s career.
In the all-new segment The Fear is Real (12 minutes), filmmakers Larry Cohen (It’s Alive) and Joe Dante discuss their feelings about the original picture and how it influenced their careers. Both men are clearly pleased to be talking about Body Snatchers and they love sharing stories.
Film scholar Matthew Bernstein discusses the wild life and times of producer Walter Wanger in the segment I No Longer Belong: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger (21 minutes). He focuses on the man’s early career and how he came to be connected with this film. One of the more compelling stories is the one where Wanger confronts his philandering wife’s lover with a gun in a parking lot.
The vintage featurette Sleep No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited (27 minutes) catches up with McCarthy and Wynter along with filmmakers John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Mick Garris (Psycho IV) and Stuart Gordon (Dolls). Everyone has pleasant things to say and it is great seeing the cast looking so good and eager to reminisce. The inclusion of the filmmakers is a nice touch as they appear to all be huge fans of the movie.
Pulling from the longer above piece, we get additional interview segments with McCarthy, Wynter, Landis, Garris and Gordon in the featurette The Fear and the Fiction: The Body Snatchers Phenomenon (8 minutes).
In 1985, Kevin McCarthy appeared on a talk show hosted by Tom Hatten (7 minutes) in which he shared several anecdotes about the production. It is nice to see that McCarthy never grows tired of discussing this picture.
Return to Santa Mira is an eight-part collection of short featurettes that explore the film’s shooting locations: Intro (2 minutes), Town Square (2 minutes), Homes (2 minutes), Alley (1 minute), Cave (2 minutes), Staircase (2 minutes), Overpass (1 minute) and Wrecking Ball (2 minutes).
During production, the film underwent a series of title changes. Many of these are explored in the short segment What’s in a Name (2 minutes).
A gallery of rare documents (13 images) shows production forms, including the proposed opening narration to have been read by Orson Welles.
An onscreen essay (8 pages) by film programmer Kier-La Janisse provides additional insight into the production.
The original theatrical trailer has also been included.
The packaging also contains a six-page booklet that features a printed version of Kier-La Janisse’s essay as well as some vintage photographs.