They’re already here. The takeover has begun and nobody noticed. While you slumber in the night, it’s only a matter of time before they come for you. That’s the horror of the classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by the great Don Siegel. Now the original work of horror finds its way on Blu-ray in a new special edition from the good people at Olive Films. Siegel’s lean, efficient masterwork of paranoia has never looked better thanks to a gorgeous restoration that vividly brings the black and white terror to your home.
One thing that stands out to this day about Invasion of the Body Snatchers is just the pure efficiency of the film. Siegel hits the ground running and the film just builds from there. The first scene is that of a panic, as Dr. Miles J. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) screams in the streets about the mysterious forces from beyond taking over the bodies of innocent people. Being a rational man, Dr. Bennell calms himself and recalls just how he found himself in the midst of an existential panic.
In the sleepy California town of Santa Mira, Dr. Bennell makes his way towards his office when he encounters a young boy who runs in front of his car, screaming that his family is not who they seem to be. At first the doctor just writes it off as an imagination run wild. Later, Dr. Bennell runs into an ex-girlfriend Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter) and the two share a cordial reunion. Becky’s cousin Wilma shares a fear that her Uncle Ira isn’t who he claims to be, and hearing the claim repeated makes Dr. Bennell suspect that there’s a bit of mass hysteria on the loose in Santa Mira. The sleepy town has been sleepier than usual, with the town’s restaurant hardly occupied on what should be a busy night. It’s later that evening that Dr. Bennell discovers a pod that is making an exact copy of his friend Jack Belicec (King Donovan), and the horrible reality comes apparent – while people sleep these pods create duplicates of people as part of a subtle alien invasion, creating a world of uniform conformity.
Had Invasion of the Body Snatchers been made today it’d have an extra 20 or 30 minutes of exposition to ensure that there’d be no complaints of plot holes on the internet. There’s no fat on this film, no instances of vital information being repeated. The screenplay adaptation of Jack Finney’s story by Daniel Mainwaring respects its audience enough to go along with the events as they unfold, not stopping the action to explain every little detail. The lean script combined with the efficient, journeyman direction of Don Siegel ensure that Invasion of the Body Snatchers still moves at a breakneck pace over 60 years after its release.
Much has been made of the political allegory of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with many pointing to the film as a sharp critique of McCarthyism. Part of this is by design, though the film doesn’t play on political hysteria. There’s an element to the film’s story that can really work as an allegory in the modern American political climate, be it about climate change denialism or the various conspiracy theories that have popped up over the years. Even if the movie does end with a little flicker of hope, there’s no reason to believe that the human race will be triumphant from its foes from another world. The screams of “You’re next!” from Dr. Bennell still ring as an unheeded warning to this day.
The new Olive Films edition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers comes with an array of special features, the highlight of which is the crisp new HD transfer of the film. The disc contains two audio commentary tracks, one with film critic Richard Harland Smith and another older track with McCarthy, Wynter, and Gremlins director Joe Dante (who has featured the film in some of his own works). A number of featurettes also populate the special features, including looks at the works of Don Siegel and a fascinating one about the film’s producer Walter Wagner (who, amazingly, served time for attempted murder before producing this film). It’s an all-encompassing special edition that has come to be expected from the Olive Film Signature Series.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a great film that has endured through the years (even inspiring a great remake in 1978). The escalating paranoia and unease inspired a generation of science fiction and horror filmmakers, and that influence can still be felt in Siegel’s thrilling masterwork. Olive Films has resurrected the Invasion of the Body Snatchers and you better hurry to get one of their new limited edition Blu-rays or else you’ll just be one complacent face in the crowd.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
A sci-fi classic that is still haunting today, Invasion of the Body Snatchers arrives on Blu-ray with a jam-packed special edition from Olive Films featuring a stunning new HD transfer.