Have you ever woken up one morning and thought someone you know or love is acting strange? Do you ever get the impression they've been replaced by some kind of alien pod person? I'm pretty sure we've all experienced this at one point or another. Now imagine if it wasn't just your paranoia... would anyone believe you?
Today's film is based upon Jack Finney's 1955 novel The Body Snatchers, which has been adapted for film a staggering four times, in 1956, 1978, 1993, and 2007. Some have said the story is derivative of Robert A. Heinlein's earlier novel, The Puppet Masters, which was published four years before Finney's novel.
We'll be taking a look at the second film adaptation today, so put on a pot of coffee and stay awake, because you won't want to miss a minute of 1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
As the opening credits roll, we follow strange alien spores as the travel through space, carried on the solar winds toward Earth, where they quickly sprout into pods crowned with pink blossoms. Elizabeth (played by Brooke Adams) encounters one of the pods on her way to work at the Heath Department and brings it home. The next morning, her boyfriend Geoffrey begins acting strangely. Elizabeth's boss, Matthew (played by Donald Sutherland), shrugs off Elizabeth's concerns and recommends she speak to his friend Dr. David Kibner, a noted psychiatrist. After witnessing a bizarre accident on the way to the book signing, Matthew unsuccessfully tries to file a police report while his friend Jack Bellicec pesters him. Elizabeth meets Dr. Kibner (played by Leonard Nimoy), who also shrugs off her concerns and tells her to go home and get some sleep. Kibner then confides to Matthew that Elizabeth's story isn't unique, and he likens it to some kind of delusional flu that passes in a day or two.
After the signing, Jack returns to the bath house owned by him and his wife, Nancy. While Jack relaxes in a sauna, Nancy discovers a body in one of the massage booths. They summon Matthew to examine the body, which seems to be developing into a carbon copy of Jack right before their eyes. Matthew goes to check on Elizabeth while the Billicecs summon Kibner. The body in the bath house disappears before Kibner can see it, but Matthew finds another in Elizabeth's house... one that looks exactly like her! Matthew, Elizabeth, and the Billicecs decide to stick together, realizing they can't trust anyone else, because they might already be an alien pod person. But as exhaustion sets in, it becomes harder to resist the invaders.
As far as I can recall, this is the only film adaptation of The Body Snatchers that I've seen, and I'd be amazed if any of the others can top it. The movie features some really top notch special effects for the time period. The scene where several pods grow and take form in Matthew's back yard is fantastic, both for its visual effects and the tension it builds.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers features an impressive all-star cast, including Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park), Veronica Cartwright (Alien), and Donald Sutherland, who would later go on to star in the film adaptation of Heinlein's The Puppet Masters. Huh... typecasting... or just a funny coincidence? I'll leave the speculation on that one to you. Either way, the cast is a veritable Who's Who of science fiction, and there isn't a flat performance in the bunch.
Overall, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a classic science fiction and horror masterpiece. Unsettling special effects, building suspense, and a veteran cast of actors all come together in a delicious recipe of terror completely free of rat turds, I promise.