Movie remakes have a bad name, but Philip Kaufman’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers doesn’t try to replicate Don Siegel’s 1950s classic – this film is its own thing. Kaufman’s 1978 film uses Jack Finney’s novel in the same way that John Carpenter returned to John W. Campbell Jr. source material when making The Thing. Why bother remaking an existing film when you can get something new from the original tale?
Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams play a pair of health inspectors who uncover an alien conspiracy which duplicates earthlings, replacing them with emotion-free doppelgangers. Along the way they seek help from their ragtag friends played by Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright and Leonard Nimoy.
Released in 1978, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers came out at the tail-end of 1970s paranoia. The hippie movement had died, the Vietnam was over, the Watergate scandal had died down. Little did everyone know that the reckless commercialism of the 1980s was just around the corner. It’s therefore fitting that this science fiction film is all about change. It’s also fitting that Sutherland, one of Hollywood’s offbeat leading men from the era heads the cast. Stars like Sutherland would soon be replaced by a different type of leading man in the 80s.
For the first hour or so Kaufman plays with the paranoia, ramping-up the tension before he goes full-blown sci-fi thriller for the last half. It’s at that point he unleashes some pretty nifty special effects – which don’t get in the way of the story. The important thing here is the humanity of the piece, with the relationships between the characters being what holds everything together. Ironically, it was the lack of humanity that scuppered the 2007 remake, The Invasion which starred Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. Let’s be honest, would anyone really notice anything different about an emotion-free Nicole Kidman?
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers shows that remakes don’t have to be bad. They can often add to the original film, creating their own legacy. Kaufman manages to do that, while also delivering one of the last interesting paranoia thrillers of the 1970s.