Blu-ray Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Based on Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers and directed by future Clint Eastwood favorite Don Siegel (Riot in Cell Block 11), Invasion of the Body Snatchers unfolds in a normal, average American small town. Yes, Santa Mira is a fictional Northern California town. Replace the name though, and this could easily be any small town in America. As the story begins, Dr. Miles J. Benell (Kevin McCarthy, A Big Hand for the Little Lady) is being held at the hospital by police. With wild eyes and a desperate tone, he tells of his town being taken over by alien pods hatched from interstellar spores. The aliens have commandeered the bodies of his friends and neighbors, rendering them devoid of humanity.

The story is told via flashback, with Miles acting as narrator. He has been called back from a conference, with patients complaining that people in their lives just aren’t acting like themselves. At the same time, Miles is reintroduced to Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter, Airport) a childhood girlfriend who has just returned to town following a divorce. The two discover a usually busy restaurant devoid of customers. The community is almost deserted. It would be easier to write the whole incident off as a delusion, but Miles and Becky soon realize the truth: citizens are being replaced by alien duplicates–that is to say that the person looks exactly the same, but whatever makes people individuals–The spirit, the soul is gone.

Released during the tumult of the McCarthy era in America, many see Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a kind of allegory about communism. The fact that the film can be seen as anti-McCarthy (with the alien pods representing Americans willing to accept conformity and suppression of their individual rights in exchange for protection from communism) or anti-communist (with the alien pods representing unfeeling communists coming to take us over) speaks not only to the complexity of the story, but how influential real life events can be in how interpret fictional narratives.

Adapted by Daniel Mainwaring from Jack Finney’s novel, Invasion of the Body Snatchers earned its rightful place in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1994. An icon film that has influenced countless science fiction and horror films over the years, it has spawned several remakes and parodies. Yet, more than sixty years after its original release, Invasion of the Body Snatchers remains chilling.

Olive films Blu-ray release of this black and white film is presented in the 2.00:1 widescreen Superscope aspect ratio (Short lived in film, this aspect ratio has become popular on TV). This new high definition restoration contains deep blacks and contrasting grays. Fine detail and the image itself are the best this film has ever looked.

The 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is a noted improvement, with better clarity and spacing throughout and rich low end. The bass in Carmen Dragon’s aggressive score has been given a boost along with the effects and dialogue remains clean, clear and concise. Olive has added optional English subtitles.

The extras are impressive:

  • Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith
  • Audio Commentary with Actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter Moderated by Joe Dante
  • The Stranger in Your Lover’s Eyes (HD, 11:54) A two-part visual essay with the actor-son of director Don Siegel, Kristoffer Tabori reading from his father’s memoir A Siegel Film.
  • The Fear is Real (HD, 12:26) Directors Larry Cohen and Joe Dante discuss the lasting influence of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the unique qualities of the film’s narrative.
  • I No Longer Belong: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger (HD, 21:08) Film scholar and Historian discusses the complicated life and unusual career of producer Walter Wanger, who greenlit the film.
  • Sleep No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited (HD, 26:35) This look back at the film features interviews with Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, John Landis and others.
  • The Fear and the Fiction (HD, 8:19) Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along with film directors John Landis, Mick Garris and Stuart Gordon, discuss the making of the film, its place in history, and its meaning.
  • Interview with Kevin McCarthy (HD, 7:25) A 1985 interview with actor Kevin McCarthy conducted by Tom Hatten.
  • Return to Santa Mira (HD) A vintage featurette examining the film’s locations.
  • What’s in a Name? (HD, 2:16) An archival piece on the film’s title.
  • Gallery: Rare documents detailing aspects of the film’s production including the never-produced opening narration to have been read by Orson Welles.
  • Essay: By author and film programmer Kier-La Janisse.
  • Trailer (HD, 2:15) Original Theatrical Trailer.
  • Booklet: 6-page booklet with a printed version of Kier-La Janisse’s essay and vintage stills.

Movie title: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Director(s): Don Siegel

Actor(s): Kevin McCarthy , Dana Wynter, Larry Gates , King Donovan, Carolyn Jones, Jean Willes

Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi

  • Movie
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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