• Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (Olive Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Olive Films
    Released on: October 16th, 2018.
    Director: Don Siegel
    Cast: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates
    Year: 1956
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    Invasion Of The Body Snatchers – Movie Review:

    Directed by Don Siegel and released in 1956, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers has rightfully and understandably gone on to be recognized as a classic work of science fiction cinema, the kind that holds up well decades after it was made not because of effects work or technique but because of the themes and ideas that it explores.

    The story follows Doctor Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy), a small-town general practitioner who returns to his home from a convention when a rash of strange illnesses break out amongst his patient base. While others tried to fill in for him while he was out of town, none of his patients would talk to anyone but he - though once he gets back, it seems that everything goes back to normal just as quickly as it began, something that Bennell finds quite curious. Nevertheless, Bennell is pleased to find that Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), his former girlfriend, has returned to town as well. They run into one another and decide to get reacquainted and before you know it, their romance is in full bloom. While out on a date one night, they get interrupted by a call from friends Jack (King Donovan) and Teddy (Carolyn Jones) who urge them to come to their home right away. The couple begrudgingly oblige and are shocked to discover that there's a body devoid of any distinguishing feature on the table in their home, Jack noting that he found it in the pool in their backyard.

    All of this starts to tie in with other odd behavior noticed amongst the townsfolk - a little boy who swears up and down that the woman who everyone knows is his mother is not his mother, a confession by Becky's cousin Wilma (Virginia Lentz) that she doesn't think their Uncle Ira is really their Uncle Ira, and more. When the body that once had no features soon grows into something that looks identical to Teddy, Donnell starts to wonder what's going on - he finds the answer in the pods that are appearing all over town and which seem to be giving birth to plant based versions of the townspeople. Unfortunately for Bennell, nobody he talks to about it seems to believe a word he's saying, including the cops...

    Although the film has been remade a few times now and with varying degrees of success, in the minds of many Siegel's original remains the best version. Right from the opening scene in which Bennell runs like a madman into the police station where he's understandably viewed initially as a lunatic, this is a movie that grabs you from the start and holds your interest throughout. Made right in the middle of America's post WWII obsession with communists and nuclear weapons, it's easy to see how the theme of having something foreign that wants to do away with your way of life living right in amongst you would strike a chord with audiences of the day. Kevin McCarthy plays his role perfectly, sweating his way through a very inspired performance and truly committing to the character to the point where what could easily have fallen into camp territory instead feels like a genuine and believable turn in front of the camera. He shares effective onscreen chemistry with the beautiful Dana Wynter and supporting efforts from King Donovan and Carolyn Jones are also strong. Look for a quick cameo from a young Sam Peckinpah as Charlie, the gas man who appears in the basement during a key scene.

    Strong acting aside, there's a lot more to like about the movie. Siegel keeps the pace going very well, and as our leads start to realize just what's happening, the film takes on an interesting claustrophobic tone. While there are a few spots where the pods themselves look like the props that they are, there are also a couple of parts in the movie where the effects are quite effective too, the best example being the 'hatching' scene that takes place in the last half of the film. It might seem primitive by modern standards and on a technical level it probably is but when those pods start foaming and effectively give birth on screen, these scenes can still send a chill down your spine. The fact that all of this is accomplished without minimal effects work and virtually no gore, violence or jump scares makes the picture all that more impressive.

    Invasion Of The Body Snatchers – Blu-ray Review:

    The 2.00.1 widescreen transfer on this disc is good, if a few steps short of amazing. The 50GB disc gives the AVC encoded 1080p high definition picture plenty of breathing room, keeping compression artifacts out of the image entirely. Blacks are nice and deep, inky black if you will, while whites are crisp and clean. The grey scale covering the ‘in between’ looks excellent and contrast is spot on here. Film grain appears naturally throughout and there isn’t much in the way of print damage here at all, the picture is definitely clean. There is some noticeable crush in a few of the darker scenes, however, and while detail certainly surpasses SD in every way you’d hope, it can look a little soft at times making you wonder if this isn’t a tweaked version of an older master. Some scenes are crisper and sharper than others. Even if the film warranted a new 4k scan, which it does, this is still a decent effort from Olive.

    The English language audio, presented in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono, is also of very strong quality. The levels are nicely balanced and the track is clean, free of any hiss or distortion. Dialogue is always easy to follow and the score sounds really, really nice here. No complaints at all! Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras start off with an all new audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith. It’s a good track, with a lot of historical information crammed in here alongside his opinions on the film and the performances it contains. Smith has a sense of humor but never gets too jokey about the film, taking the picture seriously and treating it well as he comments on the actors, the direction, the score, the locations, and many of the themes and ideas that the picture is so good at exploiting. Carried over from the past special edition DVD release is the archival commentary with actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter moderated by filmmaker Joe Dante. For those who haven’t heard it, this track is excellent. McCarthy and Wynter share a lot of great stories from the time they spent on the production, talking about what it was like taking direction from Siegel, some of their fellow cast members, their characters and lots more. Dante keeps the discussion moving at a good pace and also chimes in with his thoughts on the picture as well.

    The Stranger In Your Lover's Eyes is a twelve-minute two-part visual essay with Don Siegel’s son, actor Kristoffer Tabori, reading from his father's book A Siegel Film. This is essentially Tabori reading the segment of the book that covers the making of Body Snatchers and it’s quite interesting as it gives us some insight into the making of the film from the director’s point of view.

    In the thirteen-minute The Fear Is Real piece filmmakers Larry Cohen and Joe Dante talk about the film’s importance in the annals of movie history as well as its influence and more. They share their own experiences watching the film for the first time, not the way that the film ties into there state of the world when it was made and also discuss the book that inspired the movie.

    I No Longer Belong: The Rise And Fall Of Walter Wanger spends twenty-two-minutes with film scholar and author Matthew Bernstein as he delves into the history of the man who produced the picture. Here we learn about how he got into the business, the importance of some of his work and his role in getting this film made along with some genuinely interesting biographical details about the man.

    Sleep No More: Invasion Of The Body Snatchers Revisited is an appreciation of the film featuring actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along with comments from film directors and fans, John Landis, Mick Garris, and historian Bob Burns. It runs twenty-seven-minutes and it’s pretty in-depth.

    The Fear And The Fiction: The Body Snatchers Phenomenon is a nine-minute retrospective piece made up of exclusive interviews with Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, alongside filmmakers John Landis, Mick Garris and Stuart Gordon. The actors share yet more stories from their experiences working on the picture while the three directors each offer their own appreciation of the film and discuss the importance and significance of its influence.

    Also well worth checking out is an archival interview with Kevin McCarthy hosted by Tom Hatten from 1985 that runs eight-minutes. It covers some of the same ground as the commentary track does, but it’s interesting enough to watch.

    Olive also includes a segment called Return To Santa Mira which spends sixteen-minutes exploring eight of the film’s locations, showcasing how they appear now in the modern day. Some of these will be instantly recognizable to fans of the film, others not so much. Interesting stuff.

    We also get a three-minute piece called What's In A Name? that spends a bit of time talking about the literal name of the film and what went into coming up with the perfect choice that we wound up with.

    The film’s original theatrical trailer, a pretty extensive still gallery documenting the production, menus and chapter selection close out the extra on the disc. As to the packaging, inside the keepcase alongside the Blu-ray is a full color insert book containing an essay on the film by author and film programmer Kier-La Janisse that does a great job of dissecting the paranoia that plays such a huge part in the movie’s effectiveness. The Blu-ray case in turn fits inside a cardboard sleeve with some genuinely cool artwork on the outside (that also matches the interior cover sleeve).

    Invasion Of The Body Snatchers – The Final Word:

    Invasion Of The Body Snatchers holds up well as a great example of just how good and how tense a film can be when in the right hands. It's very well acted and pretty much impeccably directed and it's rarely been bettered when it comes to its effectiveness in demonstrating the effects of paranoia on screen. This reissue from Olive Films gives this masterpiece a decent high definition transfer and loads it up with all of the extra features that it deserves. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Invasion Of The Body Snatchers Blu-ray screen caps!