Don Siegel's 1956 science fiction tale arrived on the scene when millions of Americans were afraid of a Communist takeover of the world. His story about living organisms from another planet intent on dominating people and turning them into soulless zombies had a strong foundation to build on.
The creative folk behind this remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers are sophisticated enough to know that paranoia is alive and well in our times also. Whether we describe our fears in terms of environmental disaster, the arrival of malevolent beings from other planets, or the terrorism of earthly body snatchers such as kidnappers, madmen, or programmed cult fanatics; we are used to living in an atmosphere of fear.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers speaks to our paranoia and intrigues with its craftiness. W.D. Richter has updated and revised the locale of Jack Finney's original tale from a small town to San Francisco. Donald Sutherland is featured as Matthew Bennell, a public health inspector whose assistant Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) notices one morning that her husband has drastically changed. Her testimony seems weird until Bennell hears of similar transformations all over the city.
Elizabeth receives little assistance from Dr. David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy), a pop therapist. But her fears prove to be genuine when friends Jack (Jeff Goldblum) and Nancy Bellicec (Veronica Cartwright) locate a strange body in their mud spa bath. Soon Matthew, Elizabeth, and the Bellicecs are thrown together as the rest of the city is taken over by the body snatchers.
Philip Kaufman, who directed the excellent but overlooked film White Dawn, comes into his own at the helm of this well-realized thriller. He draws out a stalwart performance from Donald Sutherland and a perky one from Brooke Adams (Last seen in Days of Heaven). Michael Chapman's cinematography is appropriately surreal; special effects by Dell Rheume, Russ Hessy, and Ben Burtt are scary; and Denny Zeitlin's musical score is downright eerie especially the use of the Royal Scots Dragon Guards rendition of "Amazing Grace" during a scene of pivotal importance.
There is something for everyone in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Film buffs will chuckle at the cameo appearances of Kevin McCarthy and Don Siegel, and cultural detectives are sure to giggle over the sidebar satire on San Francisco's subculture of pop therapies. All these ingredients contribute to this remake's success. And after a season of silly sequels, that's quite a remarkable feat!