Invasion of the Body Snatchers


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When multiple residents of a Californian backwater begin to suffer from identical frenzied delusions, Dr Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) suspects the town is in the grip of a new kind of epidemic. But his investigations soon reveal the terrifying truth, uncovering not a medical emergency but an extra-terrestrial invasion that threatens mankind’s very existence.

Directed by Don Siegel (Dirty Harry), this 1950s classic brings the fear of the unknown to the streets of America. A milestone of the science-fiction genre and a critique of post-war American society, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers remains an enduring and suspenseful classic.

Presented on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, experience the thrills and horrors of this highly influential movie like never before.

Picture 7/10

BFI presents Don Siegel’s influential sci-fi/horror film Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Blu-ray on a dual-layer disc in its original SuperScope aspect ratio of 2.00:1. The 1080p/24hz high-definition encodes is sourced from a 4K restoration performed by Paramount Pictures, which was scanned from a 35mm fine grain duplicating positive. A UK release, the disc is locked to region B and North American viewers will require a player that can playback region B content.

I haven’t seen either of Olive’s previous North American releases for the film, meaning I can’t compare to either one, but taken on its own BFI’s end presentation here is a perfectly fine one, just a little underwhelming. Sadly, the clarity one may hope for just really isn’t there, more than likely held back by a source that has a dupey quality to it. We get a slight fuzziness and softness, which limits the finer details, especially in longer shots. Contrast is also a bit off, the image either looking too dark, with blacks crushing out shadows and details, or blown out, killing the detail in brighter areas. This also seems to lead to halos around objects, at least on darker ones layered over lighter backgrounds; this looks to be a photographic artifact and not a digital one.

Grain is present and does look to be sharp and cleanly rendered most of the time, which further suggests the slightly softer look and other shortcomings are really just down to the source elements. In regards to restoration efforts, the image has at least been cleaned up impressively, only a few minor marks popping up here and there, while BFI have also encoded the film well, digital artifacts never popping up.

In the end it’s a weaker base presentation more than likely due to the elements, but BFI have done what they can to present it in the best possible way.

Audio 6/10

Disappointingly, the film’s original Perspecta Stereo audio could not be included here (BFI’s notes make mention that they put in significant effort to make it happen) leaving only the film’s original monaural soundtrack, presented here in lossless 2.0 PCM.

Music has a slight edgy/tinny ring to it, but the track on the whole sounds pretty good. Dialogue is crisp and clear, even managing to show some minor range, and it’s free of damage. It sounds quite good for the age.

Extras 8/10

BFI puts together a nicely packed special edition for the film, primarily using content previously produced by Paramount in 2006 for an unreleased DVD, all of that material initially coming to light through Olive’s North American special edition Blu-ray in 2018 (at least, I’m not aware of it popping up anywhere else). This material starts off with an audio commentary featuring actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter accompanied by filmmaker Joe Dante. It’s a fun track, the two actors reflecting on the making of the film, which includes Wynter talking about her own hesitancy at starring in it at the time, at least when it came to telling her parents about it. It may also be worth noting that this track apparently marks her second time seeing the film. McCarthy is most forthcoming when talking about the production, sharing stories around the studio’s constant interference, to the point of cutting out any sign of humour. He also shares plenty of stories around director Don Siegel (and Sam Peckinpah, who appears in this film) and even comments on some of the technical aspects. Dante is probably there to keep things moving along but impressively McCarthy is more than capable of keeping things going Yet Dante still has plenty to bring to the track, sharing his own thoughts around the film and the influence it has had on him (including casting McCarthy in Innerspace), and he also brings up the remakes, getting McCarthy to talk about his great cameo in the Philip Kaufman one. It’s a fun track and it’s great that it’s managed to make it over to another release.

BFI also includes a second commentary, recorded exclusively for this edition and featuring filmmaker and critic Jim Hemphill. This is a more academic track, though a very well done one that packs in a lot over the film’s short 80-minutes. He goes over the film’s development, touching on some of the same things covered in the previous track, though with a bit more detail, particularly around the changes enforced by the studio. This leads to discussion around the original story and serialization, the many remakes (which includes 2007’s The Invasion, not mentioned in the previous track as it hadn’t been released yet) and why the story is so easy to adapt to different eras, which then touches on the perceived politics many find in the film. The track even gets technical, Hemphill at one point talking about the odd widescreen ratio and why SuperScope, a cheaper alternative to CinemaScope, came into existence. Hemphill can veer off here and there to talk about Siegel, the cast, or other members of the crew, but he keeps these moments short and brief and doesn’t simply regurgitate what can be easily looked up on IMDB. It’s a well-planned track that keeps the focus on the film and its far-reaching influence.

Also exclusive to this edition is audio from a 1973 Q&A session with director Don Siegel conducted by Barry Norman at the BFI’s National Film Theatre. The audio is presented as an alternate track over the film, running around 75-minutes. The last 5-minutes of the track features the audio from the film. The conversation isn’t as career spanning (up to 1973) as I figured it would be, and only a few of his films get any real focus, like Riot in Cell Block 11, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and then both Dirty Harry and The Beguiled to a point. Eventually the director starts taking on questions (which are impossible to hear) that lead him into conversations about violence in films (comparing his use of violence to Peckinpah’s at one point), his bigger disappointments in his career, Clint Eastwood as a director, and then the filmmakers he admires despite not watching a lot of films, a fact he feels bad about. On Dirty Harry he also addresses the criticisms that had been lobbed against him and the film, stating that just because he’s telling a story doesn’t mean he condones it or any of the characters. Again, it’s not as career spanning as I would have hoped, but it ends up being an incredibly engaging and fun discussion with the director, a must for fans of Siegel.

Most of the remaining material are archival features created by Paramount. The 26-minute making-of Sleep No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited goes over the film’s production and includes interviews with McCarthy, Wynter, directors Mick Garris, Stuart Gordon and John Landis, and then various others. It’s pretty run-of-the-mill studio-produced DVD feature fair, but does cover the film’s development, the original story, the pod effects, and the studio alterations that were made. This is followed by The Fear and the Fiction, which is an 8-minute featurette looking at the themes and interpretations thrust upon the film through the years.

What’s in a Name? is a 2-minute piece simply about the title changes the film went through before landing on the iconic one it has now, and then Return to Santa Mira is a 13-minute featurette revisiting the film’s locations as they exist today. If they still exist, that is. BFI then includes the film’s trailer (first featuring McCarthy warning the audience directly) followed by a Trailers from Hell segment featuring director Joe Dante talking over the trailer, explaining his love for the film.

BFI then digs into their archives and pull out three somewhat related shorts, starting with the 1948 short film Doorstep to Communism, 11-minutes of propaganda awesomeness warning about allowing communism taking any sort of root. There are then two shorts around plant life, both photographed by Percy Smith. The 1926 silent film The Battle of the Plants is the darker of the two (thanks more to its score), which, at 20,000x the speed, presents battles between plants in English hedgerows, each plant “hellbent on gaining territory” so they can thrive. The more whimsical Magic Myxies from 1931 (and with voice over narration) presents magnified time-lapsed footage of microscopic slime mould just doing its thing. This one was pretty fun and the photography is especially fascinating. Both films run over 10-minutes.

First editions also come with a 37-page booklet. Film programmer Deborah Allison first offers up an essay around the film, addressing its appeal and the interpretations that can be read into it (Siegel denying all of it), which is then followed by a reprint of an article written by J. Hoberman for Sight and Sound. Hoberman’s article, written originally in 1994—a bit after Abel Ferrera’s remake—looks at the legacy of the film and how its stature has grown through the years, bringing up the remakes and films that owe some small debt to it. It was also amusing to read his comments around the then-upcoming and eventually derided The Puppet Masters, Hoberman wondering if that film would have “any resonance at all.” After that is a bio on Don Siegel written by Charlie Bligh, followed by notes around the special features and the film’s restoration. It’s a good booklet, so it’s probably worth your while trying to get the first printing if possible.

Overall, a fun special edition. The Paramount produced stuff is your typical studio stuff, but the group commentary and all of BFI’s exclusives are excellent additions.


Okay presentation aside (due more to materials), BFI’s edition is an easy recommendation for fans of Siegel’s highly influential film.


Directed by: Don Siegel
Year: 1956
Time: 80 min.
Series: BFI
Licensor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Release Date: October 25 2021
MSRP: £17.99
1 Disc | BD-50
2.00:1 ratio
English 2.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Region B
 Newly recorded audio commentary by filmmaker and film historian Jim Hemphill (2021)   50th anniversary commentary with stars Dana Wynter and Kevin McCarthy, and Gremlins director Joe Dante (2006)   John Player Lecture: Don Siegel (1973, 75 mins, audio only): Don Siegel looks over his career with Barry Norman   Sleep No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited (2006, 27 mins): a look at Body Snatchers’ production history. Includes clips from interviews with Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, John Landis, Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers), and science fiction historian Bob Burns   The Fear and the Fiction: The Body Snatchers Phenomenon (2006, 8 mins): considering the film’s themes and critical interpretations.   What's In a Name? (2006, 2 mins): a short video piece about the title of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and some of the changes that were made to get it right   Return to Santa Mira (2006, 13 mins): a look at the locations where key segments from Invasion of the Body Snatchers were shot   A selection of complementary archive films, with British propaganda short Doorstep to Communism (1948, 11 mins) and groundbreaking botanical cinematography in Magic Myxies (Mary Field, F Percy Smith, 1931, 11 mins) and The Battle of the Plants (F Percy Smith, 1926, 11 mins)   Original theatrical trailer   Trailers From Hell: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (2013, 3 mins): Body Snatchers fan Joe Dante celebrates the film   Gallery   **FIRST PRESSING ONLY** An illustrated 40 page booklet with new writing by Dr Deborah Allison, Charlie Bligh and Katy McGahan, and an archive piece by J. Hoberman