Updated: Jan 21
BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), Jack Belicec (King Donovan), Teddy Belicec (Carolyn Jones) and Dr. Miles J. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) become aware of the alien pods.
“INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS – OLIVE SIGNATURE”
Blu-ray; 1956; Not Rated, contains action peril and mature themes; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: So many and all good! Going with two newcomers “Sleep No More: ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ Revisited” and “The Fear and the Fiction: ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ Revisited”
OLIVE SIGNATURE leaps into Criterion Collection territory with a sterling new presentation of “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” – 1956 original directed by Don Siegel (“Dirty Harry”) starring Kevin McCarthy as Dr. Miles J. Bennell and Dana Wynter as Becky Driscoll.
Everyone knows the danger of the pod people. It all started with the book by Jack Finney, a prolific speculative author whose work often caught Hollywood’s eye. “Body Snatchers” arrived at a peak moment in history when the threat of communism loomed, and freedom-loving Americans feared being absorbed into a socialist regime. Going to sleep (ignorance, lack of vigilance) and waking up transformed into a mindless member of the collective by an invading alien plant species was a nightmare.
It still is. Director Philip Kaufman, who co-created “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” took it out for a spin in 1978 with Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy. “The Invasion” (2007) starred Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. References to Finney’s creation on film and TV are infinite. Wherever people fear a loss of individuality or identity, look to the pod people in any and every medium. These folks drank the Kool-Aid long before Jim Jones’ flock.
(1) Dr. Bennell drives to his office after Nurse Sally Withers (Jean Willes) picks him up at the Santa Mira train station. (2) Jimmy Grimaldi (Bobby Clark) runs into the street, trying to escape his transformed mother. (3) Dr. Bennell meets his high school sweetheart Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter). Both have just returned from Reno, Nevada, and are recently divorced. (4) Belicec, Bennell and Becky find lots of questions but no answers to the creature from the greenhouse.
(1) Carolyn Jones, the future Morticia Addams, as Teddy Belicec. The claustrophobic actress had a very difficult time making her body cast for the production. (2) Special effects hold up well. Another great bonus in this 1956 film. (3) "Maybe they're the result of atomic radiation on plant life or animal life. Some weird alien organism - a mutation of some kind...Whatever it is, whatever intelligence or instinct it is that govern the forming of human flesh and blood out of thin air, is fantastically powerful...All that body in your cellar needed was a mind." (4) Dr. Bennell and Becky hope to solve the mystery of Santa Mira. (5) Dr. Bennell lights two pods discovered in his car's trunk.
All this and more can be found on the bevy of extras, old and new, on Olive Signature’s presentation. It includes two commentaries: One featuring film historian Richard Harland Smith, and another with actors McCarthy and Wynter, and sci-fi producer/director Joe Dante. There’s also “The Stranger in Your Lover’s Eyes” with Siegel’s son Kristoffer Tabori reading from his father’s book with Siegel himself; “The Fear is Real” featuring interviews with Dante and Larry Cohen; “I No Longer Belong: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger” (fascinating!) about the film’s producer, with film historian Matthew Bernstein; a “1985 Archival Interview with Kevin McCarthy,” with host Tom Hatten; “Return to Santa Mira” explores the fictional town where the action takes place (Sierra Madre, California was the actual location.); “What’s in a Name?” on the film’s title; the original theatrical trailer and a production gallery, with the never-filmed opening narration that would have been read by Orson Welles.
“Sleep No More: ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ Revisited” and “The Fear and the Fiction: ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ Revisited” have interviews with McCarthy and Wynter, with commentary by filmmaking fans John Landis, Mick Garris and Stuart Gordon.
A booklet with an essay by author and film producer Kier-La Janisse is enclosed with the disc.
“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was released in 2012 on an excellent Blu-ray. Olive’s latest restoration appears to use the same scan to achieve subtle improvements in detail and contrast. A wider diversity in shading creates more depth. We expect characters, location and studio shots to look good and realistic. The nice surprise here is how well the pod effects look. The actors have interesting stories about making the body casts, especially Carolyn Jones', who went on to play Morticia Addams in “The Addams Family” on TV. Film grain is consistent, yet refined throughout; it never overwhelms. All scratches, dirt and flaws have been erased. The new 1080p transfer is in 2.00:1 ratio; the original aspect ratio was 1.85:1.
The soundtrack also gets a subtle upgrade from a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track to DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono. There’s a nice increase in tone and texture. Dialogue is clearly delivered. American composer and conductor Carmen Dragon wrote the dynamic score. There are no subtleties here; kettle drums, horns and strings surround McCarthy’s Dr. Bennell as he shouts: “Look, you fools. You're in danger. Can't you see? They're after you. They're after all of us. Our wives, our children, everyone. They're here already. YOU'RE NEXT!”
You’ve been warned. This is a must-have release.
— Kay Reynolds
(1) "Less than a month ago, Santa Mira was like any other town. People with nothing but problems. Then, out of the sky came a solution. Seeds drifting through space for years took root in a farmer's field. From the seeds came pods which had the power to reproduce themselves in the exact likeness of any form of life." (2) "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" had a new "monster" chase. Instead of the villagers chasing Frankenstein, the townsfolk chase Bennell to turn him into one of them. (3) Bennell and Becky try to hide from the alien seeds and the pod people. (4) Becky awakens with a new body and personality. "We can't let you go, Miles. You're dangerous to us. Don't fight it, Miles, it's no use. Sooner or later, you'll have to go to sleep." (5) Dr. Bennell learns the meaning of real fear as he realizes Becky has become one of the pod people.