Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

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Released 4-Jul-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Theatrical Trailer
Audio Commentary-Phillip Kaufman (Director)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 110:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:38) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Philip Kaufman
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Donald Sutherland
Brooke Adams
Leonard Nimoy
Jeff Goldblum
Veronica Cartwright
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Denny Zeitlin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German for the Hearing Impaired
Swedish
Norwegian
Portuguese
English for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
Finnish
Danish
Polish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Transamerica building!
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When I volunteered to review this movie, I thought it was the original version, made in 1955. That version is available on DVD, but only in Region 1 so far. This is the first of the two remakes (so far!) - made in 1978. It is interesting to compare the two versions.

    The basic plot of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is probably familiar to you. Even if it isn't, I'm not spoiling any plot points not given away on the cover. We are being invaded from outer space, but not by little green men in metal spaceships (that's another movie) - we are being invaded quietly by a plant-like race, who are absorbing and supplanting (I'm sorry, I had to make that pun) people. Naturally, our intrepid heroes (this is B-movie stuff) discover what is going on, and set out to rescue the world. Will they be in time? Will we all be replaced? Do I sound like a trailer for the movie?

    I must say that I have always had trouble picturing Donald Sutherland as the hero - that hair-cut makes it difficult for me to take him seriously.

The director, Philip Kaufman, was fully aware that his movie would be compared with the original. He set out to have some fun, especially for people who have seen the original movie. There's a cool cameo by Kevin McCarthy, the star of the original, with him echoing the original ending of the movie. There's a cameo by Don Siegel (director of the original) as a taxi driver; there are also cameos by Philip Kaufman, his wife, his producer, and his director of photography. There's even a piece that I didn't understand, with Robert Duvall dressed as a priest on a swing in the first few seconds of the movie - the director commented that a horror movie needs a priest.

    This movie is quite different to the original, which is good. The original is set in a small town; this one is set in San Francisco. The way the director describes it, it is as though he has made a "son of", or a "return of", or something like that - what happens if the body snatchers got out of a small town, and infected a big city? I think that was smart - the original was very good, and it would have been foolish to fight that.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is not good. The years have not been kind to this movie.

    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1, but it is not 16x9 enhanced. That's a shame, because it could really have done with the extra resolution.

    The sharpness is not strong - the image seems a bit soft throughout, with a lot of low-level noise in the first 30 minutes. There's persistent fine film grain. Shadow detail is not good. A lot of this movie was filmed at night, and the director claims to have been aiming for a film noir look, with the edges of the frame black, and various lighting effects throwing the subjects into relief.

    Colours are a little muted. A lot of the film is lit with green or purple light, producing odd appearances, and distorting the colour. Additionally, the night shots are heading towards black and white - this, too, was deliberate.

    There were constant tiny film artefacts, and one or two large ones, including a large blue blob on a single frame at 35:34. Aliasing was minor, and I saw no macro-blocking or other MPEG artefacts - looks like the encoding went well, but the source material was in poor condition.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer change at 60:38. I guessed that it might be here, but it wasn't easy to tell - I had to confirm it. Although it is visible, it is rather well done.



Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The cover says the only soundtrack is English 5.1; the disc actually contains English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish soundtracks. I listened only to the English. But it is not 5.1 - it is Dolby Digital 2.0.

    Dialogue is not always readily understood. On a couple of occasions I resorted to the subtitles to understand what was being said.

    The score is abrasive. Denny Zeitlin scored exactly one movie - this one. Some parts of the score are very effective - I really liked the percussion echoing the footsteps during the initial pursuit. Parts are a bit too strident, taking attention away from the events unfolding - sort of saying "hey, listen to me".

    The surrounds are not used. The subwoofer lay dormant.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is silent and static.

Theatrical Trailer (2:06)

    The trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with DD2.0 sound.

Commentary - Philip Kaufman (Director)

    This commentary must have been hard work for Philip Kaufman, because he comes across as a naturally laconic gentleman. There are numerous gaps in his commentary, and some of what he says is repetitious. At the same time, what he does say is rather interesting, and explains some of the aspects of the movie. He explains the prevalent green and purple lighting as an attempt to convey an other-worldly atmosphere, for example.

    His comments show an odd bit of product placement. Normally product placement consists of a product (a cola drink, for example) strategically placed with its label towards the camera. This case is a bit different - Transamerica provided the money to United Artists to pay for this film, and the Transamerica building (one of the more distinctive pieces of architecture in San Francisco) appears several times in the movie. He comments on each appearance, perhaps suggesting that it was deliberate.

    The commentary is not subtitled.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    It looks like the R4 dips out on some extras. Neither version is 16x9 enhanced. Reviews of the R1 make it sound as though their transfer is no better than ours. I suspect that most of the limitations exist in the source material, so I wouldn't expect anything better to show up in future. My recommendation to you is to pick up the original movie first!

Summary

    This DVD is a reasonable transfer of degraded source material.

    The video quality is probably as good as the source material allows, but that's not good.

    The audio quality is not good.

    The extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, June 25, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics matte white screen with a gain of 1.0 (280cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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