Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) (Olive Signature Series) (Blu-ray Review)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) (Olive Signature Series) (Blu-ray Review)
Directed By: Don Siegel
Starring: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones, Larry Gates, King Donovan
Rated: UR/Region A/2:00/1080p/Number of Discs 1
Available from Olive Films (Limited to 5,000 Copies)

One of the greatest and most influential Sci-Fi films of all time stars Kevin McCarthy as a doctor in a small California town whose patients are becoming hysterical and accuse their loved ones as emotionless imposters. Plant-like extra-terrestrials have invaded Earth, replicating the villagers in giant seed “pods” and taking position of their souls while they sleep. Realizing that the epidemic is out of control, in a terrifying race for his life, he escapes to warn the world of the deadly invasion of the pod people! Directed by the great Don Siegel (Dirty Harry) and co-starring Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones, Larry Gates and King Donovan. Remade in 1978, 1997 and 2007.

A lot of people sorta just act like horror before the 70s wasn’t a real thing. I’m pretty guilty of this and there were even times when I really didn’t want to review anything made before the 70s, much less a film from 1956. That being said, I’m happy to say I have matured as both a person and a movie watcher/reviewer. When you take into account that Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been remade a few times, you’d think it HAS to be good, right? It is. As a matter of fact, this movie is REALLY good. I don’t know what all horror films were out in and around 1956 off the top of my head, but I’d easily go ahead and say that this was the best that year and was probably the best for a few years. Invasion of the Body Snatchers starts out light in some ways. As things go along, life in a quiet town then becomes a bit of a nightmare for a few and by the time this one reaches the ending, nothing at all feels safe. You could say that some things about this one might be a bit dated, but you certainly can’t put a date on fear, this movie proves that statement. This turns into 100% uncertainty and horror before all is said and done. It doesn’t have all the blood and gore of the 80s and after, but what it has is something that is hard to find in horror even today, fright. Even when watched today, Body Snatchers brings the horror and the spook. This movie basically becomes the definition for the term midnight movie and you can see the legacy it brings even in movies today. You could probably count the ones that even come close to doing what this one does on one hand.

I guess you could say a movie like this sneaks up on you. We watch doctor Miles J. Bennell go from your normal run of the mill doctor to a man on the run with the love of his life on his arm. Pretty soon one thing adds up and then another. Then his small group of friends he has gets shrunk one by one. A movie like this uses the atmosphere, the scenery, the reaction of characters, and a whole bunch of little things that add up to make one big great thing. The results are a movie that seems almost nightmarish at times. There is, of course, the controversy of how it ends and how the director might have wanted it to end, but I’ll be honest with you here. Given how things are today in the world of horror and genre films, the ending this movie has feels fresh and different even today by today’s standards and with what we’re accustomed to in the genre. I won’t try to hyperbole this one, folks. This is what horror should be, even today. It has so much of what the genre has lost deep within its core and I’ll say once again, that by those standards, this movie manages to feel fresh when watched despite being made in 1956. Do yourselves a favor and if you haven’t watched this movie, rush out and watch it NOW. Then you can move on to every remake that came after, but I don’t think even they will have the same results as this classic here.

Extras

– New High-Definition digital restoration
– Audio Commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith
– Audio Commentary by actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, and filmmaker Joe Dante
– “The Stranger in Your Lover’s Eyes” – A two-part visual essay with actor and son of director Don Siegel, Kristoffer – Tabori, reading from his father’s book A Siegel Film
– “The Fear is Real” – Filmmakers Larry Cohen and Joe Dante on the film’s cultural significance
– “I No Longer Belong: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger” – Film scholar and author Matthew Bernstein discusses the life and career of the film’s producer
– “Sleep No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited” – 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 Stuart Gordon
– “The Fear and the Fiction: The Body Snatchers Phenomenon” – Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along with film directors John Landis, Mick Garris and Stuart Gordon, discuss the making of the film, its place in history, and its meaning
– 1985 archival interview with Kevin McCarthy hosted by Tom Hatten
– “Return to Santa Mira” – An exploration of the film’s locations
– “What’s In a Name?” – On the film’s title
– Gallery of rare documents detailing aspects of the film’s production including the never-produced opening narration to have been read by Orson Welles
– Essay by author and film programmer Kier-La Janisse
– Original theatrical trailer

Quality of the Transfer: 98%