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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)



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#1 of 3 Cameron Yee

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Posted September 20 2010 - 07:44 PM

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Release Date: Available now
Studio: MGM
Packaging/Materials: Two-disc Blu-ray "ECO-BOX"
Year: 1978
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1:55:00
MSRP: $24.99
 

  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video 1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1 Standard definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, French, Spanish Variable

The Feature: 4/5
When alien life forms arrive on Earth, humans are none the wiser thanks to the invaders' unassuming, primordial appearance. Quickly developing into small, flowering pods, the creatures have no trouble infiltrating the lives of San Francisco's citizens, gradually replicating and replacing people while they sleep. Once the process is finished, they easily pass for humans in appearance, but there is clearly something alien about them in demeanor. The difference isn't lost on Elizabeth (Brooke Adams), whose boyfriend is one of the first to be replaced. When she confides in her friend Matthew (Donald Sutherland) about the strangeness, he brings her to his psychiatrist friend Dr. Kibner (Leonard Nimoy), who tries to convince her she's looking for ways to sabotage her relationship. It's only when their friends Jack and Nancy (Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright) discover an incomplete replicant and the manner in which the pods begin their work does it become clear it's more than just some psychological issue or collective paranoia. But with the city quickly being taken over and plans for rest of the planet to follow suit, what choice does humanity have but to succumb to the pods?

Though it's not difficult to find deeper meanings behind Philip Kaufman's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" - just as people did with Don Siegel's 1956 classic - the film also works just fine as a creepy, science-fiction thriller. The film's cinematography and camera work are especially noteworthy in that regard, as they play a critical role in creating the mood of paranoia and dread that permeates the film. The special effects also hold up quite well, providing graphic shape and substance when it's time to move beyond mere suggestions. Finally, Sutherland turns in a convincing performance as a kind-hearted skeptic who must ultimately face the enormity of his own - and the rest of humanity's - destruction. Given the popularity of the story - enough to spawn a short-lived TV series in 2005 and another film adaptation in 2007  - we can probably expect to see another treatment in the future. But unlike the characters in the films, Siegel's and Kaufman's fine work won't be so easy to duplicate.

Video Quality: 3.5/5

The film is accurately framed at 1.85:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. Shot to look like a film noir, but using color film stock, scenes are frequently illuminated by single light sources and dominated by shadow. It gives the film an effective moodiness, but the trade off is not so ideal black levels and contrast, creating decidedly flat and murky looking images with sometimes fairly heavy grain. Fine object detail and depth of color are decent, though given the frequent dimness there aren't a lot of revealing moments in either regard. Still, you can't really argue against artistic intent. The literal darkness of the picture is entirely appropriate for the material and as such the transfer appears wholly faithful to the source.
  Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Though the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix seems fairly front-oriented, the soundstage can also sound quite expansive at times. Some rear channel support for the score and sound effects further broaden the canvas, though given the vintage of the surround aesthetics there's nothing particularly subtle about the experience, particularly during the pod birthing sequences. Still, real world sounds, like emergency service sirens, had me questioning whether it was coming from the movie or the busy street outside my house. LFE was non-existent, but the track exhibited good depth and dynamic range and dialogue was consistently clear and intelligible.

Special Features: 3/5
All the special features from the 2007 collector's edition DVD can be found on the Blu-ray, with the exception of the audio commentary, which is only available on the included DVD (which is the 1998 "flipper"). While cobbling together the extras in this manner doesn't make for the most efficient (or best home theater) experience - especially when it comes to the commentary - it's certainly better than having only a portion of the extras that have been produced over the years.

Audio Commentary with Director Philip Kaufman: Despite a tendency to narrate events or have nothing to say whatsoever, Kaufman offers some interesting anecdotes and background about the production. Some of the highlights include his work developing a Star Trek movie, before Paramount deemed there was "no future in science fiction," how they filmed the opening sequence with the pod spores, and how he directed the actors in the film's memorable ending. Note: The commentary is only available on the DVD included in the release.

Re-Visitors from Outer Space or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod (16:14, SD): Retrospective documentary looks back on the film's development, production, and public response. Includes interviews with Sutherland, Cinematographer Michael Chapman, and Director Philip Kaufman.

The Man Behind the Scream: The Sound Effects Pod (12:47, SD): Sound Designer Ben Burtt talks about how he got involved with the film after working on a little film called "Star Wars" and the methods he used to create the pod peoples' birthing, breathing and screaming sounds. Supervising Sound Editor Bonnie Koehler also talks about her work creating sounds for the ubiquitous garbage trucks.

The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod (5:24, SD): Cinematographer Michael Chapman discusses the tricks and techniques used to replicate the film noir look in a color film, as well as various hand held methods that amplified the sense of paranoia.

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:12, SD)

DVD: Flipper disc includes two formats of the standard definition version of the feature. Matted widescreen is on one side and full screen on the other.

Recap
The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

MGM turns in a respectable audio and video presentation for one of the more memorable and effective "Body Snatchers" adaptations. The release's special features cover the requisite bases, though accessing the most in-depth extra - the commentary - is a bit cumbersome.


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#2 of 3 ScottJH

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Posted September 21 2010 - 02:20 AM

Currently $10.49 @ Amazon



#3 of 3 Brisby

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Posted October 02 2010 - 03:32 PM

Question about the Blu-Ray...does anybody else's copy squeeze the trailer and all of the featurettes into a teeny-tiny Brady Bunch-style box in the upper left-hand corner of the screen? Posted Image