Invasion of the Body Snatchers appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. The lack of anamorphic enhancement was only one of the many problems that cropped up during this flawed transfer.
Sharpness varied and caused some of the distractions. Actually, much of the flick showed decent delineation, but it also often became fairly soft and undefined. Prominent edge haloes created many of these distractions, and I also noticed shimmering and jagged edges throughout the film. Source flaws presented specks, marks, streaks, nicks and other problems. These werenít tremendously heavy, but they cropped up pretty frequently.
Colors tended to be quite bland. The movie showed a very flat, brown tint that left it lifeless. Some of this may have stemmed from the flickís visual design, but I donít think the filmmakers intended for it to look this drab. Blacks were muddy and inky, while shadows tended to be thick and dense. I found little to like about this ugly visual presentation.
At least matters improved in terms of the surprisingly ambitious Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Invasion. Not surprisingly, the mix emphasized the forward channels. Audio spread fairly well across the front channels, but localization of effects seemed somewhat mushy and ill defined at times. The material didnít appear to show great placement and integration. This meant the track created a ďwall of soundĒ at times, but I still felt the definition and movement seemed fine for the era. The score presented nice stereo imaging.
I thought the soundfield lost a few points due to some flawed placement of elements. Most of the stems came from the appropriate spots, but occasionally some pieces popped up on the wrong side. Some bits that should have come from the left appeared on the right and vice versa. These tendencies occurred infrequently, but they created enough distractions to rob the audio of some appeal.
The rear speakers offered pretty high levels of activity, though the elements remained moderately ill-defined. They were more noticeable than usual but not incredibly well-placed. Still, the overall package was considerably more involving than Iíd expect for a film from 1978.
Audio quality was also somewhat flawed but decent for the era. Speech sounded acceptably natural most of the time, but I noticed some edginess at times. Effects presented fairly accurate and distinct elements, but they lacked much range and also showed some mild distortion at times. The score appeared to show similar qualities, as the music sounded acceptably clear but could be somewhat flat. Bass response tended to appear fairly deep but came across as somewhat muddy. In the end, the audio of Invasion had its problems but also boasted some strong moments.
Two extras appear here. We find the movieís trailer and an audio commentary from director Philip Kaufman. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion. Kaufman goes over visual choices and the filmís tone, updating the original flick and storytelling decisions, shooting in San Francisco, various effects, camerawork, cast and performances, and a few other production issues.
Though Kaufmanís chat never threatens to become great, the director does offer a pretty good examination of his flick. Kaufman covers matters to a satisfying degree and provides some nice insights. This does come with more than a few slow spots, though, especially during the movieís third act; Kaufman often goes MIA at that time. Otherwise, he fleshes out the material to create an informative chat.
Film fans can argue whether 1978ís Invasion of the Body Snatchers is better or worse than its 1956 precursor. All I know is that the remake stands on its own as a creepy, chilling horror story. Unfortunately, the DVD has problems. Although it offers decent audio and a fairly interesting commentary, picture quality is absolutely abysmal. While I like the movie, I canít recommend such a flawed DVD.