Invasion of the Body Snatchers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While dated at times, this was usually a satisfying presentation.
Sharpness showed few concerns. A smidgen of softness crept into a few wider shots, but those examples were minor. Instead, the movie usually looked detailed and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I noticed no edge enhancement. In terms of the source print, it showed natural grain – no issues with DNR here – and a handful of small specks. The latter remained inconsequential and infrequent.
Colors were good. The movie tended toward a rather low-key palette that favored ugly greens and other tones meant to disorient the viewer. The disc replicated these well and brought them to life as desired. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows appeared acceptable. A few sequences came across as a little murky, but they usually looked fine. The specks and occasional soft shots made this a “B”, but I remained pleased with the presentation.
Next came the surprisingly ambitious DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Invasion. 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 didn’t appear to show great placement and integration. This meant the track could create a “wall of sound”, 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 I’d expect for a film from 1978.
Audio quality was also somewhat flawed but decent for the era. Speech sounded acceptably natural and without notable edginess. Effects presented fairly accurate and distinct elements, with only some mild distortion at times. The score appeared to show similar qualities, as the music sounded acceptably clear and vivid. The wonky localization knocked some points off of my rating, but I still thought the track held up well after 32 years.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-ray compare to those of the 2007 Collector’s Edition DVD? Neither demonstrated great growth, but both showed improvements. The audio was clearer and had a bit more oomph. Both had the localization issues, but at least the lossless track was more distinctive.
Visuals also failed to give us a big step up, but it still worked better than the DVD. It boasted the usual improvements in terms of delineation and clarity. I liked the old DVD, but the Blu-ray delivered some growth.
The Blu-ray set includes the same extras as the 2007 DVD. We start with an audio commentary from director Philip Kaufman. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion. Kaufman goes over visual choices and the film’s 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 Kaufman’s 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 movie’s third act; Kaufman often goes MIA at that time. Otherwise, he fleshes out the material to create an informative chat.
We also discover the film’s original theatrical trailer and a series of featurettes. Re-Visitors from Outer Space, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod goes for 16 minutes, 14 seconds. It mixes movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Kaufman, screenwriter WD Richter, director of photography Michael Chapman, The Writer’s Journey author Christopher Vogler, and actors Donald Sutherland and Veronica Cartwright.
“Pod” looks at the original story and its adaptations. We get notes about the 1956 version as well as decisions made when the 1978 remake emerged. In addition, “Pod” examines the San Francisco setting and context, themes, cast, characters and performances, and the film’s ending.
“Pod” doesn’t offer the most concise examination of the production, but it gives us plenty of good notes. It covers the requisite issues with charm and brings us many interesting tales about the shoot. Too bad Brooke Adams doesn’t pop up to settle the debate about who won her footrace with Sutherland.
Next comes the four-minute and 39-second Practical Magic: The Special Effects Pod. It features Kaufman and space sequence special effects artist Howard Preston. We learn about how the filmmakers created the alien landscape, the space sequences, and the early pod shots. We get some decent notes, though it seems odd that we hear nothing about special effects that appear after the movie’s opening; shouldn’t we learn a little about the creepy faux actors created for the flick?
The Man Behind the Scream: The Sound Effects Pod lasts 12 minutes, 48 seconds and includes special sound effects creator Ben Burtt. He tells us a little about his job description and gets into details of his work on Invasion. We also get some remarks from Kaufman and supervising sound editor Bonnie Koehler in this excellent little examination of the movie’s audio. It’s a fine synopsis of the various sound elements and goals.
Finally, The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod fills five minutes, 25 seconds with comments from Vogler, Kaufman, Chapman, and Richter. They discuss the movie’s camerawork and visual design aspects. More good notes pop up here, as we find a mix of useful details in this short but tight show.
The set also includes a Bonus DVD version of the film. Note that this is the old 1998 DVD, not the Collector’s Edition from 2007, so it provides an inferior transfer.
Also note that the Blu-ray itself doesn’t include the audio commentary. If you want to listen to it, you’ll have to play this DVD. I have no idea why the Blu-ray didn’t provide the commentary – maybe it was a rights issue – but since it still shows up in the package, I’m happy.
Film fans can argue whether 1978’s 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. The Blu-ray demonstrates good picture, reasonably positive audio and a few interesting supplements. If you already own the Collector’s Edition DVD, I’m not sure this is worth a repurchase; it’s superior but not a night and day step up in quality. Still, it’s the best version of the film on the market and sure to please fans.
To rate this film, visit the original review of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS