60/60 Review #3: Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978).

There's just something not wanting me to succeed with this 60/60 Project. So here's this week's story. About 2 weeks ago, I sent in a couple Netflix movies so I could get the next couple on my queue. However, the U.S. Postal Service somehow screwed up and Netflix (at least to my knowledge) has still not received either of them. A few days ago, I reported that to Netflix, and they were kind enough to send the next two on my list--one of which happened to be 2001: A Space Odyssey, the next on my 60/60 List. Unfortunately, it did not arrive today for watching and reviewing.

Because of this, I had to make a switch. I needed something from later on my list that could match with the sci-fi theme. And if I could find an added bonus, something that I could use to segue into my next category, considering this is the final film of this month/category. And I was able to do just that. Originally, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) wasn't set to be viewed until May. But I'm kinda glad this happened for a few reasons. First, I've been kinda itching to see this movie for a while now, ever since I had a conversation with Kai Parker of The List about it and how we both needed to see it; second, I was not really looking forward to 2001 anyway; and third, it actually leads into next month even better, as both this and next week's Westworld have a theme of "people" not being quite what they seem. Now that I've thoroughly explained this switcheroo (which is slightly ironic considering the movie), let's get into it.

You know how sometimes you get paranoid thinking somebody is watching you, maybe from the other side of a crowd? Well, imagine if you were right, except that it's the entire crowd watching you--the entire city, even--and they want you to join them. The movie follows Matthew Bannell (Donald Sutherland), a health inspector, and his friend and co-worker Elizabeth (Brooke Adams). Elizabeth starts to notice that her boyfriend Geoffrey (Art Hindle) is acting weird, but Matthew doesn't think anything of it at first. That is, until he gets complaints from other people and other townspeople start acting weird. He turns to a psychologist named David Kibner (Leonard Nemoy) for help, though he doesn't think much of it, no matter how many people complain to him. And then there's a friend of Matthew, Jack (Jeff Goldblum), and Jack's wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright), who discover a human-like shell in their mud bath shop. Together, they must try to figure out the mystery of what's going on before it's too late and the mystery quite literally takes them all over, too.

There have been many incarnations of this story. It started out as a book, then was made into a film in 1956, then this one, then 1993, and finally in 2007. There are also notably similar stories, such as Robert Heinlein's The Puppet Master (which actually came first by about 4 years), which was later made into a film in 1994. And this similarity was disputed in a film that takes the story with its own little twist, Robert Rodriguez's vastly underrated flick, The Faculty. And I'm probably missing loads more. This particular incarnation, however, is considered the best. So... is it?

The Faculty aside (because that's something else entirely), I do think so. It isn't perfect, but it is damn good. I know I'm only three movies in (so this doesn't mean much), but this one is my favorite thus far for my 60/60 List. Of course, because the story is so well known, because I knew all the rules and whatnot of the "pod people," and because I even already knew how this particular film ended, there was a slight loss in excitement value. Nothing was really surprising or anything since I knew everything that was coming. It's just like watching any good mystery film after knowing the ending and all the clues along the way--the thrill of wonder is gone, leaving you to just admire how the film was put together. So that's what I want to focus on here.

Visually, this movie is magnificently shot. There are some very bizarre angles and shots that make the film seem very dream-like at times. And that's pretty cool considering the "sleep" issues that arise in the story. I'm sure that it was intentional. But anyway, there was an overall great eye for setting atmosphere and a total trippy vibe. Anything in the mud bath place in particular was a trip.

The acting is pretty hit or miss--usually more hit, fortunately. A few characters fall under the "Equilibrium" problem: If you're having characters that aren't supposed to emote, don't have them emote. Also, Leonard Nemoy's character was mildly annoying in the first half or so of the movie. It's nothing against Nemoy, though; that's more of a character complaint than an actor complaint, I suppose. And Donald Sutherland was great.

The movie only starts to feel slightly long near the end. It could have been maybe 10 minutes shorter--though I honestly wouldn't know what to cut out. If anything, it would be scenes near the beginning of the film. It's tough, as most scenes that seem to be irrelevant at first actually do serve some purpose (the mud bath scene, for instance). And even if they don't, the sense of unease and creepiness is worth keeping in the majority of later scenes.

I don't have much else to say about the movie. It's a fantastically made film, and it's very much a slow burn as you figure things out along with the characters (assuming you don't know it all already)... and they take their time figuring things out. And the ending, despite already knowing it, I still find is effective. There's always that question of "What if?" right before. So yeah, very well shot, very creepy, sometimes disturbing (the "growing" segments, generally), and pretty good acting. A really effective film, and I really recommend it to Sci-Fi fans who haven't already seen it.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. That'll wrap up "Space/Sci-fi" month, and I'll next be moving into "Western" month, beginning next week with my transitional film, the Sci-Fi Western, Westworld.)

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