Jack Finney’s replicant parable itself gets replicated every couple of decades. From the classic ‘56 original to this classy ‘78 remake; then Abel Ferrara’s rogue redo (BODY SNATCHERS/’93) before domestication as THE INVASION/’07.* Lots of mileage for a magazine serial. But the basic premise (human beings are being replaced by soulless doppelgänger pods) is just too juicy a horror premise, and useful as allegory. (The original was claimed by both anti and anti-anti Communists.) This Philip Kaufman version, working off W. D. Richter’s script, is certainly the hippest, with a San Francisco vibe that recedes as calm, but militaristic poddies gain in number. And with a dash of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD/’68 added. What it ain’t is scary. Or even thought provoking, like the original. Instead, elegant textures, glistening surfaces, fast-changing P.O.V. & camera stylistics; Kaufman hides any feelings of intellectual slumming by going arty. Very watchable though, with lenser Michael Chapman making ripe Caravaggio portraits out of good guys Donald Sutherland & Jeff Goldblum. Leonard Nimoy does a neat turn as a fatuous pop psychologist and Veronica Cartwright couples perfectly with Goldblum in his medicinal mud baths. If only Brooke Adams, Sutherland’s reluctant romantic partner, didn’t act as if the pods had got to her right from the start.
DOUBLE-BILL: *Try the later versions of ‘93 & ‘07 (not seen here) and report back with your own comments.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Nice cameos from Kevin McCarthy & Don Siegel, star & director of the ‘56 classic. Just imagine Siegel, a real form-follows-function sort of mise-en-scène guy reacting to Kaufman’s formal screen compositions. No wonder this runs 115" & Siegel’s 80".