10 Things You Didn't Know About... Invasion of the Body Snatchers
These days it seems that Hollywood's new release slates are filled with reboots and remakes of classic movies, and while it can often be difficult to recapture the atmosphere of the original source material, there are a few cases where a remake can not only match the original but, arguably, even improve on it. And if we're talking about films whose remakes put the originals in the shade, then it would be remiss not to mention one of the all-time best cases in point: Philip Kaufman's 1978 reimagining of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Based on Jack Finney's disturbing 1954 novel The Body Snatchers, the story was first brough to the screen in 1956 by director Don Siegel, but Kaufman's 1978 version added an extra level of tension and a cast that included Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright and Leonard Nimoy.
To celebrate the return of our in-store offer on a range of remastered and reissued classics on Blu-ray from the folks at Arrow Video, we took a look at one of the range's most enduring titles and dug up 10 of the lesser-known facts about Philip Kaufman's 1978 horror film...
The director of the original 1956 film makes an appearance in the remake
Don Siegel, the director of the original version of the film made in 1956, plays the part of the taxi driver who drives Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams' characters to the airport. Incidentally, the look of apprehension on their faces was real – Siegel's eyesight had deteriorated hugely and he was speeding through the streets of San Francisco at night without his glasses.
Donald Sutherland was the only cast member who knew how the film would end
Besides the director Philip Kaufman and the screenwriter W. D. Richter, Sutherland was the only person who was told the film's ending, so once again, the horrified and confused look on the face of Veronica Cartwright is entirely real.
The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia makes a very discreet cameo
During one scene, Sutherland's character is walking through a park and stops to give money to a homeless man playing a banjo. The man on screen is actor Joe Bellan, but he couldn't actually play the instrument, so the sound you hear is actually Jerry Garcia playing the instrument while Bellan mimes.
So does Robert Duvall
One of the other cameo appearances in the film features Robert Duvall, who appears very briefly dressed as a priest sitting on a swing. Because Kaufman has such a small budget for the film he couldn't afford to pay Duvall any actual money, so instead the actor reportedly accepted an Eddie Bauer jacket as payment.
The opening sequence was incredibly low budget
The film features an iconic opening sequence illustrating the journey of the alien spores from their home planet across the galaxy to Earth, something which gave the filmmakers a headache since their budget was incredibly small, so they used some innovative DIY techniques to get the job done.
The landscape of the 'planet' was constructed on a 28-inch sheet of plywood, filmed through a sheet of plexiglass peppered with chips and holes to give the impression of stars, and using a wide-angle lens to make the landscape seem much bigger. To get the effect of the spores rising from the surface, they dropped globules of adhesive gel bought from a hardware store into water, then reversed the film to make it look like they were moving upwards.
Donald Sutherland got hit by a car during a take of one scene...
Cinematographer Michael Chapman did a lot of filming on the streets of San Francisco, rather than on a set, which led to some hairy moments. During the scene where Sutherland's character Matthew Bennell is running from a park, he ran into the road and ended up on the bonnet of a VW Beetle. Reportedly, he looked through the windshield and was able to see the driver saying “Oh my God, not you.”
...and nearly got blown up in another
Sutherland insisted on doing his own stunts and in one scene where a fireball explodes from the pod factory, the blast only just missed him. One of the extras wasn't so lucky; he missed his cue and ended up in hospital as a result.
The original script had a lot more jokes
Much like Don Siegel's 1956 version, the original script was more of a horror-comedy than a straight-up fright-fest, but in both cases it was the studios producing the films that shut down the idea, insisting that you couldn't have an audience laughing and screaming at the the same time. In the case of Kaufman's 1976 version it was reportedly United Artists who put the brakes on the comedy side of the film, telling the filmmakers to “get rid of the laughter”.
The film features Danny Zeitlin's one and only film score
Zeitlin is a renowned jazz pianist and was persuaded by Kaufman to provide a score for the film, but despite winning many plaudits for his work on the film, it was the only score he ever wrote and instead focussed on his own output after the film, as well as his role as professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco.
The film is often interpreted as being a political allegory
Several times over the years, both the 1956 and 1978 versions of the film have been seen as an allegory for various political ideas. Some thought Siegel's film was a veiled reference to communist invasion, while others saw it as poking fun at Senator Joe McCarthy's paranoid obsession with America being infiltrated by Russian spies. Some commentators took a similar view with Kaufman's 1978 version, citing references to President Nixon. However, Jack Finney, the author of the novel upon which both are based, has repeatedly said that this was never his intention.
You can find Inavasion of the Body Snatchers and range of other Arrow Video Blu-ray titles here in our online store...