Invasion of the Body Snatchers [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (24th October 2021).
The Film

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956)

Dr. Miles Bennell (played by Kevin McCarthy) notices some strange happenings in his hometown of Santa Mira, California. People saying that their relatives have somehow "changed" yet they physically look the same and completely seem fine. But when mysterious plantlike pods are found in the homes of his former girlfriend Becky (played by Dana Wynter) and his friend Jack (played by King Donovan), they discover that within them are forming bodies of duplicates of themselves, ready to take them over and eventually take over the world.

Writer Jack Finney wrote "Body Snatchers" for Collier's magazine in a serialized form, eventually published as a novel in 1954. Film producer Walter Wanger, fascinated with the prospect of an adaptation to screen, negotiated the rights before the story was actually completed in the magazine. For the film adaptation, Wanger's Allied Artists hired screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring to adapt the story, Don Siegel to direct. with location shooting in Sierra Madre, California. Interestingly, almost none of the main cast or crew had any experience in science fiction. Siegel was a director of hard boiled dramas. Mainwaring wrote noirs and westerns in his filmography. Cinematographer Ellsworth Fredericks directed mostly early live broadcast television. Composer Carmen Dragon composed quite a few dramas in the 1940s and 50s. Even Milt Rice the special effects technician had no experience in the genre. Yet somehow these outsiders at a smaller studio outside the major studio system in Hollywood were able to create one of the most memorable, inventive, and influential films of all time with "Invasion of the Body Snatchers".

Made during the golden age of science fiction films, where the Cold War tensions were high, technology was moving forward quickly, and the ideas found in science fiction comics and novels could finally be brought to screen through innovations in special effects. "The Day the Earth Stood Still", "The Thing from Another World", and "It Came from Outer Space" are examples of a handful of major successes of the early 1950s, and those were from major studios. The smaller studios were also churning out their own works with obviously lower budgets, but the returns were high with audience demand, especially for youngsters. "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" does go the cheaper route, not relying on optical effects, alien creature effects, or spacecraft that were prevalent in many other films, but still offered creative and memorable effects set pieces, while drawing in viewers with tension and reality based horror that helped it stand out from the crowded cinema space. In addition, the film was shot when theaters were converting to the widescreen format to compete with television. Since the CinemaScope process was expensive to use with licensing, using special cameras and lenses, Allied Artists used the cheaper SuperScope process, which used standard 35mm film and cameras to shoot the production, but was framed and matted on the top and bottom to create a wide 2.00:1 aspect ratio for exhibition.

Kevin McCarthy playing Miles Bennell is an interesting character at the center. A divorced small town doctor, he is a man of reason yet he is a man with heart, as is shown with his relationship with Becky, who is also divorced as the two had a relationship when they were younger and have remained close. At a time when divorce was considered taboo, to have the two main leads comes from broken relationships was highly unusual, as well as controversial with the studio and the MPAA having some objection to the characters backgrounds. Though it doesn't particularly play into being an integral part of the narrative, it does give both of them some character and personality as people who have experienced losing a loved one through change in chemistry. The small town aesthetic is also prominent, as Miles knows all the people he comes across, such as the Grimaldi family that runs a roadside vegetable stand, Charlie from the gas company (played by Sam Peckinpah, who was also the dialogue coach), and others are all on a first name basis. There is always a sense of community between the characters, as small talk between everyone, from Miles with the nurse Sally (played by Jean Willes) or Becky with her cousin Wilma (played by Virginia Christine), the small scenes are great to watch as well. But of course science fiction fans are more interested in the major element of the special effects, and as simple as they are, they do deliver quite well.

The "pod people", born from giant seed pods were created using full body casts of the actors in plater, with liquids such as soap and gelatin to give the sense of bodies being formed through bubbles and goo. The pods themselves are plantlike and have a natural yet slightly fake look as the characters seem to carry them with great ease as if they were empty, but effective nonetheless. There are many things that are not explained fully in the story. How did the pods appear in Santa Mira? Are they extra terrestrial or from scientific experimentation? How are the pods able to copy the humans? What happens to the original human once the pod person comes to life? Once the town starts being taken over. there is an abundance of pod people over humans, yet there is no mass grave or traces of the originals. At one point even one character asks what happens to the humans once the pods form, but obviously no answer can be given by anyone around. Despite having no answers, or possibly because the answers aren't given, the film's tension is always high. Though the audience doesn't need to question these things in order to enjoy the film, there is one major question and possibly a flaw towards the end of the film that is mind boggling, and there doesn't seem to be any logical answer for, and this does cause some spoilers.

It's figured out that while the humans are asleep, the replacement pod people will take over. After running all night and being exhausted and sleepy, Miles and Becky hide in a mining cave (Bronson Cave) from the townsfolk chasing them. At one point, they hear music playing, in which Miles exits the cave for a short while to find a farm where the pods are multiplying. Becky stays behind but unfortunately she falls asleep while resting. When he returns to her, he finds that she is now a pod person, and tries to signal to the other pod people of his whereabouts. The question is, how did she suddenly become a pod person? Was there a fully formed pod version of Becky that just happened to be in the cave somewhere? But they destroyed the pod which a Becky replicant was being formed, as they did burn the pods they found in Miles' car earlier. Where did this copy appear from and where did her original body go? This is one of the oddest parts of the film that just doesn't make sense with the logic that is presented already. Granted there are still questions on how the pods take over the people, but this sequence does cause confusion, where Miles runs away and the character of Becky is no longer seen after that. With its flaws and all, does it ruin the enjoyment? Not at all. But it is something unexplained that I personally cannot find true answers for.

It is also surprising to know that even though the film has high marks as an all time classic, it was a compromised affair with clashes between Siegel and Allied Artists. The producers were concerned with the script having humor and wanted to have a more serious tone. In addition they were concerned with the two leads being divorcees and tried to have them changed. Siegel's film did remove the humor but left the characters as they were. In addition, the producers were unhappy with the tone, especially the ending which had Miles screaming at the camera that the pod people were infiltrating the world saying to the audience "You're next! You're next!" with a downbeat and a shock, rather than a life saving conclusion. Due to negative reactions from test audiences, they forced Siegel to film a new epilogue, prologue, and narration with McCarthy to give the audience a safer feel to the story, by having the character of Miles being rescued and explaining the story as a flashback narrative. The studio said it was either Siegel to film the additional scenes, or they would do them on their own so Siegel went back and shot the footage in August 1955, a few months after principle photography ended. It was also during this shooting that they shot a portion of the theatrical trailer, with Miles at the hospital and addressing the audience as his paranoid character.

With a budget of $380,000, this was a fairly inexpensive film in Hollywood standards, the film was a modest hit for Allied Artists, grossing $2.5 million in the United States theatrically. Interestingly this was not a massive hit, but the film gained attention from people who looked at the metaphorical message the film had. The idea of people becoming brainless followers. Was this a response to Communism infiltrating America? Or was this a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy (no relation to Kevin McCarthy) who was trying censor Hollywood with the House Un-American Activities Committee, weeding out people voicing their own opinions instead of conforming to the masses? An attack on religious organization and cults? Or was it just a nightmare that an insomniac had of what would happen if he fell asleep? Finney never wrote the story for a certain metaphor. Siegel never had intentions of political satire, but depending on who watched the film, the opinions between each person. A conservative person might see it as a film about anti-Communism. A liberal person might see it as an escape from the brainwashed conservative movement. A religious person might see it as the fear of another religion encroaching. A science fiction and horror fan will walk away with thoughts on the special effects and the scares. Due to the film being shown consistently on television from thereon, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" reached new audiences over generations, with three official remakes being produced every generation, first with the brilliant "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" in 1978 which paralleled the paranoia of government conspiracies of the period, and featured McCarthy and Siegel in cameo roles. 1993 saw "Body Snatchers" which looked at distrust of the government and military, following the Middle East debacle of the period. 2007 saw "The Invasion" which was more like a pandemic film that probably would have worked better in a post COVID-19 environment. There have been other imitators and similar themes, with the remakes of the 1950s classics "Invaders from Mars" (1986) and "The Thing" (1982) took heavy inspiration from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" as much as they did with their respective originals. "The Wicker Man" (1973), "The Faculty" (1998), and countless others would not have had the same impact if it were not for the Don Siegel directed original ironically infiltrating the minds of younger filmmakers. For the film to be broadcast on television, instead of going back to the original negative and presenting it in open matte to the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, it was instead taken from the film print in 2.00:1, then having the sides of that chopped off for a new 1.33:1 framing, that seriously zoomed in on the original composition. Because the original element has been lost, there really is no way to see the original unmatted version. In addition there is no way to see the original preview version, which doesn't have the prologue, epilogue, or narration as that has been lost as well. There was a version screened which removed the prologue and epilogue, but that still left the narration which was a compromised hybrid version. Some people, like myself like the prologue and epilogue of the film, but Siegel despised it. Even though the only version to exist is the compromised theatrical version, it is no doubt a classic in science fiction, horror, and in film in general, with excellent performances, a thought provoking narrative and inventive effects that stand the test of time. Flaws and all, it will always be a paranoia classic.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray


The BFI presents the film in the original theatrical SuperScope ratio of 2.00:1 in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The transfer comes from a 4K scan of an original 35mm fine grain duplicating positive by Paramount Pictures. The SuperScope process uses a standard 35mm film framed at 1.37:1 and mattes the top and bottom portions of the frame to create a widescreen aspect ratio for theatrical projection. Since it is zoomed in, the picture is grainier than a standard Academy ratio film of the same period. The grain is fully retained in this transfer, while dust, speckles, scratches and other damage have been removed without compromising the image. Grey levels are well balanced with good examples of deep blacks in darker scenes and night scenes. It is not perfect though, with some detail not being too sharp but it does depend on the scene rather than throughout the film. The transfer is the same as the one used by Olive Films in the US for their "Signature Edition" from 2018, and the picture looks basically identical, which is a good thing.

The film's runtime is 80:17.


English LPCM 2.0 mono
The mono audio track is presented here in lossless form. Originally a 3.0 Perspecta audio track was created for the theatrical version which has unfortunately been lost. Only the mono mix has survived. The mono is flat as expected, but on the brighter side, dialogue is always clear and easy to hear, music and effects are well balanced, and there are no major fidelity issues with high pitches or low sounds, especially with the music cues. There are no issues with hisses, pops, crackle, or other problems with the sound. Very pleasing.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a white font.


Audio commentary by filmmaker and critic Jim Hemphill
This exclusive newly recorded commentary by Hemphill digs into the background, production, and aftermath of the film in detail. Included are about the added prologue and epilogue, about Finney's original story and novelization, the differences between the film and other contemporary science fiction films of the period, the influence it had on other works, biographies of the cast and crew, notes on the SuperScope process, issues the film had with the production code, the lukewarm initial response and much more.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Audio commentary with stars Dana Wynter and Kevin McCarthy, and filmmaker Joe Dante
This commentary, recorded for the 50th anniversary features the two leads with filmmaker and fan Joe Dante, who serves as a moderator. The stars reminisce about the production, the reactions from the press, the audiences as well as their family, they point out specific behind the scenes happenings and much more, while Dante gives background information notes as well as some of his personal recollections. Interestingly, this commentary was recorded in 2006 for the 50th anniversary of the film alongside a series of featurettes produced the previous year, but all were shelved for unknown reasons and a 50th anniversary DVD edition never materialized. All were finally released in 2018 when Olive Films in the US released a special edition of the film on Blu-ray. This was eight years after the death of McCarthy and seven years after the death of Wynter.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"John Player Lecture: Don Siegel" 1973 interview (74:40)
This on stage lecture from 1973 features Siegel with film critic Barry Norman at the National Film Theatre where he was interviewed about his career and the audience shown clips of his various films. He discusses working at Warner Brothers, his toughness as a director, the problems he encountered with "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" from the studio heads, the successes of works like "Riot on Cell Block 11", "Dirty Harry", "Charley Varrick" and others, having Elvis Presley NOT sing in "Flaming Star", his relationship with Clint Eastwood and much more. There are questions from Norman as well as some from the audience in attendance. Note that this interview is also available on the Indicator/Powerhouse Films release of "Charley Varrick" on Blu-ray.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Sleep No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited" featurette (26:34)
This 50th anniversary featurette is a good concise look at the making of the film, featuring interviews with stars Wynter and McCarthy, alongside filmmakers such as John Landis, Mick Garris and Stuart Gordon plus historians such as Bob Burns to give perspective. From Walter Wanger snapping up the rights very quickly to the production process including the special effects, the casting process, the reactions to the film and more are covered here. Note that the featurette has produced at 30fps, but the transfer here has been converted to 24fps. Therefore the interview shots, the panning shots are very jittery rather than being smooth. The clips of the film itself look fine, but with everything else being transferred incorrectly, it is not pleasing to the eyes. This featurette is also available on the 2018 US Olive Films Blu-ray, at the proper 30fps framerate with 1080i encoding.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1/2.00:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

"The Fear and the Fiction: The Body Snatchers Phenomenon" featurette (8:19)
This 50th anniversary featurette looks at how audiences responded to the film's story and the metaphors that people related to, also featuring many of the interviewees from the above featurette. Like the featurette above, the problem of converting a 30fps featurette to 24fps is noticeable, causing a jerky and jittery image. This featurette is also available on the 2018 US Olive Films Blu-ray, at the proper 30fps framerate with 1080i encoding.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1/2.00:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

"What's in a Name?" featurette (2:16)
Another featurette from the 50th anniversary, this one looks at the various titles that Allied Artists thought of before deciding on the final title of the film. Repeated from above, it also has the problem of converting a 30fps featurette to 24fps for a jittery image. This featurette is also available on the 2018 US Olive Films Blu-ray, at the proper 30fps framerate with 1080i encoding.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1/2.00:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

"Return to Santa Mira" featurettes (with Play All) (12:44)
- Intro (1:45)
- Town Square (1:33)
- Homes (2:05)
- Alley (1:13)
- Cave (1:40)
- Staircase (1:42)
- Overpass (1:02)
- Wrecking Ball (1:40)

A series of featurettes from the 50th anniversary, this time focusing on locations the film were shot with many before and after comparisons with narration. And like the others, these featurettes all have the same problem of converting a 30fps featurette to 24fps.
A series of location featurettes before and after with narration and interview clips. These featurettes are also available on the 2018 US Olive Films Blu-ray, at the proper 30fps framerate with 1080i encoding.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1/2.00:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

Gallery (5:27)
An automated slideshow featuring the original poster, production photos, and behind the scenes stills, without music or narration.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

Archive Shorts
Three vintage short films from the BFI archive.

- "Doorstep to Communism" 1948 short (11:19)
“Socialism is the doorstep to Communism”, as this short film from 1948 says, which was produced by the Conservative party of Britain to communicate to the people the dangers of Socialism and Communism in a postwar environment.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

- "Magic Myxies" short 1931 short (10:30)
Part of the “Secrets of Nature” shorts, this documentary short by pioneering filmmakers F. Percy Smith and Mary Field showcase the biology of myxies under the microscope. There are some similarities between these microscopic organisms and the pods from the feature, it goes to show that there are just as many mysteries to life on Earth than one can imagine. The black and white image looks fairly good with some expected damage from a film of its age, while the soundtrack has its issues with pops and crackle.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

- "The Battle of the Plants" 1926 short (10:20)
This silent nature documentary from F. Percy Smith showcases seeds and planets, as they grow using photographic tricks to speed up the process for the viewing audiences. While their growth may be slow for the human eye, the short shows that there is much more to life with plants than we can usually see. The silent film has music accompaniment with some eerie ambient tracks licensed from the library music site, Audio Network.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, Music LPCM 2.0 with English Intertitles

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:15)
The effective original theatrical trailer is presented here. Interestingly, this is in an open matte format, which has more room on the top and bottom of the frame, for exhibition in theaters not equipped for widescreen. As noted above, since the theatrical SuperScope version was cropped for the widescreen process, and later television broadcasts and video versions were cropped further from that, this theatrical trailer footage may be the only way to see some of the sequences in open matte.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

Trailer with commentary by Joe Dante from Trailers from Hell (2:47)
Filmmaker Joe Dante introduces the original trailer and gives a running commentary for the theatrical trailer, from the great website Trailers from Hell. This commentary, recorded in 2009, also has Dante mentioning his 2006 full length commentary for the film which was recorded a few years back but was still unreleased at the time. It has also been embedded below.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

A 36 page booklet is included with the first pressing. The first essay is "The Dark Mirror: Invasion of the Body Snatchers" by Dr. Deborah Allison, senior programmer and event cinema manager at Picturehouse Cinemas, which covers the making of the film, the metaphors it presented and the influence it had. Next is "Paranoia and the Pods" by J Hoberman, a fascinating article which was first printed in the May 1994 issue of Sight and Sound. There is also a biography of Don Siegel written by the BFI's Charlie Bligh. Lastly there are also special features information, transfer information, acknowledgements, and stills included.

The film was first issued on Blu-ray by Olive Films in the US which had no extras whatsoever. In 2018, Olive gave the film the special treatment in their "Signature Edition" series, which included the series of featurettes and commentary produced in 2005 and 2006 for the 50th anniversary edition which never materialized. All those extras are available on the BFI release, but the Olive has a few more exclusives as well. They included an exclusive commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith, the two newly made featurettes “The Stranger in Your Lover’s Eyes” and “The Fear is Real”, a 1985 interview with McCarthy, and a booklet with an exclusive essay (which was also available on the disc itself). The BFI has its own exclusives as well so one is not particularly better than the other. The Olive Signature Edition has awful yellow colored subtitles compared to the much easier to read white subtitles on the BFI's release. But the BFI's release has many of the featurettes encoded with a choppy framerate in comparison to the Olive having them correctly in 30fps. Both have their merits and a collector should have both, while a fan should be pleased with either one.


"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" will forever be a science fiction classic and this BFI release is an excellent one to compliment the film. The Blu-ray features a good transfer with the image and audio, with a great amount of extras both new and vintage to entice fans of the film and giving great insight for newcomers as well. Highly recommended.

The Film: A- Video: A- Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A-


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