On Blu-ray: An Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Release Rich in Special Features


I just finished binging the new Olive Signature Blu-ray edition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Every pore of my body now seems to be packed with some sort of fact about this sci-fi classic. The disc's got special features lengthier than the film itself, and they’re just as fascinating. This is a fine tribute to director Don Siegel’s genre classic.

An amped up version of Jack Finney’s 1954 novel The Body Snatcher, the first screen adaptation is frightening partly because its characters are forced to stay on the run, with little time to consider or think rationally about what is happening to their world. The story of a small town that is flooded with pods which grow replacements for its citizens has been claimed to be an analogy for multiple society ills, but its author’s intent was simply to terrify. It gets the blood pumping because to rest is deadly, but without time to reflect, the fear of the unknown intensifies.

This was a rare starring role for Kevin McCarthy. He would be cast as privileged jerks for much the remainder of his film career, also spending much of his time working in television. It’s a shame he didn’t get to lead more often, because even in a role where there is so little time to learn about his character, he deftly reveals the core of his being and with that jutting chin, his look is pleasingly distinct.

His costar, British actress Dana Wynter, was also rarely a lead in Hollywood films, and like McCarthy found more substantial roles in television. The two are a good intellectual match. As a pair of slightly weary divorcees, they’re both worldly, cool and elegant, with enough emotional maturity to handle the terror they must face.

One of the highlights of the Olive disc is a retro audio commentary featuring McCarthy and Wynter with director Joe Dante. Both actors seem to relish sharing their memories and the clear regard they have for each other is charming. It helps to have Dante there to provide historical context to the conversation.

A new alternate audio commentary with film historian Richard Harland Smith is packed with a dizzying array of facts. As usual, Smith ensures that every player gets a bit of the spotlight. The most amusing supporting appearance: future director Sam Peckinpah as a meter reader.

For a movie with such a short running time, there are endless areas to explore here. The rest of the package features a dozen different featurettes, essays, galleries, and the like exploring aspects of the film from where it was shot, to what it all means. There’s a good mix of perspectives, including family members of those in the production and industry experts. The overall effect is like taking a master class about the film.

The high-definition digital restoration is easy on the eyes, with good contrast, but not excessively sharp.

Many thanks to Olive Films for providing a copy of the disc for review.

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