Born from the pages of Jack Finney’s classic science fiction/horror novel from 1955, is Philip Kaufman’s 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Starring Donald Sutherland (Don’t Look Now), Brooke Adams (Dead Zone), Veronica Cartwright (Alien), Jeff Goldblum (The Fly), and Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek). Kaufman’s adaptation is the first remake of the 1956 film version, and features quite an array of fun facts and easter eggs throughout the film.
The film’s plot maintains a similar spirit as its’ 1956 predecessor. As San Francisco falls prey to the alien pods that threaten mankind, health inspector Dr. Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) manages to unravel the alien’s plan for world domination as they assume the human form through replacement copies of humans devoid of all emotions, known as “Duplicates”. Saving the woman he loves, Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams), Dr. Bennell attempts to escape the alien invasion and seek refuge in the midst of chaos.
Released theatrically in the United States on December 22, 1978, Invasion of the Body Snatchers would come to be considered the favoured of all film adaptations, as well as being considered among one of the greatest remakes ever made. As Invasion of the Body Snatchers turns 40 years old today, what better way to celebrate the film than to provide a glimpse at a few lesser known facts of the celebrated classic.
1. Director Philip Kaufman Makes a Few Appearances in the Film
As Dr. Matthew Bennell proceeds to make a phone call via telephone booth in search for answers and help, a man (Kaufman) is seen standing outside knocking impatiently. The man, donning a tan-colored coat and hat, appears to be knocking continuously as Bennell is clearly in the middle of a phone call. In the same scene, Kaufman also lends his voice as a government official whom Sutherland speaks to over the telephone.
2. Director Don Siegel Also Makes an Appearance in the Film
As Dr. Matthew Bennell and Elizabeth Driscoll take a taxi to the city’s airport in an attempt to flee the chaos, Don Siegel (1956 Invasion Of The Body Snatchers film director) makes an appearance as the driver. When asking where they intend to go, Sutherland’s character states they are headed for the airport. Calling in, via radio, Siegel’s character alerts the other Duplicates of their position as the few remaining humans, stating, “610 proceeding south to airport, carrying two passengers, Type H. Repeat, type H.” According to several online sources, Sutherland and Adams were truly terrified as Siegel began to drive the taxi. Speeding through the streets of San Francisco, Siegel was suffering from deteriorating eyesight, and was not wearing his eyeglasses while filming the scene.
3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers Shares a History Between Kaufman, Nimoy, and Sutherland
Prior to filming Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Philip Kaufman was assigned to direct the first Star Trek film titled Star Trek: Planet of the Titans (cancelled and planned for release in 1978). After some disputes with merchandising and royalty issues with Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy was signed on to reprise his role as Spock in the first Star Trek feature film. Kaufman and Nimoy had not only formed a friendship, but both shared a vision for Star Trek to explore uncharted territories with a film that would focus on Spock. The film’s writers, Chris Bryant and Allan Scott, drafted and submitted a script with a different story in mind prior to its ultimate demise, to which it was cancelled later that year in 1977. Bryant and Allan are known for writing the haunting thriller Don’t Look Now, which also starred Donald Sutherland, who would take the lead role in Kaufman’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.
4. Kaufman Wanted Leonard Nimoy To Break Away From Typecast
Although Spock and Dr. David Kibner share similarities in their lack of expressive emotions, Kaufman’s hopes were to help Nimoy break the chain that forever bound him to Spock. As Kaufman discusses his work in remembrance of Nimoy, he states, “Leonard’s Dr. Kibner, the New Age shrink who advises people not to hide their emotions, was the centerpiece of the film, the one who articulates what the film is about. Leonard worked on every detail in establishing the comforting, humane Dr. Kibner”.
5. Kevin McCarthy, The Lead Actor of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Also Makes a Cameo
“Help! Help! They’re Coming!” are the words uttered by McCarthy in a dramatic scene during the first act of the film. McCarthy, who portrayed the protagonist Dr. Miles Bennell in the 1956 film adaptation, runs into Sutherland’s car attempting to warn them of the alien invasion before ultimately being killed by a moving vehicle. As onlookers maintain a blank stare without a hint of emotion, Sutherland and Adam’s characters are left besides themselves at the shocking scene. McCarthy’s cameo may suggest that Kaufman’s adaptation may in fact be a direct sequel rather than a remake. Although not confirmed, this theory may be supported by the ending of Siegel’s adaptation as McCarthy’s character, Dr Miles Bennell, is screaming at passing vehicles, “They’re here already! You’re next!”
6. Donald Sutherland was the Only Actor that Knew the Ending of the Film
In an attempt to maintain an honest and horrifying reaction, Veronica Cartwright was not told how the film would end, resulting in one of the most iconic moments in cinema. (40-Year Spoiler Alert!) The terrifying ending where we find Sutherland’s character pointing his finger and shrieking towards Nancy (Cartwright) produces a very real and terrifying reaction from not only a surprised Cartwright, but a shocked viewers as well.
7. Donald Sutherland Demanded He Do His Own Stunts, Leading To Close Encounters
The majority of Invasion of the Body Snatchers was shot on location rather than in-studio. As a result, there was more demand from actors and stuntmen who spent most of their time running around San Francisco. In one instance, Sutherland came running into the street and landed on the hood of a Volkswagen Beetle. Sutherland could hear the driver through the windshield saying, “Oh my God, not you.” Another instance found Sutherland nearly hit by fire in the final act of the film, as a factory filled with alien pods is set on fire and burned to the ground. Sutherland, very obviously not a stuntman, put himself into danger time and time again and although he was entirely untrained it made for a stirring, and genuine performance that still impresses today.
Celebrate Invasion of the Body Snatchers 40th birthday by watching the film with new eyes! And if this is your first time experiencing the sci-fi/horror masterpiece, please let us know on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook. And as always, stay ghoulish, friends.