Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): Philip Kaufman’s So-So Remake of Don Siegel’s 1956 Cult Classic

Philip Kaufman remade the 1956 classic sci-fi horror movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with a cast headed by Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright, Jeff Goldblum, and Leonard Nimoy.

Released on December 22, 1978, it is a remake based on the 1955 novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney.


The plot involves a San Francisco health inspector and his colleague who discover that humans are being replaced by alien duplicates; each is perfect copy of the person replaced, but devoid of human emotion.

Released over the Christmas weekend of 1978, Invasion of the Body Snatchers grossed nearly $25 million at the box office. It initially received varied reviews from critics, though its  reception has significantly improved in subsequent years.

In the first scene, a species of gelatinous creatures, having abandoned their dying planet and traveled to Earth, land in San Francisco. They infiltrate Earth’s ecosystem, latching onto plant life and taking the form of pods with fragrant pink flowers.

Elizabeth Driscoll, a lab scientist at the Health Department, brings one of the flowers home, where she lives with boyfriend Geoffrey.

Leaving the flower on their bedside table, she awakens the next morning to discover Geoffrey behaving strangely cold and distant.

Elizabeth’s colleague, Matthew Bennell, suggests to speak to  psychiatrist friend David Kibner, who is holding a book-signing party to promote his new self-help book.

As Elizabeth and Matthew drive to the bookstore, a hysterical man on the road screams: “They’re coming! You’ll be next!” before being chased away by a mob and then hit by a car.

At the bookstore, while Matthew tries to report the accident to apparently unbelieving authorities, Elizabeth asks David for help regarding Geoffrey. David theorizes that people are using  pretexts to cope with their stressed lives, and suggests that Elizabeth is simply using the belief that Geoffrey is behaving differently as excuse to end their relationship. Despite other people complaining that their loved ones had become strange, she allows that David may be right.

Meanwhile, Matthew’s friend, Jack Bellicec, calls him to investigate when a grotesque body covered in fibers, which resembles Jack, is found in his wife Nancy’s mud baths.

Sensing danger, Matthew goes to Elizabeth to warn her. After breaking into her house, he finds Elizabeth in a deep sleep, but also discovers a semi-formed duplicate of her in the bedroom. Suspecting Geoffrey’s involvement, Matthew takes Elizabeth home with him, but when he returns later with the police, the duplicate body is gone.

Matthew and his friends are duplicated as they sleep by four pods in Matthew’s garden. The aliens gestate inside the pods, which grow to around 3 ft before breaking open and spawning a human duplicate that grows rapidly. The pods duplicate humans while they are sleeping in the immediate vicinity, copying not just their physical characteristics, but also their memories. Once the duplication is complete, the original human dies and disintegrates, and the alien “pod person” takes their place.

Matthew calls the police, but soon realizes that it tot has been infiltrated. They have also begun tracking him through phone lines, alerting others to the group’s location. Matthew destroys his own semi-formed duplicate before escaping with the others. They are pursued by the aliens, who emit a shrill scream when they discover a human being among them, drawing other aliens nearby.

Jack and Nancy break away and create a distraction, allowing Matthew and Elizabeth to hide and escape back to the city. There, the pair takes refuge in the health department, where they ingest large dose of speed to prevent themselves from falling asleep. A

gain tracked through the phone lines, they are captured by Jack and David, who have been duplicated. Matthew and Elizabeth are injected with sedatives, but due to previous consumption of speed, they do not fall asleep. They kill Jack’s duplicate, lock David in a refrigerated room, and escape.

Matthew and Elizabeth reunite with Nancy, who has evaded the aliens by hiding her emotions and blending in with them. The two follow her example, but their cover is blown when Elizabeth screams while seeing a mutant dog with a human head.

They separate from Nancy amid the chaos, and board a truck en route to Pier 70, where the aliens are cultivating more pods, intending to transport them to other cities.

The ship he hopes they can get away on is also carrying pods to distant locations. Matthew returns to Elizabeth, but she has fallen asleep and when he embraces her she disintegrates.

Moments later, the naked body of a duplicated Elizabeth appears, and she tries to get him to join her. Pursued by the shrieking duplicate Elizabeth, he breaks into the warehouse and burns down the building, destroying hundreds of pods. He flees and hides under a bridge, as the aliens try to find him. eventually.

Matthew, walking like an alien and showing no outward signs of emotion, returns to work at the health department. He watches several schoolchildren taken for duplication, and more pods prepared for the remaining West Coast cities.

In the final scene, Matthew demonstrates the characteristic pose by which the “pod people” identify unconverted humans.

At the end, as he heads towards City Hall, he hears his name being called. Nancy, still on the loose, approaches him and attempts a hushed conversation. To her horror he points at her and emits an earsplitting shriek. Like all the others, he has been replaced by a pod.

Kevin McCarthy, who starred in the original 1956 version as Dr. Miles Bennell, appears in a small role.

And so does Don Siegel, the underestimated director of the 1956 film version, which is still the best of the three made.

Director Philip Kaufman casts himself as the man wearing a hat who bothers Dr. Matthew Bennell in a phone booth; he also offers the voice of one of the officials whom Bennell contacts

Rose Kaufman (Kaufman’s real wife) plays the woman who argues with Jack at the book party.

Donald Sutherland as Matthew Bennell
Brooke Adams as Elizabeth Driscoll
Leonard Nimoy as Dr. David Kibner
Jeff Goldblum as Jack Bellicec
Veronica Cartwright as Nancy Bellicec
Art Hindle as Dr. Geoffrey Howell
Lelia Goldoni as Katherine Hendley
Kevin McCarthy as Running Man.
Don Siegel as Taxi Driver.
Tom Luddy as Ted Hendley
Jerry Walter as Restaurant Owner, Henri
Robert Duvall as Priest on a swing


TCK sowed the movie on October 29, 2021.