Study Guide for Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

1. Filmographic Citation

Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Dir. Philip Kaufman. USA: United Artists, 1978.

2. Other Information

A SoloFilm Company production, Copyright held by United Artists. Robert H. Solo, producer. Running Time: 118 min. Source: The Body Snatchers (vt Invasion of the Body Snatchers) novel by Jack Finney (pseud. for Walter Brandon Finney), 1955. Also a retelling and continuation of Don Siegel's film Invasion of the Body Snatchers (United Artists, 1955).

3. Cast

Matthew Brennell: Donald Sutherland Elizabeth Driscoll: Brooke Adams
Jack Bellicec: Jeff Goldblum Nancy Bellicec: Veronica Cartwright
Dr. David Kibner: Leonard Nimoy Geoffrey: Art Hindle
Katherine: Lelia Goldoni Mr. Tong: Wood Moy
Mrs.Tong: R. Wong Running Man: Kevin McCarthy *
Taxi Driver: Don Siegel **

* the star of the 1955 Invasion
** director of the 1955 Invasion

4. Questions

  • In Jack Finney's original novel humanity wins, and the pods go back into space. In Don Siegel's 1955 film-at least with the frame the studio wanted and got-the ending is ambiguous but hopeful: the forces of humanity will confront the pods. What is the tone of the ending of Philip Kaufman's 1978 version? What should we make of the movement of tone from 1955 to 1978?
  • In terms of the politics of the 1950s, Don Siegel's Invasion was fairly obviously an allegory of something: either infiltration by Communists (with pods literally under people's beds [as in "A commie under every bed"]), or an attack on McCarthy era conformity by Americans, with the suggestion that the human population of a whole small town in California could be replaced with alien vegetables, and few people would notice the difference. Is there any political allegory in the 1978 film? If so, what? (Note that again, The Authorities Are Not to Be Trusted, starting with a best-selling author who is a shrink. Also, They're Everywhere, and Exporting Pod-dom!)
  • In the 1955 Invasion the pods came (in black and white) to a small town in southern California; in the 1978 remake, the pods fall on and rather literally "irrupt" into (technicolor) San Francisco. In the 1955 Invasion, the male lead is a small-town physician; in the 1978 remake, he's a hard-nosed official with the Department of Public Health. Do the different settings lead to different effects of the film? Differences in heroes?
  • The one surviving "type H"-i.e. human-is Nancy Bellicec, a woman who has read Immanuel Velikovsky (a man into Catastrophe theory of a weird kind) and who's familiar with other theories that nowadays we'd call "New Age." Do you want to find this significant? If so, what's the significance?