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Film / Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

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Be born again into an untroubled world.

"We came here from a dying world. We drift through the universe from planet to planet, pushed on by the solar winds. We adapt, and we survive. The function of life is survival."

The first remake of the sci-fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by Philip Kaufman and released in 1978. For the other remakes, go here.

Donald Sutherland stars as Dr. Bennell (whose first name is now Matthew instead of Miles) and the setting is transferred to The City of San Francisco, working in an effective theme of urban alienation which, in some respects, actually reverses the theme of the original; at one point, a character expresses her paranoia that she keeps seeing people recognizing each other, isolation being such a feature of city life that excessive human contact itself is suspicious.

This version also focused on the "malaise" of The '70s and cranked up the Body Horror; little wonder, then, that three of its stars (Brooke Adams, Art Hindle, and Jeff Goldblum) all went on to make films with David Cronenberg. Also in the cast are Leonard Nimoy and Veronica Cartwright.

Try staying awake while you read these tropes:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: While the book ended with the pods fleeing Earth, this version ends with the pods continuing their invasion, and, perhaps most famously, the hero is captured and converted.
  • Adaptational Name Change: In the 1956 film, the main characters were called Miles and Becky. In this remake, they are called Matthew and Elizabeth instead.
  • Agent Scully: Dr. Kibner is very skeptical about the idea of people being duplicated and replaced... right up until it's revealed that it's already happened to him.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The Pod People are gelatinous aliens who invade occupied home worlds and parasitize them by depleting all physical resources while replacing/killing off its native life forms after they supposedly ruined their own world the same way. Their parasitic behavior backfires on and even harms them as well because they too quickly exhaust an entire planet of resources and so they move on to different planets.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Matthew succumbs to the invasion.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: See Beast with a Human Face to see the result of this.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love:
    • After the pod duplicate of Dr. Kibner tells her and Matthew that hate and love are both unnecessary now, Elizabeth tells Matthew that she loves him.
    • Matthew tearfully tells Elizabeth he loves her when he comes back from investigating the sound of "Amazing Grace" to find her asleep and unable to be awakened. Elizabeth dies soon afterwards.
  • Apocalypse How: At the end of the movie, the invaders are on the fast track to exterminating and replacing humanity, which would mean a Class 3a. And after the ending, the aliens will deplete the Earth of all its resources before moving on, spelling at least a Class 4, and possibly even a Class 5-6 if the planet they're shown departing in the opening which they claim was "dying" is any indication.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Elizabeth is worried about Geoffrey's sudden coldness and odd behavior, Matthew mentions four possible reasons: he's having an affair, has joined a cult, or has become gay or Republican.
    • Additionally, when Matthew tells Elizabeth about how the cooks at the restaurant he busted for poor hygiene smashed his car windshield with a bottle of wine, he added that "it wasn't even a good wine."
  • Badass Long Coat: Bennell wears a trenchcoat for the majority of the film.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Nancy realizes that she's now the last human left in all of San Francisco seeing that Matthew's been replaced, and she's been exposed, so she most likely will also be captured and replaced. It's also clear that by then the pods have spread far beyond San Francisco and that humanity may be doomed.
  • Beast with a Human Face: Homeless musician Harry and his dog are huddled together for warmth and a pod copies them both, producing a chimerical creature.
  • Big "NO!": The converted Geoffrey can be heard screaming an inhuman "Nooo!" when he discovers that the real Elizabeth has been removed and the pod is now dead.
  • Body Horror: The remake answers the question of what happened to the people whom the pods replaced. They dessicate and then implode whilst crumbling into ash. This was hinted at or at least suggested in the original, where The Hero theorized that once the pod replacements are fully formed the originals are somehow destroyed by deterioration. It also shows us some of the "foetal" duplicates, which are partially formed, slimy, blood-and-snot hued variants covered in hairy filaments.
  • Born from Plants: The body snatchers take the form of flowers that touch a person, and then form a pod from where the original dies when their emotionless duplicate emerges, making the "kill" part of Kill and Replace, essentially automatic.
  • Brick Joke: Matthew first appears giving an inspection on a French restaurant, where he finds a rat turd in some soup and plans to throw the book at the owner (but not before they throw a bottle of wine at his car). It's later revealed that Dr. Kibner wasn't too pleased.
    Dr. Kibner: Matthew! You closed my favorite restaurant, Henri's! Come on, that's a decent place to eat.
    • In addition, the additional health inspectors Matthew sends to the restaurant return with a huge dead rat.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Nancy may be something of a flake with her various New Age beliefs, but she proves to be among the most resourceful in surviving the Pod invasion (at least for a while), such as figuring out that she could safely move among them by showing no emotion.
  • The Cameo:
    • Robert Duvall briefly appears as a priest on a child's swing set near the beginning of the film.
    • Jerry Garcia can be heard on the soundtrack playing the banjo.
  • Cassandra Truth: Nobody, not even Matthew at first, take Elizabeth's conclusion that people are being replaced by emotionless doubles seriously. Understandable, given how bizarre it sounds.
  • Casting Gag:
  • Chekhov's Gun: While hiding in the health department, Matthew grabs some darts from a dartboard when they hear someone coming in. Later, he uses them to stab Pod-Jack in the neck and kill him.
  • Classical Music Is Cool: Nancy plays Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 1 to help stimulate the plants in her mud bath.
  • Cleanup Crew: Garbagemen remove the end result of the pod transformation throughout the film.
  • Comically Missing the Point: A rather dark example: In the scene where Pod Kibner and Pod Bellicec corner Matthew in his office, both say that life is better as pods than as a human. Matthew protests by incredulously saying that Bellicec never agreed with Kibner about anything in his life, as though he were still dealing with the real, human Kibner and Bellicec with their personalities intact rather than alien hive-mind clones.
  • Company Cameo: The Transamerica Pyramid, offices of the Transamerica Corporation who owned United Artists at the time, is prominently featured throughout the film. During production, the crew joked that their bosses were watching them from on high.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Philip Kaufman is the impatient man who knocks on the door of a phone booth Matthew is using, along with the voice of one of the officials Matthew calls. Cinematographer Michael Chapman is the creepy janitor at the health department.
  • Crisis Catch And Carry: A case where the danger is a little slower and much less obvious; when he fails to reach Elizabeth on the phone after discovering Jack's pod body, Matthew breaks into her room and bridal carries her to his car to get her away from the pod trying to Kill and Replace her.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Matthew, Dr. Kibner, and Jack all get in a few good digs. Given the three actors playing them, this is hardly a surprise.
  • Death by Adaptation: Like the 1956 film, Jack Bellicec is replaced by a pod, whereas he survived in the book. This version takes it further with Matthew stabbing Pod-Jack in the neck, killing him completely.
  • Death of a Child: At the end of the film, a group of children are shown being led into an auditorium to be replaced, with a few of them saying they don't want to take a nap now.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Elizabeth crumbles in Matthew's arms when a pod finally duplicates her.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: When Matthew tries to tell the police about Elizabeth's pod double, he also has to admit that he broke into someone's home in the middle of the night and technically abducted a sleeping woman.
  • Downer Ending: It sure does pack a punch. Basically, the alien invasion wins, something made clear when Nancy, the only survivor, tries to meet up with Matthew, only for him to pull a horrific Nightmare Face and let out the distinctive scream of a pod-person, outing her.
  • Draw Aggro: When hopelessly outnumbered by the body snatchers at the pier, Jack draws their attention long enough for Matthew and Elizabeth to escape. This ends up being a Heroic Sacrifice for Jack.
  • Dutch Angle: The movie features many bizarre camera angles to emphasize disorientation and isolation.
  • Earth All Along: Although Director Philip Kaufman (in the DVD Director's Commentary) confirms that the barren rocky-surface planet filled with gelatinous aliens (who are the film's titular villains, the pod people) seen at the beginning of the movie is their home world, he said that he also likes to think of it as the Earth in the future or another planet that used to have life. But whichever planet they're on, the aliens are all leaving to find another because they've exhausted all of its physical resources.
  • Eat the Camera: Non-comedic example. The last shot of the film has the camera zoom into Pod-Matthew's mouth while he’s screaming at Nancy.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: The Transamerica Pyramid and the Golden Gate Bridge are shown immediately upon the pods' arrival on Earth. The Transamerica Pyramid is prominently featured in the background throughout the film.
  • Exact Words: Dr. Kibner tells Elizabeth that she'll feel good as new after a good night's sleep. The pods hidden in the garden will certainly do that.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: While looking over the half-grown pod at the mud baths, Matthew asks for Jack's height and weight, which leads him to realize that the pod was duplicating him.
  • Eye Awaken: Done to great effect with Pod!Jack opening his eyes as his wife looks on in horror.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • The sight of actress Brooke Adams walking around completely naked is incredibly creepy due to the new pod version of her having absolutely no emotion.
    • The bathhouse scene had several naked, heavyset men getting mud baths and massages.
  • The Film of the Book: The film credits The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney in the opening titles, though the setting and plot is significantly different from the book and original film.
  • Final Girl: Nancy is the only one in the main group and quite possibly the only person in the city to not be killed and cloned by the end. However, it's heavily implied at the end that she won't be alive much longer.
  • Foreshadowing: Early on, a man is shown running through crowds by the Health Department and a pod scream can be faintly heard.
  • Garden of Evil: The pod factory, which is more a Garden Center of Evil.
  • Gaslighting: The pods try to wear down humans by making them question their sanity, so that they will fall asleep faster.
  • Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: The pod people do this whilst opening their mouths wide and screaming horrifically to point out unconverted humans.
  • Granola Girl: Nancy. She plays music to help her plants grow, says that no one would notice the pods because of all "the impurities" in their lives, and even talks about how "spacemen mated with monkeys to create the human race."
  • Heroic BSoD: Matthew and Elizabeth are very hard hit by seeing the duplicates of Jack and Dr. Kibner, who proceed to drug them to speed up the process, despite Matthew's pleading with Pod Kibner that he's killing them.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: When the group are being chased by the Pod people, Jack and Nancy sacrifice themselves to the pod people as a distraction to allow their friends to escape. Nancy is able to evade capture, but Jack isn't.
    Jack: Here I am, you pod bastards! Hey, pods! Come and get me, you scum!
  • Hope Spot:
    • Dr. Kibner tells Matthew that he believes him and will help him gain support from city officials to implement a response similar to an epidemic. Then it's revealed that Kibner is already a pod.
    • The "Amazing Grace" scene. Matthew hears an instrumental version of the song and goes to investigate, thinking it must mean some humans survived the invasion. It turns out it was simply playing on the radio, in between announcements to the pod duplicates.
    • The final hope spot comes when Matthew sets fire to the pod factory. Unfortunately, the invasion continues unabated the next day.
  • Idiot Ball: You work at a restaurant. An angry health inspector has just found rat turds in a soup and is threatening to shut you down. How exactly is breaking his windshield with a wine bottle supposed to improve the situation?
  • I Never Told You My Name: Matthew is surprised that police knew who was calling them, along with the phone operator intercepting his call to Washington.
  • In Medias Res: Early in the film, teachers encourage children to give the pod flowers to their parents, implying that the invasion's been underway for some time.
  • It's All About Me: Jack, for the first few scenes he's in, is extremely self-centered and self-aggrandizing, lambasting Kibner for putting out pop-psychology while exalting himself (and simultaneously admitting he struggles to write even one sentence, which he attributes to selecting his words carefully), and shows No Sympathy to the crisis Elizabeth is going through. Once they discover a pod, though, he undergoes some significant Character Development.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Kibner arrives to Nancy and Jack's bathhouse to find no trace of the failed Jack-clone. Matthew returns to Elizabeth's bedroom with the police, and finds flowerpots in a vaguely human shape where the body was.
  • Kidnapped While Sleeping: Matthew Bennell breaks into his coworker Elizabeth's room while she's asleep and takes her somewhere else. He (and the audience) know that he did it to save her from one of the duplicating pods, but from the police's perspective, it looks simply like a delusional man kidnapped a sleeping woman.
  • Last-Name Basis: Dr. Kibner always refers to Jack by his surname.
  • Meaningful Background Event:
    • When Elizabeth first picks one of the pod flowers, a teacher with a group of children pass her and start doing the same; the teacher can be heard encouraging them while saying they could take them home to their parents.
    • When Matthew is speaking in the hallway of the Health Department, the camera swings around and briefly reveals that someone is staring at them through the glass panel of a door, with his face pressed creepily close.
    • While Elizabeth is walking down the street, several people sprint by, as if chasing or running away from someone.
    • You'll often see garbage men in the background, and as the movie progresses they're throwing away more and more of the black end-result of pod transformation.
    • If you listen carefully, you can hear a decrease in natural sounds, such as dogs barking or birds chirping, as the film progresses.
  • Motive Rant: Dr. Kibner provides the page quote, explaining the pods' only purpose.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Elizabeth screaming at the man-dog thing gives away her and Matthew's identity that they are still human, making the pod people chase them. Elizabeth then falls asleep and is duplicated, and her failure to stop the snatchers would drag down Matthew eventually.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Elizabeth starts making out with Geoffrey (who is still human in this early scene), and he immediately interrupts to cheer his favorite basketball team's score on the TV.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Matthew tries to call various officials in order to gain support in quarantining the city, but as his calls go on, it's clear that the pods are firmly in control.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Jack and Nancy when they see that the body in their baths now resembles Jack more closely and even has his nosebleed.
    • Matthew starts backing away when Mr. Tong, the Chinese dry cleaner, is saying his wife is fine.
      "It alright. She better now. Much better now."
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Elizabeth realizes something is wrong with Geoffrey when he abruptly cancels a date to the basketball game to go to a "meeting."
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Jack agrees with Dr. Kibner, it's the clearest sign to Matthew that he'd fundamentally changed.
  • Orphaned Setup: Matthew is telling a joke to Elizabeth, but she cuts him off before the punchline. Director Philip Kaufman explained the joke on the DVD commentary:
    "The English Camel Corp are trapped in the Sahara Desert. They've been surrounded by Rommel for forty days and have run out of food. The Captain makes an announcement to the men: 'Men, I have some good news for you and some bad news for you. The bad news is, we have nothing left to eat but camel poop. The good news is, there's plenty of it.'"
  • Police Are Useless: The pods were apparently quick to infiltrate the San Francisco Police Department, for obvious reasons.
  • Porn Stache: Donald Sutherland as Matthew sports a classic '70s model.
  • P.O.V. Cam: There's one as Matthew enters the French restaurant, showing the owner grimacing as he realizes Matthew is there on business.
  • Properly Paranoid: When Matthew tries to make a report to the police, Jack tells him to not give his name so that he doesn’t end up on the master list.
  • Red Light District: Matthew and Elizabeth pass through one, with the proprietors promising that their shows will "make you feel like a new man."
  • Remake Cameo:
  • Setting Update: This version showed the invasion taking place in a colder, more impersonal "I'm OK, you're OK, everyone's OK" national culture that often openly questioned whether America's best years as a country were behind it. In such an environment, the invasion succeeds.
  • Ship Tease: It's clear that Matthew and Elizabeth share a close emotional bond and attraction from the beginning, and it has a chance to go somewhere after Geoffrey's changing. Unfortunately, it's cut short by both of their conversion to Pods not long after their mutual declaration of love.
  • Shirtless Scene: Offsetting the fat man in the mud bath is a shot of young Jeff Goldblum in a towel taking a sauna.
  • Silent Credits: At the end of the movie after the horrifying last reveal.
  • Snipe Hunt: Before leaving the bookstore, Dr. Kibner tells Jack that there's a woman who's interested in his work.
  • Spy Speak: Downplayed with the taxi driver, who radios in about taking two passengers to the airport, but describes them as "Type H" - presumably for "Human".
  • Supreme Chef: Matthew treats Elizabeth to some homemade wok cooking.
  • Troll: Dr. Kibner seems to relish in giving Jack a hard time, though considering Jack is an outspoken critic of his work, this is understandable.
  • Twisted Ankle: Elizabeth twists her ankle climbing down from the dock at the pod warehouse, causing Matthew to investigate an apparent sign of unconverted humans alone and leading to her falling asleep and being duplicated.
  • Twist Ending: The ending scene has become so universally iconic and recognized, that many people have forgotten it's actually a twist ending. (It appears as if Matthew escaped the pod people, and has blended into their midst by hiding his emotions. Nancy, who has herself succeeded in doing so, approaches him, resulting in the famous ending twist.)
  • The Vietnam Vet: Implied with Jack Bellicec. Jeff Goldblum was 26 when the film was released, roughly the right age for someone to have served in the war, and he spends the movie wearing army fatigues.
  • Wham Line: "Hold on, Mr. Bennell", lampshaded immediately afterwards when Matthew asks how the woman on the other end of the phone knew his name even though he purposely did not identify himself, revealing that the invasion has reached higher levels of government and that he, Nancy and Elizabeth are effectively on their own.
  • Wham Shot: Dr. Kibner privately tells Matthew that he believes him and will help him gain support from the authorities. Then he climbs into his car with Geoffrey and Ted, the man from the bookstore, showing that he is already a pod.
  • Wicked Cultured: One of the pod people recommends Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision to Nancy.
  • World of Silence: At the end of the film, the pod people just stand around, listening for their orders, and performing their tasks. There's no conversation, no laughter, no human warmth. They just exist.


Video Example(s):


Shrieking with the Enemy

The pod-person Matthew Bennell shrieks at Nancy.

How well does it match the trope?

4.93 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / EatTheCamera

Media sources: