Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

PG | 115 mins | Science fiction | 22 December 1978

Director:

Philip Kaufman

Writer:

W. D. Richter

Producer:

Robert H. Solo

Cinematographer:

Michael Chapman

Editor:

Douglas Stewart

Production Designer:

Charles Rosen

Production Company:

Solofilm Company
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HISTORY

According to an article in the 16 Aug 1978 DV, producer Robert Solo was a Warner Bros. executive vice president in charge of production and European production head, but left his position in 1975 to become an independent producer at Warner Bros., choosing to remake Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, see entry). After spending a year trying to get Warner Bros. interested in the project, Solo opted to pursue the rights on his own. Solo tracked the rights to National Telefilm Associates (NTA), which had purchased the rights from the film’s original distributor, Allied Artists. After prolonged negotiations, Solo spent more than $10,000 of his own money and purchased the rights in 1976. While a change in management at Warner Bros. lead to renewed interest in the project, but Warner’s legal department discovered that Allied Artists had retained rights to the serialized stories by Jack Finney on which the film was based. Warner Bros. was not interested in the project unless Solo could get all of the necessary rights. Solo’s lawyer then worked for almost a year on the deal between NTA and Allied Artists. While the rights were being worked out, Warner Bros. provided development money, and Solo hired W. D. Richter to write the script and Philip Kaufman to direct. When the script was finished, another management change at Warner Bros. put the project into turnaround. An article in the 3 Sep 1977 LAT added that the film reportedly worried Warner Bros. because their recent horror film Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977, see entry) did poorly at the box-office. ... More Less

According to an article in the 16 Aug 1978 DV, producer Robert Solo was a Warner Bros. executive vice president in charge of production and European production head, but left his position in 1975 to become an independent producer at Warner Bros., choosing to remake Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, see entry). After spending a year trying to get Warner Bros. interested in the project, Solo opted to pursue the rights on his own. Solo tracked the rights to National Telefilm Associates (NTA), which had purchased the rights from the film’s original distributor, Allied Artists. After prolonged negotiations, Solo spent more than $10,000 of his own money and purchased the rights in 1976. While a change in management at Warner Bros. lead to renewed interest in the project, but Warner’s legal department discovered that Allied Artists had retained rights to the serialized stories by Jack Finney on which the film was based. Warner Bros. was not interested in the project unless Solo could get all of the necessary rights. Solo’s lawyer then worked for almost a year on the deal between NTA and Allied Artists. While the rights were being worked out, Warner Bros. provided development money, and Solo hired W. D. Richter to write the script and Philip Kaufman to direct. When the script was finished, another management change at Warner Bros. put the project into turnaround. An article in the 3 Sep 1977 LAT added that the film reportedly worried Warner Bros. because their recent horror film Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977, see entry) did poorly at the box-office. However, United Artists’ recent horror film Carrie (1976, see entry) had performed well and, after approving the Invasion of the Body Snatcher’s budget, United Artists picked up the project. The DV article also noted that director Kaufman’s former agent, Mike Medavoy, was production vice president at United Artists and was immediately interested in the script. Medavoy was also instrumental in bringing another former client, Donald Sutherland, to the project.
       An article in the 7 Jan 1979 NYT reported that, prior to working on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Kaufman had been developing a Star Trek movie and, although that film was ultimately dropped, his acquaintance with Leonard Nimoy lead to Nimoy’s casting as the psychiatrist in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Kaufman had also previously directed the Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, (1972, see entry) and was able to convince that movie’s star, Robert Duvall, to perform an uncredited cameo as a priest on a swing in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Furthermore, Kaufman decided to cast director Don Siegal and actor Kevin McCarthy, both from the 1956 film, in small roles in this film. McCarthy reprised his character, who was still trying to warn the world that “They’re here.”
       The NYT article and an item in the 31 Oct 1978 HR listed the film’s budget as $3.5 million. The setting was changed from the small town of the original film to San Francisco and, according to the 28 Nov 1977 Box, shooting began in the city on 31 Oct 1977. Per the 16 Aug 1978 DV, filming continued through 31 Dec 1977.
       According to the 16 Aug 1978 DV, post-production was underway when United Artists experienced a management shift. Fortunately, the new management at United Artists supported the film and, when their planned December release of Apocalypse Now (1979, see entry) was pushed back, United Artists decided to release Invasion of the Body Snatchers at Christmas. An article in the 3 Aug 1978 HR reported that, in an unusual development, United Artists was going to screen the film for exhibitors prior to bidding, and that the bidding would take place in August, which was two months after studios usually booked their films for holiday release. The film’s producers and United Artists executives felt that screening the film would garner more enthusiastic interest from exhibitors.
       An article in the 24 Jan 1979 Var reported that, in August 1978, Solo and United Artists notified NTA that the film was finished and, as per the remake contract, the 1956 version of the film would not by shown on television for the next eighteen months. NTA also would have to retrieve the theatrical licensing rights from TAB Films for that period of time. NTA’s contract with TAB Films for the feature rights included a clause allowing NTA to withdraw the rights with due notice, however, a problem arose over TAB Film’s contract with Crystal Pictures, a small company in New York that had a few prints of the original film. TAB Film’s contract with Crystal Pictures did not include the withdrawal clause and, therefore, Crystal Pictures maintained their right to book the film. Crystal Pictures booked the 1956 film for a three week run in Seattle, WA and a continuous run at a Washington, DC theater. Although Solo, United Artists and NTA did consider legal actions against TAB Films and Crystal Pictures, Solo stated that they were “probably just going to ignore” the situation. Since the rights to the original film had moved through several companies, he noted that the remake rights were “an imperfect acquisition” from the start. Solo also noted that Crystal Pictures only had a few prints to release, and therefore they would not have much of an effect on the 1978 film’s box office.
       The film received a PG (Parental Guidance) rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) but, as tracked in articles in the 1 Jan 1979 NYT, the 10 Jan 1979 Var and the 17 Jan 1979 Var, United Artists faced a rating/censorship issue in Dallas, TX. On 15 Dec 1978, the Dallas Motion Picture Classification Board voted that the film was unsuitable for children under sixteen, and therefore children under sixteen would only be allowed to see the film if accompanied by a parent or guardian. The Dallas board decided that a scene in which Donald Sutherland’s character beheads a forming “pod duplicate” was too violent, and based their “unsuitable for children” rating on that scene. United Artists filed suit in Dallas testing the constitutionality of the Dallas Board’s rating, claiming that the rating was illegal and that “the board’s standards were too broad to be valid.” United Artists lost its case on 3 Jan 1979. United Artists chose not to appeal the verdict, but instead pursued a ruling on the constitutionality of the Board’s code. On 16 Jan 1979 Judge Owen Giles, of the 68th District Court in Dallas, ruled that the wording of the Dallas Board’s code regarding violence was “unconstitutionally vague.” The Board’s rating language stated that an “unsuitable for children” rating would be applied if a film “explicitly depicts serious physical injury to a person.” The Judge ruled that the words “serious physical injury” were “vague.” Therefore, United Artists was not required to adhere to the Dallas Board’s rating in their local print and television advertisements for the film.
       An item in the 31 Oct 1978 HR reported that Maslanksy-Koenigsberg, the public relations firm handling the release of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, had a budget of $4.5 million to promote the film.
       The film opened on 22 Dec 1978 to good reviews and, according to the 7 Jan 1979 NYT, was one of the box office successes of the holiday season. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the film grossed $7,159,000 in its first twelve days. The 12 Jan 1979 HR reported a three week box office gross of $9,648,645.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
28 Nov 1977.
---
Daily Variety
16 Aug 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Aug 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Oct 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1978
P. 3, 20.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Sep 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1978
p. 1.
New York Times
22 Dec 1978
p. 14.
New York Times
1 Jan 1979.
---
New York Times
7 Jan 1979.
---
Variety
20 Dec 1978
p. 27.
Variety
10 Jan 1979.
---
Variety
17 Jan 1979.
---
Variety
24 Jan 1979.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Robert H. Solo Production
of A Philip Kaufman FIlm
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st cam asst
2d cam asst
Still photog
Key grip
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Prod illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const coord
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
COSTUMES
Asst cost
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus prod coord
Banjo
Mus cond
SOUND
Spec sd eff created by
Boom op
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Stereo sd eff rec and des
Stereo sd eff rec and des
Re-rec at
San Francisco, California
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Space seq by
Space seq by
Titles and opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup eff created by
Makeup eff created by
Hairstylist
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Prod asst
Prod secy
Loc mgr
Unit pub
Casting
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the serial story The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney in Collier's (26 Nov--24 Dec 1954).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Amazing Grace" as performed by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, courtesy of RCA Limited
"De La Tromba Pavin" as performed by the Julian Bream Consort, courtesy of RCA Records.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Body Snatchers
Release Date:
22 December 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 22 December 1978
Production Date:
31 October 1977 - 31 December 1977
Copyright Claimant:
United Artists Corporation
Copyright Date:
6 February 1979
Copyright Number:
PA38144
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby System®
Color
Color processing by Deluxe®
Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
115
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25153
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Spores originating on a distant planet float to Earth, dropping onto vegetation in San Francisco, CA. The gelatinous spores sprout into small pods with flowers on the end. Elizabeth Driscoll picks one of these pods on her way home from work and is excited to show her boyfriend, Geoffrey, but he is more interested in the playoffs on television. Matthew Bennell, Elizabeth's co-worker at the Health Department, calls to ask her to come into work early to run tests for him. The flowering pod rests in a glass on the nightstand when Elizabeth and Geoffrey go to sleep. Elizabeth awakens the next morning as Geoffrey sweeps up a pile of broken glass and is uncharacteristically cool toward her. At work, Elizabeth apologizes to Matthew for arriving late, and claims Geoffrey was acting strange. Geoffrey cancels their plans that night and leaves for a meeting. Upset, Elizabeth goes to Matthew’s home and insists that, although it sounds insane, Geoffrey is not really Geoffrey anymore. Matthew suggests that Elizabeth talk to his friend Dr. David Kibner, who is a psychiatrist. Instead of going to work the next day, Elizabeth follows Geoffrey as he meets strangers around the city. Elizabeth then goes to Matthew and tells him that she suspects a conspiracy. Matthew drives her to David’s book party so she can talk to him about her troubles. En route, a man runs in front of their car and warns, “They’re coming!” The man runs off and is hit by a car. At the party, Matthew introduces Elizabeth to Jack Bellicec, an offbeat writer. Elizabeth watches ... +


Spores originating on a distant planet float to Earth, dropping onto vegetation in San Francisco, CA. The gelatinous spores sprout into small pods with flowers on the end. Elizabeth Driscoll picks one of these pods on her way home from work and is excited to show her boyfriend, Geoffrey, but he is more interested in the playoffs on television. Matthew Bennell, Elizabeth's co-worker at the Health Department, calls to ask her to come into work early to run tests for him. The flowering pod rests in a glass on the nightstand when Elizabeth and Geoffrey go to sleep. Elizabeth awakens the next morning as Geoffrey sweeps up a pile of broken glass and is uncharacteristically cool toward her. At work, Elizabeth apologizes to Matthew for arriving late, and claims Geoffrey was acting strange. Geoffrey cancels their plans that night and leaves for a meeting. Upset, Elizabeth goes to Matthew’s home and insists that, although it sounds insane, Geoffrey is not really Geoffrey anymore. Matthew suggests that Elizabeth talk to his friend Dr. David Kibner, who is a psychiatrist. Instead of going to work the next day, Elizabeth follows Geoffrey as he meets strangers around the city. Elizabeth then goes to Matthew and tells him that she suspects a conspiracy. Matthew drives her to David’s book party so she can talk to him about her troubles. En route, a man runs in front of their car and warns, “They’re coming!” The man runs off and is hit by a car. At the party, Matthew introduces Elizabeth to Jack Bellicec, an offbeat writer. Elizabeth watches David console a hysterical woman who says her husband is not her husband. Elizabeth tries to intervene, but David waves her aside and convinces the woman to reunite with her husband. When David talks to Elizabeth, he reasons that she is jumping to a bizarre conclusion about Geoffrey, and might be looking for an excuse to leave the relationship. David, however, admits he has heard the same story all week and suggests it is a hallucinatory flu. Matthew wonders if it is contagious, which would mean he would have to get the Health Department involved. Jack is upset about his own writing when he visits the Bellicec Mud Baths. His wife, Nancy, deals with her last clients while Jack relaxes in the steam room. When Matthew drops Elizabeth at her home, they find that Geoffrey has left a plant for Elizabeth. They call out for Geoffrey, but he does not answer, although he is hiding in the house. Matthew leaves and Elizabeth puts the plant on her nightstand. At the mud baths, Nancy thinks Jack is lying covered up on a massage table, but, when she pulls back the sheet, she finds a web-covered, half-formed body. They call Matthew for help. Matthew notes that the body is Jack’s height and weight, but has no details or fingerprints. Matthew tells Nancy and Jack to call David for help, then Matthew leaves to rescue Elizabeth. Jack lies down to rest and, when Nancy examines the body again, it opens its eyes. Her screams wake Jack and, as he opens his eyes, the body’s eyes close. Matthew arrives at Elizabeth’s house, but Geoffrey does not answer the door. Matthew breaks a back window and sneaks past Geoffrey. He sees a half-formed version of Elizabeth lying on the porch while the real Elizabeth sleeps on the bed. Matthew carries Elizabeth to his car, escaping just before Geoffrey returns to the bedroom with a trash basket. David arrives at the bathhouse, but cannot find a body. Nancy and Jack also search, but the body is gone. Matthew brings Elizabeth to the bathhouse. He sends Nancy and Elizabeth to his home while he, David and Jack meet the police at Elizabeth’s home. There is no half-formed body, however, on Elizabeth’s porch, and the police do not believe Matthew and Jack’s story of duplicate bodies. Matthew, Jack and David join Elizabeth and Nancy at Matthew’s home. Matthew wants to institute emergency procedures through his office. Although David does not believe the duplicate body theory, he trusts Matthew enough to agree to call the Mayor for help. When David leaves, he gets into a car with Geoffrey and a policeman; David is one of the pod people. Elizabeth finds a pod flower in Matthew’s home and wants to analyze it at work, but her boss insists that he do the testing. Matthew, meanwhile, speaks with various city departments; every call includes a warning to keep quiet because they do not want to create a panic. The group meets again at Matthew’s home that evening, and David gives Elizabeth a sedative so she can sleep. Before he leaves, David tells Matthew that they have done everything possible and that Matthew should sleep, too. Jack and Nancy settle on the sofa, and Matthew falls asleep on a patio chair. Four large pods grow near him, and unformed bodies emerge from each pod and start to duplicate them. Nancy wakes, sees the pods and screams. Matthew awakens in the patio of pods. Their electrical power is suddenly cut off, the street is barricaded and pod people are outside. Matthew smashes the head of his duplicate with a garden hoe before the group races out the back door. They are chased through the city by the pod people who communicate with a strange shriek. When they are cornered, Jack runs off to distract the approaching pod people, and Nancy follows him. Matthew and Elizabeth find a cab and ask to be taken to the airport, but when the cab stops at a suspicious roadblock, they sneak off. They hide in their office and watch the crowd outside spread pods. Jack, who is now is a pod person, helps capture them. David gives Matthew and Elizabeth a sedative to help them sleep so they can evolve into a new life form. He tells them that their minds and memories will be intact, but they will not have any emotions. Matthew and Elizabeth fight back; they kill Jack, lock up David, and escape. Nancy runs into them and explains that pod people can be fooled if you do not show any emotions. They are able to blend in with the crowds until Elizabeth is shocked by a mutant pod person, and her scream ignites their strange shrieks. Matthew and Elizabeth escape in a truck while Nancy blends back into the crowd. The truck arrives at a warehouse where pods are cultivated. Elizabeth twists her ankle, and Matthew carries her to a hiding spot. They hear the song Amazing Grace coming from a nearby ship, and realize there is a chance for escape. Matthew rushes to check on the ship, only to find it is being loaded with pods. He runs back to Elizabeth, but he is too late. She is asleep, and her body collapses into a pile of dust as her pod duplicate arises. Matthew runs inside the plant and climbs into the rafters. He grabs an ax and cuts the wires to overheard lights, igniting a fire. Matthew escapes through a window as explosions ripple through the building. He then hides underneath a pier as pod people search overhead, and tries to stay out of sight when a pod person shines a flashlight through the boards. The next day, Matthew is emotionless as he works at his office. His co-workers, including Elizabeth, also go through the motions, although no work is accomplished. When Matthew leaves and walks through the park, Nancy sees him and calls out quietly. As Nancy approaches, Matthew points at her and shrieks. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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