In 1977, Leonard Nimoy returned to the small screen as the host of In Search Of…, a now iconic (if a little dated) weekly television series looking at all things paranormal. Through March 1982 and for 152 episodes, Nimoy was once again welcomed into our home every week as we got a chance to find out all we needed to know about such things as the Bermuda Triangle and Bigfoot. However, as popular as that series was, the demands on Nimoy’s time were limited. He continued to work as opportunities arose and in 1978, with the Star Trek revival still a year away, he returned to his sci-fi and horror roots with chilling remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
The 1956 original, which is a true classic, was based on the novel The Body Snatchers, written by Jack Finney. It told the tale of seeds drifting through space and landing on Earth. They would replace people with exacts duplicates, leaving the originals to die. The 1978 remake would make alterations to the plot differing from both the original novel and film. While some critics felt the 1956 film clearly capitalized on the fears of Communism, author Jack Finney would claim that was not the case. However, the comparisons are justified, in my opinion. The 1978 remake would concentrate more on the horror elements and, while the basic plotlines are there, it clearly goes into other directions, steering clear of revisiting a by-then outdated “red scare” plot device.
Our film begins with creatures leaving their dying world and traveling to Earth, where they duplicate the appearance of plants, making it easy for them to enter the homes of their unsuspecting victims. Personally, I think this comes off as much more chilling than the ’56 version (yet, let me say now before I lose my credentials that the ’56 version is one of my personal sci-fi favorites). Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games) is the main star of the film, appearing as health inspector Matthew Bennell. When the boyfriend of co-worker Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams, Shock Waves) begins acting strange, Bennell suggests he see a psychiatrist friend of his. Enter Mr. Nimoy as Dr. David Kibner. At a party, Dr. Kibner begins to see other people claiming their loved ones aren’t the same. A pattern is developing and they soon discover duplicates, uncovering the insidious plot. The assimilation moves swiftly and Dr. Kibner is quickly duplicated, transitioning from the role of ally to that of an alien enemy bent on the survival of their dying race. The movie never lets up the chill factor, keeping it ramped up right until the iconic final scene.
Nimoy is merely a supporting character in this film but his role is a pivotal one. We’ve always known him as our beloved Mr. Spock, our intergalactic hero. He was the comforting narrator informing us of the possible existence of ghosts and things that go bump in the night. Here, however, he becomes a member of an alien race with plans to take Earth as their new home, wiping us out at the same time. The scene where Dr. Kibner explains their plot, telling Matthew and Elizabeth that they have helped us by eliminating all emotion, is quite chilling. I couldn’t help but wonder how Mr. Spock would feel about that. A year later, Nimoy would do just that, as Spock would attempt to wipe out all of his human emotions in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I wonder if he saw the comparisons at the time?
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a prime example of how to do a remake right. With a stellar script and a great supporting cast that included Jeff Goldblum (The Fly) and Veronica Cartwright (Alien), not to mention a cameo from original star Kevin McCarthy, this surpasses the original on several levels. Unfortunately, this tale would be told two more times with much less impressive results. Most critics loved the movie while only a few, who normally didn’t care for sci-fi- and horror anyway, did not. It comes highly recommended from this humble reviewer. Check out the trailer and this great clip from the film featuring Nimoy before going to Amazon to add it to your collection today.