The American Society of Cinematographers

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Bourne Legacy
Presidents Desk
DVD Playback
Body Snatchers
ASC Close-Up
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Blu-ray Edition
2.00:1 (High Definition 1080p)
DTS-HD Master Audio Monaural
Olive Films, $29.95

“In response to an urgent message from my nurse, I hurried home from a medical convention I'd been attending. At first glance, everything looked the same. It wasn't. Something evil had taken possession of the town,” recounts shaken Dr. Miles J. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) when trying to explain the unthinkable darkness that has fallen upon Santa Mira, Calif., the town in which he is general practitioner.  

Nurse Sally (Jean Willes) explains that patients have been clamoring to see him but refusing to explain what is wrong. Oddly, on his first day back, very few show up. One is a terrified boy who insists his mother is not his mother and begs Miles not to “let her get me.” Then Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), a former flame of Miles, arrives in town after a five-year absence and asks Miles about her cousin, who has been obsessing over their uncle, insisting he is somehow no longer the same man.

When Miles takes Becky to dinner, they encounter a psychiatrist who notes many people in town have been claiming that their loved ones seem different. Before Miles and Becky can ponder this, an emergency call sends them to the home of a friend, Jack (King Donovan), and his wife, Teddy (Carolyn Jones). The pair nervously show Miles a strange visitor they have found lying on their pool table. Not appearing fully formed, the lifeless figure has a human shape but lacks defining characteristics such as ears, nostrils and eyelashes. Later, as Jack sleeps, the figure takes on his physical characteristics and opens its eyes. It is then clear to Miles and his friends that something very ominous is happening.

In 1955, director Don Siegel went into production on The Body Snatchers, an adaptation of Jack Finney's novel of extraterrestrial invasion. Allied Artists Studio gave the project an extremely low budget that allowed only a 20-day shooting schedule. Siegel tapped Ellsworth Fredericks, ASC, to capture Invasion of the Body Snatchers at a breakneck pace because the veteran cinematographer was known for his fast work, particularly in television. Fredericks managed to create some of sci-fi’s most memorable images in the remarkably short schedule. The film was shot at 1.85:1, only to be turned later into SuperScope, a post process resulting in an anamorphic print for projection with a ratio of 2.00:1.

Independent DVD distributor Olive Films recently released a Blu-ray of this genre classic, and it’s a solid effort. The 1080p monochrome image transfer is presented in the appropriate 2.00:1 ratio with what appears to be clean source materials. There is a steady contrast balance throughout and reasonably good, consistent sharpness, which is commendable considering the SuperScope process, which often resulted in softer images. There is no evidence of DNR, and the black levels are particularly pleasing, making night scenes suitably dense and foreboding. The image has a well-balanced appearance overall, one that is very film-like and certainly better than previous home-video transfers. The DTS-HD monaural audio is clean and robust, with good presence on bass lines and little evidence of its age.

The only drawback to this release is its lack of supplements — not even a trailer! Still, in spite of that disappointment, the disc will please the film's many fans and provide others with an excellent opportunity to experience this chiller for the first time. Although Siegel and other members of the production team have insisted it was never intentional, what remains most potent about Invasion of the Body Snatchers today are its parallels to Cold War hysteria and the “Red Menace.” But certainly, the movie works just fine as a shocker in which hostile aliens rob earthlings of their identities and emotions, leaving them soulless vegetables grown from pods.

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