Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum
Director: Phillip Kaufman
In 70’s San Francisco, Matthew Bennell (Sutherland), an inspector for the health department, is concerned when his colleague Elizabeth (Adams) starts to talk about her partners strange behaviour. They soon realise that the strange behaviour is spreading, and that people are not themselves. They’re being replaced by copies of themselves, pod people from outer space. Can they and their friends escape the invasion, or are they doomed to be taken over and replaced too?
This film is a remake of a really popular 50’s sci fi, and does some wonderful things with the material. Even though some of the special effects have dated, it’s still an incredibly icky and scary film that manages to get under your skin. Just like the characters, it leaves you guessing who is really who they say they are and who can be trusted. As events escalate and the pod people spread, the plot gets more and more intense.
Horror thrillers had a real renaissance in the 1970’s, and Donald Sutherland was in a few that were really very powerful. Here he is a calm and logical man, a fairly quiet guy, thrust into something that’s hard for him to comprehend. He wants to rely on science and the government processes to help them, but with the spread of the pod people he realises that survival comes down to non-scientific skills, like relying on his friends and his instincts for survival. But which of his friends can he trust?
He’s joined by other excellent performers, from Brooke Adams as a vulnerable but tough love interest, a chatty literary Jeff Goldblum, and the dulcet tones of Leonard Nimoy as a psychologist. It’s a strong cast who all have their own stories and their own motivations, they’re not just cannon fodder. And they’re all pretty likable too, so you don’t want to see any of them get turned into pod people. But the sense that the forces from above are more powerful than one small group of humans is overwhelming.
The original film has been said to have political overtones, suggesting that the pod people represent political regimes like communism, though the author of the book that these films are based on claimed to not have had this meaning in mind at all. It’s certainly worth noting when watching this film, which doesn’t seem to have an obvious political stance, but was released in the 70’s, and era when people felt after events like Watergate that they couldn’t really trust the Government and this film may tap into that sense of paranoia and fear.
Either way, it’s a wonderfully entertaining film that’s retained it’s ability to send chills down the spine.
See It If: just because you’re not paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you… One for lovers of thriller and sci-fi, this is a tense classic with excellent central performances.