Our film critic talks about what made Philip Kaufman's ''Invasion of the Body Snatchers'' so fascinating

By Owen Gleiberman
Updated August 17, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

Why I love special effects

I hadn’t seen Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers since it came out in 1978, and watching it again, I was reminded of what fascinating fun it is to look at special effects from the pre-digital era — to see how cheesy time has rendered some of them, but also to marvel, all the more, at those that hold up. In Body Snatchers, when the alien pods open to give birth to squishy adult ”fetuses,” it’s like something out of Little Shop of Horrors II: Are those petals made of papier-mâché? And the goo looks like…F/X goo. Yet there’s one effect that remains one of the most haunting in movie history. Late in the movie, Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams spot the old homeless banjo player — whose head, complete with flapping tongue, is now attached to his dog’s body. Today, this would almost surely have been accomplished digitally, and you would have known it. In Body Snatchers, the effect now seems a bit crude, but it’s harder to pinpoint how they did it, which is why, 29 years later, it still makes you shiver.

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