"The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" director Philip Kaufman fashioned a genuinely sinister remake of the classic Don Siegel chiller "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956) that boasts everything an inspired remake requires to eclipse the hallowed original. Kaufman's Technicolor rehash changes the setting from the rural California town of Santa Mira in the middle 1950s to the sprawling metropolis of San Francisco during late 1970s. Scenarist W.D. Richter garnered an Oscar nomination for his adaptation of author Jack Finney's novel "the Body Snatchers" written in 1955. In other words, Kaufman's film is not a strict remake because he didn't replicate the Siegel film shot-for-shot any more than Richter duplicated the dialogue and action. The Kevin McCarthy & Dana Wynter relationship in the Siegel film differs from the quasi-adulterous relationship between Deputy Department of Public Health Inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) and his colleague Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) who has stumbled upon a unique flower that she cannot identify. Mind you, they never have any time for coitus, but she is cheating on her boyfriend, Geoffrey Howell. Everything begins to go south when Geoffrey exhibits unusual behavior, and Elizabeth suddenly believes that he is an impostor. Nevertheless, this outstanding science fiction remake ties itself to the original because the hysterical character that McCarthy played shows up during a traffic sequence. He is warning the world that all is not well and that 'they are coming for us.' As if this homage to the original didn't constitute something unusual for a remake produced twenty-two years later, the casting of the original director—Don Siegel—in a bit part amounts to a blessing of sorts for Kaufman's film. Indeed, Richter integrates the narrative from one film into another, despite the obvious fact that the McCarthy character couldn't have been on the lam that long. Since Kaufman and Richter refused to confine themselves to a remake in the strictest sense of the meaning, they have fleshed out the narrative considerably and provided visual exposition about the evil alien spores that migrate from a distant planet through space to settle on the Earth. Early sequences depict how the alien spores--referred to as spider webs--permeated the Earth. Indeed, Kaufman and Richter have developed the narrative in greater depth than the Allied Artists' original without sacrificing a shred of subtlety. The first-rate cast, headed by the incomparable Donald Sutherland of "M.A.S.H." fame, includes "Star Trek's" Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum, and Brooke Adams. Literally, Kaufman and Richter have taken the Siegel classic and given it a new lease on life with their elaborate, often thrilling, art-house version that plumbs the subject matter for far more. A metaphor for the changing world that appears early on during the action is the cracked windshield of our protagonist's car. Like everything else in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," this symbolism doesn't get in the way of the action. Of course, the surprise ending is fantastic!
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