Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Directed by 

This remake of the 1956 horror classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers moves the action from small-town USA to 1970s San Francisco and replaces at least part of the original's psychological horror with special effects.Spores rain forth, unseen, from outer space, and soon strange flowers begin popping up all over the city. After bringing one of these hybrid specimens home with her one night, biologist Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) notices that her live-in boyfriend, Geoffrey (Art Hindle), doesn't seem like himself; he's cold and distant and somehow just not quite there. When she turns to her friend Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland), a colleague at the Department of Public Health, he convinces her to see his friend Dr. Kibner (Leonard Nimoy), a pop psychologist who argues that the problem is all in Elizabeth's head. Soon, though, Matthew and Elizabeth begin to notice that people all over the city are changing subtly and inexplicably. When their friend Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum) and his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright) find a lifeless, half-formed doppelganger covered with plant fibers in the mud baths they own and operate, the group of friends finally begins to understand that a sinister transformation is sweeping their city. Kevin McCarthy and Don Siegel, respectively the star and director of the original film, have small roles in the new version, as does an unbilled Robert Duvall.

Director Philip Kaufman.  115 mins, Rated PG.

With Dr. Salman Hameed, Associate Professor of Integrated Science and Humanities at Hampshire College

Topic:  Astronomers have so far detected several thousand planets orbiting around other stars. However, as of spring 2014, we (human beings on Earth) have not detected any unambiguous signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. But popular culture is full of images of aliens. Scientists have also chimed in.  The late Carl Sagan imagined benevolent aliens providing us with an Encyclopedia Galactica and welcoming us into a Galactic membership of technologically advanced species.  On the other hand, Stephen Hawking has warned us that any contact with technologically advanced aliens will result in calamity for human beings.

Hollywood has its own share of good and bad aliens. Of course, the premise of extraterrestrials allows filmmakers to provide a social/political/cultural commentary of life on Earth. Some of these aliens have been friendly (for example, Spielberg’s E.T. the Extraterrestrial), but often they have malicious designs for our planet. Aliens in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers are indeed in the latter category.

But can we reasonably say anything about how aliens will even look like, let alone guess their intentions? Furthermore, do we think that lifeforms on some planets in our galaxy will discover science, and if they do, will they also develop the necessary technology to traverse interstellar distances?

More about Dr. Salman Hameed: Salman Hameed is Associate Professor of Integrated Science and Humanities at Hampshire College.   His academic training is in astronomy, but for the past ten years he has been working in the interdisciplinary area of science & religion.   He teaches Aliens: Close Encounters of a Multidisciplinary Kind and co-teaches Astrobiology: Ethics to Exoplanets with microbiologist Jason Tor and planetary geologist Darby Dyar.