Every so often, a remake comes along that does the original proud. David Cronenberg’s The Fly is one. Philip Kaufman’s reworking of Don Siegel’s 1955 classic is another. For the three people out there who aren’t familiar with the plot, pods from outer space are replacing people with soulless duplicates. Donald Sutherland is the health inspector whose friend (Brooke Adams) is one of the early people to believe that someone close to her is no longer who he appears to be. Before long, Sutherland, Adams, Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright are running for their lives.
The story of perfect paranoia is infinitely flexible, adapting itself perfectly to the tenor of the times (assuming, of course, the filmmakers are halfway competent). Kaufman’s film distinguishes itself from its predecessor by playing on our worst fears concerning big city anonymity and alienation, and by introducing the infamous pod scream, which leads to one of the most chilling final frames in film history.
The original DVD release was in 2.0, and there has been no upgrade here. The audio is certainly very enveloping all the same, and the deeply disturbing sound design is handled, for the most part, quite well. One could argue that the music is a bit too loud in the rear speakers, but the trade-off is that the BOO moments are extremely effective. Dialogue is clear, thought not entirely free of the occasional bit of distortion.
I don’t get the feeling there’s been much done to the video between the last release and this, either. The fullscreen option has been dropped, though, and the widescreen is anamorphic. Colours are good, as are the contrasts. This is a very dark film, deliberately so, but there is no murk that wasn’t an intended effect. There is some grain, but not enough to be a real detriment, and the print is in fine shape.
Philip Kaufman’s commentary is present, as it was on the last release, and a fine one it is – articulate, engaging, and full of behind-the-scenes details. The other extra from the first edition – the “Pod Culture” liner notes – is also back, slightly updated to take into account the current (reportedly dismal) theatrical remake. Disc 1 also has trailers for the DVD releases of The Great Escape and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Disc 2 has, along with the theatrical trailer, four featurettes: “Re-Visitors from Outer Space, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod,” “Practical Magic: The Special Effects Pod,” “The Man Behind the Scream: The Sound Effects Pod” and “The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography.” The first is a general look back, explaining how the film came to be made. The other three are more specialized, and their titles are self-explanatory. All in all, they’re a pretty interesting collection.
The new features are nice, though owners of the previous release shouldn’t feel compelled to shell out for another copy. Science fiction/horror fans who haven’t laid hands on this yet absolutely should do so.