Invasion Of The Body Snatchers | 1978
Philip Kaufman goes back to Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers and, from the opening sequence of pods launching into space, follows a more overtly sci-fi path than Don Siegel’s 1956 classic of paranoia.
The modestly-budgeted production uses sound and visuals, entirely on real locations around San Francisco, to conjure up a wonderfully creepy atmosphere.
The alien life forms start budding on the plants in Alamo Square Park on Steiner Street southwest of the city centre, where there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Robert Duvall as a priest on a swing.
Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) lives with partner Geoffrey (Art Hindle) opposite at 720 Steiner Street, one of the picturesque group of Victorian houses facing the park dubbed the Painted Ladies, or Postcard Row.
Elizabeth works with Matthew Bennell, (Donald Sutherland) at the Department of Public Health, 101 Grove Street, in the Civic Center district.
The ‘French restaurant’ in which Bennell disputes whether a foreign object in the stock is a caper or a rat turd, is Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus Avenue at Chestnut Street. The club originally opened in 1931 and has occupied the premises on Columbus since 1951. By the way, if you want to see the outside of Bimbo’s, you can glimpse it in Bullitt as the famous car chase begins in earnest on Columbus.
Elizabeth worriedly confides that her partner has somehow ‘changed’ to Bennell as he’s driving north on Leavenworth Street in the rundown Tenderloin district as a crazed man hammers on the car window to warn them “They’re coming! They’re already here!”.
This is of course Kevin McCarthy briefly reprising his role as Miles Bennell in the 1956 movie. He’s mysteriously being chased by a mob and, on turning right from Leavenworth onto Eddy Street, Matthew and Elizabeth are shocked to see him lying apparently dead on the sidewalk in front of the Hamlin Hotel, 385 Eddy Street.
If you want to find out more about the history of the Tenderloin, ‘Ringside Liquors’, which you can see on the street corner, is now the Tenderloin Museum, 398 Eddy Street, recording the history of the district.
Oddly, when Bennell later reports this incident to the police he describes it as ‘Leavenworth and Turk’.
Elizabeth and Matthew are on their way to a book launch by writer of fashionable psychobabble Dr Kibner (Leonard Nimoy). The bookstore, at which they also meet up with grumpily cynical Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum) is now restaurant Eats, 50 Clement Street at 2nd Avenue, west toward the Richmond District.
When things begin to get a little fractious, Bennell takes Bellicec outside for a little talking-to outside what is now the optometrist store on the southeast corner of Clement and 2nd.
‘Bellicec’s Mud Baths’ were built in an empty store near Clement Street, and loosely based on the real Calistoga Mud Baths in the Napa Valley wine-producing region some 50 miles north of San Francisco.
As the reality of the ‘pod people’ becomes undeniable, the remaining humans gather at Bennell’s house, 1227 Montgomery Street, at Montague Place, in North Beach. It’s just north of the apartment of Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) from Basic Instinct.
There are no steps from the rear of the house. The fugitives’ narrow escape route is the Filbert Street Steps, running east from Montgomery a couple of blocks north. You might recognise these steps as the ones up which Parry (Humphrey Bogart) struggles after his plastic surgery in 1947 film noir Dark Passage, to the magnificent art deco home of Irene (Lauren Bacall) which stands on Montgomery at the top of the climb.
They head to the Embarcadero on the Bay front, where Bellicec nobly sacrifices himself to distract the screaming mob at Pier 33.
By the glittering lights of Broadway, Elizabeth and Matthew hail a cab to take them to the airport. Don Siegel, director of the 1956 film, puts in an appearance as the driver who takes them through the downtown Broadway Tunnel only to deliver them to a podfolk roadblock.
Back at the Department of Health on Grove Street, the scale of the invasion becomes clear as countless pods are being loaded onto trucks and the sudden appearance of the disturbing banjo-plucker/dog hybrid disrupts their cover as emotionless poddies.
Bennell and Elizabeth manage to escape in a truck but only as far as the ‘pod central’ warehouse near 3rd and 22nd Streets in the waterfront Dogpatch district.
The famously shocking ending, the next morning, takes place alongside the row of leafless and weirdly pollarded (stubbily cut back) Sycamore trees of the formal gardens in front of San Francisco City Hall.