Matthew Bennell, a resident of San Fracisco, begins to notice that some friends, relatives and total strangers are changing, seeming to lose their sense of individuality - turning into drones. As the epidemic spreads to catastrophic levels, the drones become more agressive and intolerant of others. He tries to find the source of the problem, and protect those near and dear to him.
If the 1956 film of Jack Finney’s quietly creepy s-f novel is informed by the paranoia of the McCarthy Era, Philip Kaufman's remake asks 'where have all the flowers gone?' in depicting San Francisco ten years on from the Summer of Love, where the fragile hopes of the counterculture have been squashed and everyone is withdrawing into their own isolation cells even before the alien seeds drift to Earth.
The 1978 Invasion is not merely a remake but an upgrade (the alien effects are striking) and, even, a sequel. Sutherland’s hero and his neurotic love-interest (wide-mouthed Brooke Adams) run into a screaming, unshaven lunatic (McCarthy, hero of the 1956 film), still ranting at the top of his voice, continuing the terrifying speech he delivered to an uncaring world in the climax of the first version, 'they're taking over ... you're next!'
Kaufman and screenwriter W.D. Richter don't tell their story in straight-ahead fashion, but build unease with disjointed scenes that show the world is subtly wrong – the heroine takes a while to catch on, because her boyfriend (Art Hindle) was such a stiff even before he was podded -- and bits of vital exposition are delivered as background chatter Altman-style and themes are expressed through footnotes like the irrational (thus un-podlike) dislike that exists between drop-out poet Jack (Goldbulm) and smooth pop psychiatrist David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy, faking warmth like a true alien).
Finney's premise is good enough to stand a topically-skewed remake every fifteen years -- not to mention spin-offs like The Faculty -- but conoisseurs of 70s cinema recognise this as the most intelligent, most frightening American science fiction film of the decade.
For once, a great remake, smartly executed. Great performances and a killing ending that will stay with you forever can't hurt, either.