A mission to investigate Halley’s Comet discovers an even stranger phenomenon: an alien spacecraft! Following a deadly confrontation, the aliens arrive on Earth, where their seductive leader begins a terrifying campaign to drain the lifeforce of everyone she encounters. Her victims, in turn, continue the cycle, and soon the entire planet is in mortal danger. And when the mission’s sole survivor (Steve Railsback) sets out to destroy her, he comes face to face with the most charming – and horrifying – being he’s ever known. Will he be able to destroy the lovely vampiress… or will he become yet another victim of her fatal charm?
There’s an alternate poster for Lifeforce that says everything about the movie. It features the image of a naked woman, strapped to a rocket of some sort, hurling through space, and it carries the original title “Space Vampires”.
Lifeforce starts off in a rather serious tone as a space exploration movie, but that doesn’t last long. Soon the astronauts enter a suggestively shaped alien spaceship, through what can only be described as an oversized birth-canal, to find a gorgeous naked girl (Mathilda May), boxed up and ready to go. Then we return to Earth and the film changes into a supernatural manhunt, while we follow Peter Firth’s Colonel Caine and Steve Railsback’s Colonel Carlsen. This is when it slowly begins to dawn on us that what we’re actually watching is a very nasty and formidable alien invasion, which leads us to the third act: Full-on apocalyptic zombie plague and the fall of civilization, as people are dropping like flies and humankind moves a notch down the food chain.
Despite the A-movie budget and ditto aspirations, Lifeforce is unmitigated B-movie sleaze. Equal parts zombie nightmare and erotic vampire movie, and about as subtle as a chainsaw. It’s completely unaware of its own shortcomings as it shamelessly indulges in every trashy B-movie cliché in the book, while throwing money left and right – most of it to the benefit of the masterful visual effects or the impressive special makeup effects.
Imagine a film, with a budget close to that of Return of the Jedi, where the greatest threat comes from a naked girl who wants you to use her body! Lifeforce – much like its perpetually exposed menace – is completely fascinating and absolutely irresistible.
Audio & Video:
No doubt, Lifeforce has never looked better. Unfortunately this Blu-ray presentation is far from impressive. The image looks a bit rough and muddy. It’s covered in a thin layer of noise that appears to be both digital and analogue film grain. Some of the darkest scenes are in very bad shape – the image is almost pulsating on occasion, and there’s a fair amount of white specks throughout the film. Much of this can be attributed to the age and condition of the source material. It’s unreasonable to expect this to look like a modern film, but I had hoped it would look just a tad better. Strong colors and good details improve the overall impression, though.
The audio was clearly never meant for a modern surround experience. The soundtrack makes a LOT of noise during the big action sequences, but most of the other scenes sound very flat and stereo-like. It’s not a problem per se, and perhaps it’s merely indicative of the film’s age, but I wonder if I should have tried the 2.0 soundtrack instead, for a more “honest” sound experience.
This package comes with both a Blu-ray and a DVD. They are almost identical, except that the DVD doesn’t have the original, shorter theatrical cut of the film. No one is going to watch that, of course, but it’s nice to have it included on the blu-ray for archival purposes.
The proper extended cut of the film runs 1:56:12 – and that’s the only version anyone should deal with.
- Audio commentary with director Tobe Hooper
- Audio commentary with special makeup effects supervisor Nick Maley
- Vintage “Making of Lifeforce” featurette (21:18)
– This appears to have been ported over from an old VHS tape. It looks BAD. The opening moments are spend explaining the story and the characters, but then we move on to some very cool behind the scenes glimpses, especially concerning the effects and the makeup.
– Three interviews with Tobe Hopper (9:57), Matilda May (15:15), who is still quite beautiful, and Steven Railsback (7:07). They’re sweet and full of good stories, but a film like this really deserves a proper documentary.
- Trailer, TV spot and stills.
The Blu-ray is locked for region A.
Henry Mancini’s over-dramatic theme, Matilda May in all her majestic nudity, the grotesque special make-up effects, or the genuinely disturbing apocalyptic mood of the final act. Any one of these elements would be worth watching a film for, and Lifeforce has them all!
The slightly disappointing video quality and the lack of a proper documentary doesn’t matter on the bottom-line. No one is ever going to be allowed to make a film like Lifeforce again, so cherish it for the unique wonder it is.
Movie: B+++ (how can this be anything but a B?)
Extra Features: B+