Directed by Tobe Hooper.
Starring: Steve Railsbeck, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May and Patrick Stewart.
During a mission to study Halley’s Comet, astronauts discover a hidden space ship within. Inside the ship, they find three nude beings which appear to be human. That is the last that is heard of the mission. A second team, sent to investigate, find the ship badly damaged, with all but one of the crew dead. However, the three beings, in some form of stasis, survived. Together with Colonel Carlson, the lone survivor from the first mission, these beings come to Earth. Soon after their arrival, the three aliens awaken and reveal their intentions….
Cannon films were known for their big scale movies and Lifeforce was no exception. From Henry Mancini’s opening fanfare theme and the first sequence you know that director Tobe Hooper was trying to do something very big. Unfortunately, it appeared that he had an awful lot of other ideas too and he tried to cram them all in at the same time. To begin with the film is Alien-esque; the crew investigating a seemingly long-dead ship.It then becomes a plague-like, zombie outbreak movie and ends as a fantasy/sci-fi effort. Based on the Colin Wilson novel, Space Vampires, Hooper’s vision has a lot of problems that individually aren’t too bad, but combined they spoil what was potentially a good film: Despite being made in 1985, the costume design looked as if it were set about fifteen years earlier; considering that the Space Vampire’s actions are world reaching, the main emphasis and action takes place solely in London, with many of the characters spending time discussing politely what action they should take against this now malevolent threat which is attempting to take over the entire planet. There’s just too much rigidity to it, almost as if something more flamboyant has been locked away.
The main ringleader of the alien’s efforts is a beautiful woman played by Mathilda May. In order to absorb the “lifeforce” of others, she attracts them using her sexual attractiveness. Apart from conveying these powers on the screen, she had little else to do, but executed her role perfectly; her silent weapon irresistible. The lone survivor of the crew, Carlson (played by Railsbeck) is vacant too often and as a result you gain little interest in the character’s own development, only watching to see how he affects the film’s conclusion. Peter Firth plays Colin Cain, an S.A.S operative whose job it is to track down the alien. Despite Firth doing a better job than Railsbeck, his character too feels more “functional” than important to the plot. Patrick Stewart does what is needed to be done perfectly and it is unfortunate that his character, Dr.Armstrong, is not in the film for as long as the others.
The problem with the film is with the casting and location; it’s just too British. Perhaps with slight tweaks to both areas and if Hooper hadn’t tried to do too much, it would have been a lot better. A mention must be given to John Dykstra’s effects which were superb but forgotten somewhat by the films failings.
This two-disc Blu-ray set has some excellent extras which reveal many of the reasons for the film’s weaknesses. Both the theatrical and international versions of the movie are present which have different running times. There is a good “making of” feature, with interviews with many of the main players in the production. Also available are separate pieces which have interviews with Hooper, Railsbeck and Mathilda May respectively. Together with three audio commentaries, original trailers from Tristar and Cannon, and a good quality Blu-ray transfer, it is a good package, even if the film didn’t reach its potential. The film is worth a watch and is enhanced by the extras.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
J-P Wooding – Follow me on Twitter.