Oh, good gravy! In the summer of 1985, I was the type of hungry movie goer that normally would’ve flocked to something that looked like LIFEFORCE. I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t – I honestly don’t recall any specific reason – but I do remember asking a friend of mine who had taken a date of his to go and see it. “It really isn’t any good,” he told me, “but it does have this gal with massive boobs who pops up every now and then when the plot slows to a halt.” That simple comment has stuck with me over the years, and, when I saw that Scream Factory was headlining a new Blu-ray release that promised an all-new cut approved by director Tobe Hooper, I figured it’s never too late – not even after thirty-plus years of thinking about it – to take in this sprawling B movie and give it a fair shake.
What could possibly go wrong, eh?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
A mission to investigate the passing Halley’s Comet finds something no scientist inspected: in the heart of the phenomenon lies an alien spacecraft! Col. Tom Carlsen (played with agreeable stoicism by Steve Railsback) commands a spaceborne crew to investigate the foreign vessel, and he’s alarmed to find three human-like aliens in suspended animation. He orders the men to ferry them back to the shuttle, unknowingly setting Earth on a course to total annihilation by … you guessed it … space vampires!
Now … I say again … oh, good gravy! In spite of itself, LIFEFORCE is a bomb of epic proportions that, yes, deserves to be celebrated. Why? How could that possibly be? Well, the answer is never easy.
It could be that LIFEFORCE is one of those rare failures – it had a respected director, and the cast isn’t without talent – that inspires others to follow in its footsteps. I’ve always maintained that no one – not a director, not a screenwriter, not a studio exec or even actors – set out with deliberate intentions to capture a disaster on film; after all, the risks to their respective careers and their employers make it an implausible suggestion. Still, it somehow happens, and I like to think that it’s due to an all-out consuming breakdown in the creative process. I suspect that harsh cold reality is somewhere near the heart – or ‘life force’ – of LIFEFORCE.
For example, the disc’s longer cut (116 minutes) really doesn’t add much substance to the theatrical release (101 minutes), but there are some small character moments that help flesh out the otherwise conventional creations. In the 1980s, it was no secret that theatre owners preferred films pretty close to that much-praised 90 minutes run-time – it gave them the best chance to get the biggest audience into their business day, hence the best return – so I wonder if some of the tinkering contributed to a balkanization of the plot. (Rest assured, even at 116 minutes this film makes little sense!)
The truth is the problems don’t stop there. LIFEFORCE’s shooting script is quite probably as anomalous as everything chocked into it – mysterious disappearances, supernatural science, boobs that defy gravity – and even a cursory glance at it reveals a score of problems. For starters, what is the story? Is this something being told from the point of view of the astronauts, or is are these space vampires intended to be the main characters? Thirty minutes into it, there still appears no central conflict – things just ‘happen,’ while, in the meantime, characters seem to come and go with greater frequency. About halfway through, the narrative finally cleans up a bit when Carlsen kinda/sorta returns from the dead (not really, but don’t bother, because he’s not the only one who kinda/sorta does); with him, he brings some answers, but he also introduces several other new questions? What to do now but … well, introduce even more characters!
Seriously, I’ve no idea how this script with these ideas could’ve seen its way into production except as a Golan and Globus production. (Google it, kids … it’ll all make sense with some Googling.) The end result is like that car wreck – you really should drive past, though you can’t help but keep looking. That’s the best way to describe LIFEFORCE – a catastrophe you can’t help but watch. It’s that intoxicating.
Plus, newcomer Mathilda May really does have great posture.
RECOMMENDED entirely because it’s so bizarre to behold! LIFEFORCE is that rare sci-fi schlockfest that’s worth seeing entirely because it is so mind-blowingly bad. The script by Dan O’Bannon & Don Jakoby – an adaptation of the novel “The Space Vampires” by Colin Wilson – doesn’t even really try to make sense of any of it probably because it would’ve been an entirely exhaustive affair. To its credit, LIFEFORCE raised far more questions that it or quite possibly any film could ever answer, so it’s best to go into this one with an open mind AND an open heart … ‘cause if you leave it with any measure of affection then it has to be love!
The most cruel, complimentary and accurate comment that could be made regarding this film is that it's probably the best of its genre that Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus ever produced. These two Israeli schlockmeisters have made more money from cheap, exploitive movies than probably anyone else in film history. Of course, this particular entry in the long line of cheesy Golan-Globus fare isn't as good or as interesting as it is because of them. Far more amazing than the film itself is the … more
Lifeforce is one of those movies you hear about for the same reason, the naked woman who was in it. Kinda like how Total Recall is remembered largely for the three breasted hooker. I finally got around to seeing Lifeforce and realized the talent that was involved in this movie which gets overlooked. John Dykstra who pioneered special effects for Star Wars was involved in this, Dan O' Bannon who wrote and came up with the idea for Alien wrote the script, Henry Mancini did the … more
Sci fi/Horror movie about a joint US and British space exploration that brings home a trio of entities that could bring about an apacolypse. A lot of talent involved doesn't add up to a lot but it's fun for what it's worth
Lifeforce is a Cannon funded film directed by Tobe Hooper. It's a very interesting film that deals with a pair of space vampires who are accidentally brought back down to Earth during the latest space shuttle mission. Steve Railsback stars as the sole survivor of the tragedy. But really folks the movie is a mere showcase for the natural beauty of Mathilda May. She's one smoking hot number. The director was a huge fan of Female Vampire (a.k.a. Erotikill). Miss May recreates Lina Romay's title role … more