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A race of space vampires arrive in London and infect the populous.
For more about Lifeforce and the Lifeforce Blu-ray release, see Lifeforce Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on May 13, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Mathilda May, Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Patrick Stewart, Michael Gothard
Director: Tobe Hooper
» See full cast & crew
Lifeforce Blu-ray Review
She wants to suck your—well, does it really matter?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, May 13, 2013
At least the astronauts in Alien weren't aware they were bringing anything, let alone something nasty, back with them after setting out on their interstellar explorations. No such slack can be given to the spacemen in another screenplay co-written by Alien's Dan O'Bannon, the troubled 1985 Tobe Hooper film Lifeforce. On paper Lifeforce seemed to have just about everything going for it a mid-eighties science fiction spectacular could have: a hot young director starting to feel his oats and given one of his biggest budgets to date; a respected writer with well established credits in both science fiction and horror, two genres Lifeforce sought to combine; special effects supervised by John Dykstra, then probably the single most respected individual in the visual effects field; a score by the iconic Henry Mancini; and a cast of notable actors who, if not exactly traditional A-list material, were respected and respectable. And yet, much like the humans in this film, the filmmakers themselves experienced something akin to vampirism along the way, having their original concept sucked out of them, with only the husk remaining, at least with regard to some boneheaded marketing decisions, not to mention the edit of the film that made it to American audiences (admittedly done with some input from the director). Lifeforce wasn't particularly well received when it was originally released, but over the years it's developed something of a rabid cult following, especially in its so-called "director's cut" which better preserves elements of the original screenplay as well as Hooper's overall vision for the film. While there are certain lumbering and at times even laughable aspects to Lifeforce, it's a good deal better than some might lead you to believe. Based on Colin Wilson's novel The Space Vampires, a title which neatly sums up the high concept of the film, Lifeforce is a little too bloated and silly for its own good but it still provides a lot of fun along the way and it looks spectacular in this new Blu-ray incarnation, one overseen by Hooper himself.
Lifeforce begins like any number of other space operas, with the crew of a spaceship discovering unexpected life forms, in this case three naked humanoids encased in crystal prism like structures in a huge enclosure which has been hidden by Halley's Comet. The leader of the expeditionary force is Colonel Carlsen (Steve Railsback), who almost instantly feels the pull of attraction toward the female of the trio (played by the frequently naked Mathilda May). The film then segues to an Earth perspective as the returning spaceship has fallen out of communication with the British Space Agency. A rescue operation is mounted, where it's discovered that the ship has been badly burned, although the three humanoids are still seemingly fine. While some of the crew members' corpses are found floating around the interior of the ship, Carlsen is nowhere to be found.
The three humanoids are taken back to Earth, where a team of scientists begins trying to figure out who (or what) they are. The female suddenly awakens which begins a domino effect of havoc being wreaked. She has the ability to suck the "lifeforce" out of helpless people whom she is able to seemingly hypnotize telepathically not to resist (and in fact to "come closer" so that she can do her dirty work). She escapes out into London while the scientists begin dealing with a number of zombified vampires springing up in the wake of the female's efforts. Meanwhile, Carlsen has been discovered in an escape pod and has been flown back to London where he divulges that he had tried to destroy the aliens when he figured out they had nefarious abilities.
The rest of Lifeforce plays out in an increasingly hyperbolic state as Carlsen and several concerned scientists try to figure out where the female—who can "inhabit" other people and change her appearance—might be hiding, ultimately settling on a doctor played by Star Trek: The Next Generation's Patrick Stewart. Carlsen has a sort of psychic link with the female, which has both its ups (helping the good guys track down where the space vampires are ) and its downs (Carlsen and the good inhabited doctor almost lock lips since Carlsen is "seeing" the female rather than the doctor).
The final act of Lifeforce plays out in a London overrun with zombie like vampires who are wreaking havoc while the three vampires are tyring to reconstitute themselves. The female is evidently in communication not only with Carlsen but also with her mother ship, and her attempts to transport back to it provide the film a climax that is rather reminiscent of yet another Star Trek property, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Lifeforce tends to become a bit too ludicrous for its own good in these closing moments, with too many strands being dealt with too quickly to provide much of a satisfactory ending. The film works best in its early going, though the stupidity of the humans (who often just kind of stand there, looking at various other humans getting the life sucked out of them) becomes comical after a while. Lifeforce is not an entirely successful film, but it boasts an interesting premise and an often quite winning production design and special effects. Like several of the victims in the film itself, Lifeforce seems poised to rise from the dead in this new high definition presentation.
Lifeforce Blu-ray, Video Quality
Lifeforce is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory's imprint Scream Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. According to the commentary by Hooper included on this Blu-ray, Hooper himself oversaw this restoration and high definition transfer, personally color timing the film to get it to his original vision. The results are laudatory, especially for anyone who has seen previous home video incarnations of the film. While some of the changes are rather subtle, flesh tones especially are noticeably ruddier (for the humans, anyway) in this new version. Aside from the much improved color, which is robustly saturated throughout this presentation, contrast is also considerably improved which markedly improves the final third or so of the film which takes place in darkened environments. Best of all the film doesn't appear to have been overly sharpened or scrubbed, leaving a natural layer of grain intact. The film is of course awash in opticals, which may lead some to claim the presentation is "soft" looking, when in fact that's a natural result stemming from the source elements.
Lifeforce Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Lifeforce features lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, which one assumes are meant to mimic the original six track 70mm presentation and two track 35mm presentation respectively. The 5.1 track offers some excellent surround activity in the film's special effects sequences, especially when the lifeforce is being sucked out any given victim, at which point there are great panning "whooshing" foley effects. Dialogue is cleanly presented and Henry Mancini's rather un-Mancini-esque sounding score comes through loud and clear. Fidelity is excellent and dynamic range is very wide.
Lifeforce Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Lifeforce Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It's probably best to think of Lifeforce as a vampire movie with some space elements thrown in, rather than an outer space special effects extravaganza that has vampires in it. That in fact was most likely one of the reasons the film failed to really resonate with audiences years ago, since the marketing of the film made it seem like a sci-fi spectacular. There are some undeniably silly aspects to the film (watching Railsback and Stewart almost lock lips may bring a giggle to the more juvenile members of the audience, of which I sheepishly count myself one), but there are also some really fun sequences, especially once the zombie-vampires (or whatever the heck they're supposed to be) start creating such mayhem. The film boasts an impressive production design and some very effective special effects. This new Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic and comes replete with a really nice supply of supplements. Highly recommended.
Lifeforce Blu-ray, News and Updates
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Shout Factory branch Scream Factory has announced and detailed the Collector's Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack release of director Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce, starring Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Mathilda May, Frank Finlay and Patrick Stewart. The sci-fi horror cult ...
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