Directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), 1985’s Lifeforce stars Steve Railsback, Mathilda May, and Patrick Stewart. Based on Colin Wilson‘s 1976 novel, The Space Vampires,Lifeforce arrives on Blu-ray June 18, 2013, and features both the film’s original theatrical version and longer international.
Presented by Scream! Factory, Lifeforce follows the crew of the space shuttle Churchill, who discover a 150-mile long spacecraft hidden in the corona of Halley’s Comet. Inside the craft the crew finds hundreds of dead, desiccated bat-like creatures and three naked humanoid bodies in suspended animation within crystal coffins.
The crew recovers the three aliens and begins the return trip to Earth. During the journey, mission control loses contact with the shuttle and a rescue mission is launched to investigate. The rescue team locates the Churchill only to discover the craft has been severely damaged by fire, but the three coffins containing the naked humanoids remain in pristine condition.
The aliens are taken to the European Space Research Centre in London where they are examined by Dr. Leonard Bukovski (Michael Gothard) and Dr. Hans Fallada (Frank Finlay). Before an autopsy can be conducted, the female alien (May) awakens and drains the life out of a guard. The female escapes the research facility and proceeds to drain various other humans of their life force, revealing that she and her two counterparts are part of a race of space vampires that feed on the “life force” of a living being, rather than drink their blood.
With special effects by Academy Award-winner John Dykstra (1977 Best Visual Effects, Star Wars) and a script by Dan O’Bannon (Alien) and Don Jakoby, Lifeforce was Cannon Films’ attempt at creating a sci-fi blockbuster after the success of films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, and The Star Wars Trilogy.
Lifeforce‘s narrative is an amalgam of Bram Stoker’s Dracula mixed with H. P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror mythos, and O’Bannon wastes no time in borrowing from his own film (Alien) to introduce a “living” derelict ship that’s carrying deadly cargo. Instead of Facehuggers and Xenomorphs, it’s vampires from outer space who turn their prey into the living dead, leading to an all-out cosmic zombie apocalypse in London.
For much of the film Mathilda May, who plays “Female Vampire,” walks around in the nude, seducing humans with her shapely figure and piercing brown eyes. As the film progresses, she goes from wearing nothing to next-to-nothing, because she’s a space vampire with no sense of modesty, obviously. The French actress is spectacularly gorgeous and if for a movie about a seductive alien that drains the energy out of men, Mathilda May is perfectly cast, and seems to have little issue with being remembered as the naked space girl from Hooper’s forgotten sci-fi film.
Beyond May’s performance, there’s not much else going on in Lifeforce, other than a surprise appearance by Jean-Luc Picard/Charles Xavier himself, Sir Patrick Stewart who at one point kisses another man square on the lips – talk about erotic, am I right Star Trek fan-fiction writers!? Also, one of the male space vampires is played by Chris Jagger, brother of The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and before you ask, no the vampires don’t break out into spastic bird-like dances while singing “Brown Sugar” – but it’d be a lot cooler if they did.
Lifeforce isn’t a great film, but it’s an entertaining one with an interesting premise. Considering Lifeforce was Tobe Hooper’s follow-up to 1982’s Poltergeist, it was seen as a much bigger failure than it actually is. It’s an entirely decent genre movie with solid practical effects and a few exciting set pieces that is often remembered as an unmitigated disaster.
It’s worth seeing for Scream Factory’s immaculate Blu-Ray restoration, which comes with hours of bonus materials detailing the making of the film. If you’re unfamiliar with Shout Factory’s sub-division of forgotten horror and science-fiction films, Scream Factory is like the Criterion Collection of low-budget slasher flicks and B-movies. These Blu-ray transfers are among the best you’ll find, and if you have even a passing interest in ’70s and ’80s genre pictures, check out Scream Factory’s already impressive catalog of films.
You can pre-order Lifeforce (Collector’s Edition) [Blu-Ray/DVD Combo] here.
* Theatrical and International Versions * New Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper * New Audio Commentary with Make-Up Effects Designer Nick Maley * Dangerous Beauty Featurette with Mathilda May * Carlsen’s Curse Featurette with Steve Railsback * Space Vampires in London Featurette with Tobe Hooper * Original “Making-Of Lifeforce” Vintage Featurette * Original Theatrical Trailer and TV Spot * Reversible Cover with Original Theatrical Key Art