Starring: Steve Railsback, Mathilda May, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Patrick Stewart, Michael Gothard and Aubrey Morris.
Running Time: 116 minutes (international)/101 minutes (theatrical).
Synopsis: While investigating Halley’s Comet, a research space team unknowingly bring back a world-conquring race of space vampires who transform most of London’s population into zombie-like creations. It’s left to the only survivor of the expedition and a British SAS sergeant to stop their wretched plan.
Looking back the release of Tobe Hooper’s sci-fi thriller LIFEFORCE and you’d be forgiven in thinking it belongs in the decade (or even two) previous. I’ve been a follower of Hooper’s work since his infamous debut THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and while I’ve always known about this 1985 effort, it’s slipped me by until now. The film receives the top notch treatment from the always outstanding Arrow Video (restoring exploitation, cult and horror classics) and looks gloriously sharp. However, there is a camp charm to LIFEFORCE that almost feels like it belongs to Hammer Films’ classic 1960s/70s collection.
Based on Colin Wilson’s 1976 novel ‘The Space Vampires’, ALIEN scribe Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby’s screenplay bares a striking resemblance Ridley Scott’s 1978 space thriller early on. While on a routine space mission, a group of astronauts find themselves investigating a strange craft hidden in Halley’s Comet. Coming across three exquisitely naked humanoids, a bad decision to bring them onboard soon bites them in the backside. Sending reinforcements when contact is cut, Houston (or rather London) does indeed have a problem when deciding to delve in deeper.
When you consider LIFEFORCE follows not only ALIEN but the likes of STAR WARS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and THE THING (regarding their still impressive visual effects) it’s staggering to think it’s so much older and even boasts work from visual-effects maestro John Dykstra himself, it’s certainly dated badly. It’s also worth reminding that it was Hooper’s next film to follow POLTERGEIST and it’s difficult to comprehend the two films were made by the same man. Then again, look back eleven years previous at Hooper’s gritty, limp-lopping masterpiece and you’d be hard pressed not to raise a wry smile at proceedings here. CHAINSAW’s intensity is well and truly missing even as Earth comes under threat from these trio bloodsucking beings. An amateurish approach does not sit well with the plot moving quickly to the UK capital.
Steve Railsback (who channels Tommy Lee Jones) and Peter Firth are real troopers here and do their best with a simply bonkers plot that at times makes no sense whatsoever. Keeping it real if you like. While the likes of seasoned, thespian pros Patrick Stewart, Frank Finlay and Aubrey Morris struggle to keep a straight face while delivering toe-curling lines. Still, there’s enjoyable film in there somewhere. Henry Mancini’s score is also worthy of note as is a number of the prosthetics work.
As mentioned previously, Arrow Video are not ones to let you down on the transfer or supplementary materials. The ‘making of’ is a fascinating watch at well over an hour long and you’ll learn the film had a huge budget for the period and that Hooper was high most of the time. The troubles in post-production with financiers Golum-Globus. The Canon Company and distributors Tri-Star. There are separate recollective featurettes from Hooper, Railsback and the stunning Mathilda May (whose presence is arguably the most memorable in the movie (for two good reasons). The second disc features the theatrical cut of the film which runs 15 shorter than the restored international version.
LIFEFORCE is available on Blu-ray from the 14th October.