The Movie Waffler Blu-Ray Review - Lifeforce (1985) | The Movie Waffler

Blu-Ray Review - Lifeforce (1985)

A hi-def release for Tobe Hooper's cult sci-fi flick.

Directed by: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Steve Railsback, Mathilda May, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Patrick Stewart

You have to admire the thoroughness of Arrow's reissuing of well loved but hardly classic movies. Particular effort has gone into making this the best available version of Tobe Hooper's wonky as hell but charming nonetheless 'Quatermass' meets Space Vampires Hammer horror pastiche.
Tobe Hooper has had a varied career since the ground breaking work of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', he is also intriguing in that he has worked with budgets that far outstrip those of his contemporaries, with the possible exception of John Carpenter. Whether the triumvirate of films he made with the infamous Golan-Globus team at Cannon put him in the coffin or just hammered the nails in is up for debate. What is certain is Cannon seemed to have a particular perverse skill at green lighting big budget films that managed to look half the price of their actual cost.
'Lifeforce' was one of those films that garnered a particular following on VHS. In no small part to the, ahem, distinctive charms of Mathilda May, certainly many video shops would find themselves with tracking problems on certain key scenes that had been paused for reasons we shall discretely avoid. There is more to 'Lifeforce' than just fantastic breasts though; time has been kind to this film. What once seemed chintzy and incoherent now seems charming and fun. There is no sight greater on screen than a load of English thesps taking the money and delivering thick robust slices of ham.
Frank Finlay is having a ball as Dr. Hans Fallada, delivering lines like “Totally alien to this planet and life form, and totally dangerous” like a Valley girl, or Patrick Stewart giving a variation on the Mister Shouty performance he perfected on the bridge of the Enterprise in 'Star Trek'. The only one who seems to be taking this completely serious is Steve Railsback as the only surviving astronaut of the Shuttle Churchill, who is now fixated and psychically linked with May’s Space Vampire. Railsback’s performance, though, speaks of a man in the grip of extreme constipation rather than obsessive compulsive lust.
In value for money terms you do essentially get three films for one. The opening is a riff on 'Alien', with the crew finding and bringing back an entity found on a vessel hiding in the tail of Halley's Comet. Then we get the quarantined Vampire film with all the trappings of Hammer and Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass character with a side order of nudity, climaxing with apocalyptic zombie action through a suspiciously unpopulated London.
That the special effects vary between good and awful is part of its charm. Some of the model work of desiccated infected still works today. Others looked quite bad even when this was first released, which is par for the course with a Canon film.
One for lovers of cheesy horror then. Strangely what was once a low point in Tobe Hooper's career is now looking very much like his last work of merit (although I love 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2', but fear I am definitely in a minority with that view). Hopefully he has one final hurrah in him.


If you’re a fan of this movie then you will be in heaven. Three commentaries, including one with Tobe Hooper, interviews with Mathilda May, who talks about the amount of nudity that was required of her, Steve Railsback also talking about Mathilda May being nude, among other things. A short Tobe Hooper interview, and a near feature length documentary that is the highlight of the package, dealing with drug abuse on set, cutbacks, working with the Golan-Globus team and dealing with vexing questions regarding the tonsorial sculpting of Mathilda May's genital region which is both a fascinating and deeply honest look at a flawed but fun film. To cap it all off you also get the truncated American cut on the second disc with some dubbing and changes to music cues and a more abbreviated prologue. It is the lesser version. Picture quality is top notch considering the amount of optical work involved, and the audio is strident and impressive. An exemplary package all round and the definitive version of this flawed film.

Jason Abbey