An excessive failure in a decade known for excess at movie houses, Tobe Hooper's eccentric science fiction/horror epic Lifeforce
(1985) has enjoyed in recent years a reappraisal from genre fans, which undoubtedly sparked the release of this deluxe Blu-ray/DVD presentation. Despite the best efforts of an impressive array of behind-the-scenes talent, from director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
) and writers Dan O'Bannon and Don Jakoby (Alien
) to special effects designer John Dykstra (Star Wars
never quite blossoms into the phantasmagoric spectacle its producers--Cannon Films' infamous Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus--envisioned when they optioned Colin Wilson's The Space Vampires
in their mid-'80s bid for respectability. Instead, it's a curious blend of pulp outer space adventure, with American astronaut Steve Railsback discovering a trio of aliens, including the comely Mathilda May, in a ship attached to Halley's comet, and apocalypse horror, with the aliens laying waste to London by draining its occupants of their vital energies. Hooper delivers some impressive set pieces in the picture's opening and final, manic third, as Railsback and SAS colonel Peter Firth attempt to track down May's hiding place as London collapses into anarchy, but often falters in his attempt to keep the high-minded, blockbuster-focused concept on track in the face of exceptionally purple dialogue and wildly varying performances (especially Railsback, who seems very uncomfortable throughout the film, and Frank Finlay as a babble-spouting professor). The decision to depict May in the nude throughout the film, while an obvious audience draw and one of the key reasons for the film's lasting appeal, also hampers the tone, pushing it towards drive-in territory when it clearly hoped to cleave towards the Star Wars
ticket. The result is a genuinely offbeat film (a label that can be applied to nearly all of Hooper's CV), neither camp nor underrated classic, though it's never a dull ride, thanks to its bristling energy and the (literally) eye-popping special effects.
Audiences and critics dismissed Lifeforce upon its release in 1985, but years of (heavily edited) TV broadcasts and home video have provided it with a fan base that should be pleased with Scream Factory's typically impressive Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. Its chief appeal is the inclusion of both the 101-minute domestic cut by Tri-Star pictures, and the 116-minute international theatrical edit, which features more graphic material than the American version as well as composer Henry Mancini's complete score (which was replaced in part with cues by Michael Kamen). Two commentary tracks are also included: the first features Hooper with filmmaker Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs), whose enthusiasm occasionally overshadows the director's understated but informative contributions, while the second pairs special makeup effects supervisor Nick Maley (Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) with DVD producer Michael Felsher. Hooper, Railsback, and May are all showcased in short interview featurettes in which they discuss their experiences on the film, as well as the effect that Lifeforce had on their subsequent careers, while an electronic press kit created to promote the theatrical release offers vintage interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Two theatrical trailers, a TV spot, and an HD gallery of production stills round out the two-disc set. --Paul Gaita
A mission to investigate Halley's Comet discovers an alien spacecraft. After a deadly confrontation, the aliens travel to Earth, where their seductive leader begins a terrifying campaign to drain the life force of everyone she encounters. Her victims, in turn, continue the cycle, and soon the entire planet is in mortal danger.