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3.9 out of 5 stars
Lifeforce
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65 of 72 people found the following review helpful
This movie has a very original twist on the old standard vampire tale, with the horror Cult King director - Tobe Hooper at the helm. It is taut pace movie scripted by Dan O'Bannon (Blue Thunder) from a Colin Wilson (Max Headroom) book. The casts is a powerhouse, Frank Finlay as Dr. Hanns Fallada, Peter Firth Brit Colonel Colin Caine, the always bizarrely brilliant Steve Railsback, Mathilda May as the female Space Vampire (not many lines but she does make an "impression"), Patrick Stewart (pre Jean Luc) as Dr. Armstrong, John Hallam (The Mummy) as Lamson and Chris Jagger as a guard (Yeppers, that is the brother of Mick!). Add in some nifty Special Effects for the vampire victims and you have one really great time!
The vampire tale is rather worn, but they manage to give a fresh take on it. Instead of fangs and sucking neck, they suck the "lifeforce" from humans, leaving the body robbed of everything and looking like a "tube of toothpaste all squished out". Worse, in short order we see that it spreads like a plague with the rapidness of dominoes.
The movie opens with the return of the multi-national spaceshuttle The Church to earth. It's overdue and they anticipate something is wrong. When the board it, they find the spaceship had been set to flame, the crew supposedly all dead, and three perfect bodies in glass coffins. They haul them back, quarantine them, but they don't stay that way for long. They soon find out they are space vampires and are now a loose on earth. Enter Railsback as the US army Colonel, the only survivor from the Churchill who escaped in a pod. He tells how they found a strange spaceship hidden in Hailey's Comet. When they boarded the found the glass coffins and lots of weird dead bats-type things. He describes how after bringing the coffins back to the Churchill his crew fell under the vampire's control. In an effort to stop them from returning to Earth, he tried to destroy the ship and escaped. His efforts failed and now these vampires are a loose and must "feed" off energy of a human every few hours.
When the vampires break loose it's up to Railsback and Firth to save Britain and the Earth.
The pace is a roller-coaster ride, the premise is very fresh and original, good effects and bang on acting. So end result is really good film that stands multiple viewings without losing impact. So pop the popcorn, turn out the lights and enjoy a fun time. I mean where else where you see Steve Railsback making smoochies with Jean Luc Piccard?? It's Cult Classic heaven!
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50 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Though director Tobe Hoooper has had more downs than ups in his career, his film Lifeforce comes out being one of his best, following only Texas Chainsaw Massacre adn Poltergeist. Though initially a box-office failure, I found Lifeforce to be a refreshing story in the otherwise repetitive Science Fiction genre. That's whats sad about the genre; when filmmakers come out with somehting new and different, it flops, but if it's another ALien rip-off, box-office hit. This "vampire" story takes a new turn on the vampire myth, with aliens arriving on Earth that drain people of "lifeforce," the essence of life. I found most of the performances to be great, espiceally Peter Firth as British Agaent Kane. He makes this film totally believable. Steve Railsback is actually the weakest in the cast, but I have to hand it to him, he had a difficult role to play and he did a credible job at it. The effects are also very good for the time and the filmmakers use their fairly high budget to their addvantage. The one thing I hate about this film is that all people seem to recognize is the nudity. They forget about the story and focus on Mathilda May's body (though she I will say she does have a great body). This film goes far beyond the nudity. It drives me nuts when I ask someone if they've seen Lifeforce and they respond "is that the film with that hot naked chick?" So look beyond the nudity and find and marvel at the very creative story aided by the mesmerizing score by Henry Mancini and the London Symphony Orchestra. I found the film very good all the way through . Some seem to think the film fizzles out towards the end when London is in anarchy with zombies running around but I myself found it very exciting and the zombie scenes rivel those of even George Romero. One downfall is that the film fails to explain the relationship between the female space vampire and Steve Railsback very well, but overall this is the most refreshing sci/fi film that I have seen in years.
TRIVIA: The original U.S. theatrical and VHS release portrays a different opening title sequence. Also the mission statement of the Churchill spaceshuttle is written out for the audience to read whereas this newer release from MGM has it read aloud.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2000
Lifeforce begins interestingly enough with a joint British-American team on board a shuttle who discover a spacecraft hidden inside Halley's Comet. From this point (actually at the very beginning) this movie grabbed my attention. The first 45 minutes were quite engrossing, as the details about what the astronauts found on board the shuttle began to unfold.
The three "humans" (two male, one extremely sexy female) they found encased in the space shuttle and were brought back are actually space vampires that constantly absorb people's lifeforce, turning them into zombies who must also take other people's lifeforce to become normal again, at least temporarily.
After all this, I felt I was in for a real treat. Well, the film's not a classic but it's far from boring. You see, Lifeforce gets a little too hokey for its own good when Steve Railsback and Patrick Stewart appear. The next 45 minutes are quite bad, not really dull, just ridiculous. Railsback really overacts his part in this duration and I almost laughed a couple of times. It isn't until the last half hour that the movie manages to gain some momentum again, as the climax features a wide destruction of London, and all at the center of it is one vampiress.
Despite a running time of just about 2 hours, Lifeforce felt rushed (particularly in the 45 minute sequence I mentioned I didn't like). Some of the sequences just go by too quickly. This aspect really doesn't help create a fast pace. It only makes the movie look clumsy.
Well, acting wise it's overall okay, surprisingly enough. So Railsback may be easy to laugh at, but Peter Firth and Frank Finlay hold their own and more. Of course, the real scene stealer would have to be Mathilda May, who plays the lead vampiress. There's not a single review below that doesn't mention her and it's for a good reason. She's simply the most beautiful foreign actress (she's French) I've ever seen. Heck, she might be the most good-looking actress on film. Her performance is actually decent. She portrays evil well enough and is actually rather creepy and seductive. And yes, she is naked for just about the entire movie, something of an added bonus.
The single most unintentionally funny scene in the movie must be when May is escaping the complex and the guards inform each other through the radio about having to look for a naked girl. The discussion they have is utterly hilarious and the British accent on the guy over the radio sounds like the guy on the top of the castle in the beginning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
There's actually something for anybody to appreciate about this movie. There are the fine special effects, the gigantic set designs, a pace that is rather fast, and some decent performances. I have nothing really good to say about the script or the direction, but Lifeforce is entertaining enough to be worth a rental.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2006
1985's Lifeforce by Tobe Hooper was critically panned and didn't make a dent in that year's box-office. But the strangest thing happened in the two decades since its initial release. The film has taken on a cult-status amongst fans of science-fiction and horror films. Hooper's film melds together so many different genre conventions that it's hard to think of Lifeforce as just a horror movie or just a sci-fi film. The film is both of those fantasy genres and the end result is a darkly campy new take on the vampire story.

The premise for Lifeforce starts off heavy on the science-fiction. 1985-86 was called the Year of the Comet since Halley's Comet was making its visit after a 76 year absence. As with most events that take on cultural significance the film studios were quick to capitalize on the event by making many low-budget and even slapdash quality sci-fi and horror films about it. Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce was one of the better ones. Hooper was still on a relative high from his success on Poltergeist. Mostly know for his low-budget and exploitation classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hooper was given a much larger budget to direct a film about space vampires discovered in a gigantic alien ship hidden in the tail of Halley's Comet. The discovery of this alien spacecraft and its sleeping inhabitants is where the sci-fi part of the film shows. The special effects were well-done for that time. The horror part of the film gradually comes to the forefront as the sleeping inhabitants of the ship gets transferred over to the International Space Shuttle sent to investigate the comet. Crewmembers soon begin to die inexplicably until only one remains and escapes by way of the shuttles escape pod. The survivor is one Steve Railsback whose manic and twitchy performance straddled the line between bad-acting to over-the-top. He hits just enough of the right notes to keep himself from the former.

The rest of the film is a race against time as one of the space vampires brought back, played by the ungodly beautiful Mathilda May (who spends the whole film walking naked from scene to scene much to the delight of the teenagers who saw the film), awakens to escape into the London countryside. Two other vampires, a pair of males, also reawaken to wreak havoc on London. The takeover of London is where the film suddenly takes on a look of a George Romero zombie film. Those drained of their lifeforce by the original space vampires return as either lesser vampires or zombie-like creatures who feed on a person's lifeforce and their flesh. The sheer pandemonium of the scenes of the streets of London full of rampaging zombies attacking the living was a thrill to see.

Between Railsback over-the-top performance as Col. Carlsen and the silent, but impressive debut of Mathilda May as the Space She-Vampire was Peter Firth as SAS Col. Colin Caine. Firth was the rock upon which all the over-the-top performances revolved around. He kept the film from becoming too ridiculous as he raced against the clock to find the cause of the vampiric epidemic destroying London and ready to spill out to the rest of England. Firth's Col. Caine was the epitome of the British "stiff upper lip" sensibility and was easy to like and cheer for. Also in the film was pre-Star Trek Patrick Stewart. He has a memorable scene where he and Railsback exchange a passionate kiss while Stewart's character is possessed.

Lifeforce is a fun ride that the 1980's genre pictures were well-known for. The film was such a large mixture of so many different genres that it may have confused alot of the audience its makers were hoping would make it a hit. It may have failed when it was released in the theaters, but it sure has gained quite a loyal following once it hit video. Movies like this are rarely made anymore and that's quite a shame. But until something similar gets made in this new renaissance of the horror genre, I'm willing to keep watching my copy of Lifeforce and recommend it to others who share similar tastes.
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35 of 45 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 5, 2013
I'm chuckling with myself at my over-the-top rating for this over-the-top movie. I stumbled upon this movie years ago and had it on VHS tape copied from somewhere. I then found a DVD version with an upgraded soundtrack (Henry Mancini!!) and bought it. I think that is the first time I'd seen it on DVD. It looks good except the widescreen isn't upgraded to anamorphic. That's all fixed with this new Blu ray version. Transferred with a 1080p resolution and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, this is a big improvement over the old DVD. A DVD is included in this package properly formatted.

"Lifeforce" is a sci-fi horror film ala "Alien" (same screenwriter, Dan O'Bannon along with Don Jakoby) with a bigger budget and with extra nudity. Directed by "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" & "Poltergeist" filmmake Tobe Hooper, the movie is pretty good, even without the nudity.

While on a mission to hunt down Halley's Comet, Col. Carlsen (Steve Railsback) and his crew encounter a space craft floating nearby. Investigating they find dead bat-like creatures and 3 nude humanoids perfectly preserved. Carlsen is the only crewmember to return alive, but the ship is found in Earth's orbit with the 3 humanoids (2 good looking dudes and one hot chick) still in good form.

It turns out these humanoids need human "lifeforce" instead of blood that let's say, a vampire might need. Pretty much the same result however. Some excellent special effects and makeup make for a decent thriller. And of course there is first-time "actress" Mathilda May walking around for almost the entire movie totally nude. I tossed in half a star for that alone.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Danny Boyle was not the first person to realise that zombies can run like the clappers. That honour belongs to Lifeforce, which is, of course, the greatest naked space vampire zombies from Halley's Comet running amok in London end-of-the-world movie ever made. Tobe Hooper may have made a lot of crap, but for this deliriously demented epic sci-fi horror he deserves a place among the immortals. Plus it offers space vampire Mathilda May, the best thing to come out of France since Simone Simon, spending the entire movie naked. Which she does very, very well. Just bear in mind that while she is the most overwhelmingly feminine presence anyone on Earth has ever encountered, she's also "totally alien to this planet and our life form and totally dangerous." It's a pitch meeting I'd have loved to have sat in on: Astronauts from the British space program find three naked humanoid alien life forms inside a giant 150-mile long artichoke/umbrella shaped spaceship hidden in the tail of Halley's Comet filled with giant desiccated bats and bring them back to Earth with near apocalyptic results as they proceed to drain the population of London of their lifeforce amid much nudity, whirlpools of thunder and spit your coffee across the room direlogue ("I've been in space for six months, and she looks perfect to me." "Assume we know nothing, which is understating the matter." "Don't worry, a naked woman is not going to get out of this complex."). Oh, and we'll get the writers of Alien and Blue Thunder to write it with uncredited rewrites by the writer of Mark of the Devil, The Sex Thief and Eskimo Nell and the director of The Jonestown Monster. Sounds like a winner, here's $22m - have fun. And they do, they do.

True, there's enough promise in the raw material to have made something genuinely creepy and thought-provoking (at a time when AIDS hysteria was approaching its height, a sexually transmitted 'plague' offers ample opportunity for allegory), but in the hands of the Go-Go boys at Cannon, what could have been another Quatermass and the Pit quickly turns instead to be more Plan 10 From Outer Space. It's full-to-bursting with delirious inanity, be it Frank Finlay's hilarious death scene ("Here I go!"), Peter Firth's grand entrance ("I'm Colonel Caine." "From the SAS?" discreetly shouts Michael Gothard across a room full of reporters: "Gentlemen, that last remark was not for publication. This is a D-Notice situation" he replies to the surprisingly obliging pressmen), the security guards offering Mathilda May's naked space vampire a nice biscuit to stop her escaping, reanimated bodies exploding into dust all over people, the sweaty Prime Minister sucking the life out of his secretary ("Miss Haversham! Miss Haversham!") and London filling up with zombie nuns, stockbrokers and joggers as the city gets its most comprehensive on screen trashing since Mrs Gorgo lost junior at Battersea Funfair and went on the rampage. And that's not mentioning the "This woman is a masochist! An extreme masochist!" scene or the great stereophonic echo effect on the male vampire's "It'll be a lot less terrifying if you just come to me" line while a lead-stake wielding Peter Firth adopts his best Action Man voice to reply "I'll do just that!" In one scene alone you have a possessed Patrick Stewart embodying the female in our deeply confused astronaut hero's mind, Steve "I-never-got-over-playing-Charlie-Manson" Railsback and his amazing dancing eyebrows in full-on "Helta-Skelta!" mode trying to resist the temptation to kiss him, the inimitable Aubrey Morris (the only man who makes Freddie Jones look restrained) playing the Home Secretary Sir Percy Heseltine as a kind of demented Brian Rix, Peter Firth (one of those actors who always looks like he must have been a Doctor Who around the time no-one was watching it anymore) hamming up the blasé public school macho in the hope that no-one will ever see it and the peerless reaction shots of John Hallam as the male nurse who keeps on opening the door mid-psychic-tornado to bring in more drugs. As if they needed any more in this film. It's just a shame that Frank Finlay's mad-haired scientist who isn't qualified to certify death on alien life forms (a role originally intended for Klaus Kinski) missed out on the action in that one.

No matter how mad you think the film is, it still manages to get madder still, whether it be a zombie pathologist ("He too needs feeding") exploding all over the Home Secretary's suit, Patrick Stewart's blood and entrails forming a naked Mathilda May or the space vampires turning St Paul's Cathedral into the world's biggest laser-show to transport human souls from the London Underground to their geostationary mother ship. I loved every gloriously insane moment. In it's own truly unique way, this might be the greatest film ever made.

The DVD offers the original 116-minute version that opened in the UK rather than the heavily edited 101-minute US version, which not only offers much more hilarity for your dollar, but also fully restores Henry Mancini's score to its original glory (the US version covered a lot of the gaps with additional cues by Michael Kamen and James Guthrie). Although a somewhat surprising choice at first sight, Mancini cut his teeth on many of the classic Universal sci-fi horrors of the 50s and his score is quite superb, with a terrific driving main title that offers a rare reminder of just how interesting he could be away from Blake Edwards. Sadly there's no more than a trailer by way of extras, though it would be nice to hope some day for a special edition with some of the deleted scenes from Hooper's originally intended 128-minute cut: from what's on display here, these might just offer even more comedy gold!

EDIT - A special edition is indeed finally on the way in April 2013, albeit only in the US via Shout Factory's Blu-ray/DVD combo (the Blu-ray will probably be Region A-locked as per their other releases), which offers both the long international version and the shorter US cut, audio commentary by Tobe Hooper, both the original making of featurette and a new documentary featuring Railsback and Hooper, trailer, TV spot and stills gallery.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon December 24, 2003
When Tobe Hooper released "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" in 1974, people went wild over this up and coming horror film director. That movie, sporting a chainsaw wielding lunatic clad in human pelts and oppressive atmosphere so thick you could cut it with a...well, a chainsaw, proved to be effective on so many levels that it takes multiple viewings just to absorb the whole thing. That final dinner scene, with its hallucinatory flavor and seedy set pieces, still sets my teeth on edge. Yet I continue to see reviews about this movie raving about the heavy gore content, which is hilarious because Hooper's psychological thriller is bloodless. People THINK they saw buckets of gore because the disturbing and ultra sordid feel of the picture encourages a false memory that surely a film this twisted must contain gallons of sauce. When the time came to follow up this winner with another stellar contribution to the horror genre, Tobe bequeathed "Eaten Alive" to the cinematic world. The result was a resounding thud. "Eaten Alive" is an abomination; it is a flaccid, wretched attempt to recreate the magic Hooper reaped from that family of lively cannibals in Texas. Fortunately, "Lifeforce" arrived on the scene in the mid 1980s, a movie that, while completely different from "Massacre," at least moves just as far away from the train wreck that is "Eaten Alive."
A group of astronauts on a mission to explore Halley's comet discovers more than they bargained for when they notice a most unusual object located in the tail of the celestial object. Intrigued, several of the crewmembers don space suits and enter what turns out to be an enormous space ship. Once inside, the astronauts find strange dried up corpses floating about along with three coffin like objects containing the perfectly preserved bodies of two men and a woman. The space walkers transport the three aliens back to the ship with the intention of returning to earth with their spectacular find. Unfortunately, the aliens, believed to be dead, are not. The crew finds out the hard way that messing around with beings from another planet can have devastating consequences, not the least of which could permanently damage our own planet. The aliens ravage the spacecraft and are consequently brought to earth by a rescue mission sent up to see what happened to the astronauts. All heck breaks lose when the creatures wake up in a British laboratory and proceed to systematically destroy everything in their path. The two male aliens die rather quickly, but the female manages to escape the confines of the lab and roams the English countryside. The government panics when they learn that these beings are most unusual vampires with the ability to hypnotize human beings, assume the shape of their prey, and transform their victims into raving vampires who then attack anyone around them.
The race is on to track down the female vampire and put a stop to her activities before she wipes out the human race. Along for the ride is an SAS colonel named Colin Caine (Peter Firth going for and easily achieving over the top), the only surviving astronaut from the original mission, Colonel Tom Carlson (Steve Railsback looking as weird as ever), who now has an unusual link to the female alien, and a scientist, Dr. Hans Fallada (Frank Finlay), who must figure out how to kill the vampire. The team keeps encountering the alien only to lose sight of her again as she changes form or thwarts them in some clever way. As she stays one step ahead of her pursuers, the alien infects more and more human beings. This starts a horrific chain reaction that soon turns London into a swarming mass of vampires killing everyone in their path. Things get so bad that NATO quarantines the area and threatens to drop an atomic device on the city in order to prevent the spread of what they think is some type of super plague. It will be a tall order to prevent the annihilation of London, but the team in pursuit of the alien must attempt to do so anyway. The conclusion of the movie is quite colorful and energetic as the Colonel Carlson faces down the space vampire.

What surprises me the most about Hooper's "Lifeforce" is that many people dislike it. A story about space vampires discovered in a massive ship floating in the tail of Halley's comet is certainly different from anything this director did before, but that provides little reason to bash the film. I suspect that most people who lambasted "Lifeforce" never saw "Eaten Alive" because if they had they would rapidly change their tune. I for one am thankful Hooper decided to go in a different direction. C'mon, how can you not like a film that has the lead villain parading around the country, played by the gorgeous and frequently nude Mathilda May, feeding off human beings at random? Or a movie that has a young, pre-Star Trek Patrick Stewart channeling the vampire while every object in the room spins through the air as though caught in a psychic tornado? Even some of the lines in the film are classic: Soldier trying to keep people out of London: "You don't want to go in there! Colonel Colin Caine, who must get in to track down the vampire: "I know I don't!"
"Lifeforce," while occasionally overdoing it in grand style, is still infinitely more watchable than a lot of the pap passed off on the viewing public. The DVD edition works well: a trailer, a nice widescreen picture transfer, and some additional footage not seen in theaters (I was too young to see this in the theaters when it came out, unfortunately). Hooper has had more downs than ups in his lengthy career, but "Lifeforce" should definitely be classified as a minor success.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
This is a good movie. Several people are in this that later on to go become something of a star in their own right. You know what its about, watch it, learn it, live it, love it!!!! Cute vampires and zombies are never a bad combination. And, the European version explained a lot about the movie that the American version didnt.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I don't know what it is -Mathilda May- I like about LIFEFORCE. I mean, it's a pretty cheeezy affair, w/ a wacky storyline: space vampires invade the Earth (!!). What is it -Mathilda May- that compels me to watch this movie over and over? Director, Tobe Hooper (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, SALEM'S LOT, POLTERGEIST, EATEN ALIVE, etc.) has certainly done better work. Still, I find myself drawn to LIFEFORCE for some unknown -naked Mathilda May- reason beyond my comprehension. If you enjoy sci-fi / horror, and don't mind hearing Patrick Stewart's character scream like a hyena on fire, then LIFEFORCE -Mathilda May strolling naked- just might keep your interest...
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2006
This movie is exciting; with bizarre visual imagery. Once it starts moving, it does not stop for anyone. It is the greatest part of the movie. Your mind stops working and just lets go. Enjoy the horror and the apocolyptic destruction of the earth!

I only have one question:

What does the ending mean?

This has always confused me. I never could figure out the ending. How, as the lady vampire claimed, was the one surviving astronaut one of them. This never made sense to me. There was a pyschic connection between the female and the astronaut; but how he was one of these alien vampires escapes me completely. Unless he had been planted on earth before, his memory erased; and when the time came, unconsciously used to bring his kind to drain the earth of its LIFE FORCE!

W.
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