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Did director Tobe Hooper, writers Dan O'Bannon ("Alien", "Return of the
Living Dead") and Don Jakoby ("Blue Thunder"), in addition to some
uncredited writers who presumably did rewrites of the original script,
or any of the cast actually think they were making a good movie during
the production of "Lifeforce"? The movie gets progressively wackier,
more disturbingly bizarre, hilarious, over-the-top, and greater by the
minute. When you think that the movie couldn't possibly become more
demented, that it was already as nutty as anything could possibly be it
outdoes itself. I really don't know if this was at any point supposed
to be tongue-in-cheek, if anybody involved thought it was genuinely
creepy or effective, or if they were just too distracted by Mathilda
May's exquisite breasts and rear end to care, but the end result is
quite simply one of the greatest films ever made.
Here are some reasons why "Lifeforce" is perhaps humankind's greatest achievement to date (and probably impossible to surpass):
- Mathilda May is nude for the entirety of the film, and she is "the most overwhelmingly feminine presence" you will ever see. Yes, that is a quote from the film.
- Steve Railsback gives one of the most gloriously, hilariously over-the-top performances in the history of film.
- It is, to quote a fellow IMDb member, 'the greatest naked space vampire zombies from Halley's Comet running amok in London end-of-the-world movie ever made'. Yes, that is actually the plot.
- Frank Finlay, Peter Firth, and Patrick Stewart embarrass themselves.
- Special effects and design that are actually good, adding to the suggestion that someone somewhere actually took this thing seriously, which is quite a disturbing thought.
- Unbelievably stilted delivery of some of the finest dialogue known to man, examples of which include:
"She looks perfect. I've been in space six months and she looks perfect to me."
""Don't worry, a naked woman is not going to get out of this complex."
"Despite appearances this woman is a masochist, an extreme masochist."
"He too needs feeding."
"She's totally alien to this planet and our life form... and totally dangerous."
"I'm Colonel Cane." "From the SAS?"
"It was two hours ago that the guard was attacked. I wouldn't be at all surprised if we're seeing a pattern here."
"Colonel, take it from the beginning. Assume we know nothing... which is understating the matter."
Colonel Cane looks at a shriveled corpse, then asks: "and this was murder, you say? "
"Lifeforce" is not merely another 'so bad it's good' movie. It is not an example of a film made by individuals with ambition far beyond their reach. No, it is quite simply THE most audacious, spectacular, hilarious, absurd, insane, riotous, crazy, deliriously demented science fiction film of all time. I cannot fully articulate why it is deserving of being one spot ahead of Samuel Fuller's "Pickup on South Street" on my list of favorite films, but I do know that it is. "Lifeforce" elevates craziness to an art form. Quite possibly the most entertaining film known to man, and perhaps our greatest achievement as a species.
** and 1/2 stars out of ****
Lifeforce is one of the strangest films I've ever seen, so ridiculous, yet
at the time it's strangely compelling and never the least bit dull. Whether
it's due to the nonstop nudity, the large amount of violence and action, it
all comes together to make an entertaining 2 hours of cinema.
The spaceshuttle Churchill has been sent to investigate Halley's Comet when they detect something hiding inside the coma of the giant rock. A small team, led by Colonel Carlsen (Steve Railsback), has been sent to search the area. What they discover includes hundreds of frozen bat-like creatures and three nude and seemingly unconscious humanoid beings inside strange crystalline containers, two male and one female (Mathilda May). They decide to take all three back with them, which results in a catastrophe.
When London receives no response from the crew, another crew is sent to find out what's going on. When they dock with the Churchill, they find the remains of the crew, all dessicated beyond recognition. The humanoids are still in perfect condition, and they take them back to London.
After various tests, the scientists still don't know what these beings really are. Then, late one night, a security guard in the compound feels compelled to enter the room the female is being held. He touches her shoulder, and she awakens, stands up, and smiles at him in a seductive and wicked manner. She approaches him, and begins to kiss him, when it becomes clear that she's actually taking his lifeforce, sucking him of all of his energy (the effect is slightly cheesy).
She escapes from the compound and begins to leave a trail behind. Another man, Colonel Caine (Peter Firth), is brought in to track her down. Then the men discover that there is a pattern to the lifeforce process. The corpse of the security guard awakens in 2 hours, and takes the lifeforce of a doctor. It seems in every 2 hours, this process is repeated by a victim. With the help of the Churchill's sole survivor, Carlsen, they attempt to track the girl down before it's too late.
Lifeforce is pretty good late night entertainment. It has all the elements one could look for in such a movie, loads of nudity, blood/gore, and plenty of special effects. This is certainly better than a similarly plotted film, Species, thanks in large part to a more riveting finale.
The performances range from decent to terrible. Faring the worst is easily Steve Railsback, who overacts to no end. Much better are Peter Firth, who comes through and convincingly, and the gorgeous Mathilda May (she's as beautiful as French actresses Sophie Marceau and Emmanuelle Seigner). May does go through virtually the whole role without wearing clothing, and there were reports that it was hard on her while filming, so the fact that she is able to go through every scene without fidgeting and looking uncomfortable is impressive. There are times when she can be quite creepy, being simply seductive. Most of the film manages to work because of her.
The Cannon Group has always seemed like the movie studio equivalent of the
engine that tried and tried to climb that mountain, but unlike it's
children's book counterpart, never seemed to reach the
"Lifeforce" is the exception.
In fact as space-vampire-movies go, this is the best, which of course on the subject of space-vampires... isn't saying much. But "Lifeforce" really is a memorable ride.
From the director of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Poltergeist" comes this massive apocalyptic science-fiction and horror epic. It's "2001" and "Dawn of the Dead" all rolled into one juicy little egg-roll of a movie, spiced with the beautiful naked body of Mathilda May (if she's smart she would start mathildamay.com and sell signed "Lifeforce"-pictures, and make a fortune of perverts like me). It's scripted by none other than Dan O'Bannon (Alien, Return of the Living Dead, Total Recall) and the cast is great. Frank Finlay looks like Peter Cushing's second cousin just escaped from a Hammer Horror movie, and it's always nice to see Michael Gothard (God rest his soul) who played creepy Emile Locque in "For Your Eyes Only". Steve Railsback is good as always, and Peter Firth perfectly fits the part of the SAS-colonel who must save the day (he always reminds me of the 1980's 'Doctor Who' Colin Baker :)
The 25 million dollar budget looks like 50 million dollars, the f/x are first-rate but best of all: a rousing score by Henry Mancini! His "Lifeforce"-theme should deservedly rank with the all-time great sci-fi-themes. It's almost hard to fathom that the composer of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "The Pink Panther"-movies, so known for his romantic music, should actually be able to produce such a bombastic score. It's like he kept it all in for 30 years and then suddenly decided to blow it all off on the soundtrack of this movie, and nobody needs to clean up after him - it's that brilliant!
When history is to be counted, this is one of the movies the Cannon Group will be remembered for, together with "Bloodsport", "52 Pick-Up", "Hanoi Hilton" and "Missing in Action" (come on, Chuck ruled as Braddock). And it only took 60 or so movies to create five good ones :)
Holy mackerel! From the comments I've read so far,you would think Tobe Hooper and Cannon were trying to remake "The Magnificent Ambersons"or some other "classic of the cinema"!I personally believe they set out to provide an entertaining picture for public consumption,and as far as I'm concerned ,that's exactly what they accomplished.After wearing out my VHS copy,I had to buy the DVD,which is even better in WIDESCREEN....plus I can hit the ZOOM and see Mathilda May much better! Exciting story,great cast(Railsback always one of my faves,PLUS Firth,Stewart,Gothard,etc.).Someone commented about "cheesy effects"...are you kiddin'?The special effects in this picture are much better than the overdone computer junk you see nowadays.Of course,this is an 80's picture...no one has enough imagination to make a movie like this today!
Rating: *** out of ****
I think Lifeforce makes a very strong case for being the best "bad" movie ever made. The film is, after all, ludicrously plotted, but that actually adds to the unique charms this movie has, which actually entertains for all the right reasons. Lifeforce is exciting, thrilling, suspenseful, and always a lot of fun, thanks to the intriguing story, the first-rate special effects, the competent action sequences, and of course, the gorgeous Mathilda May wandering around in the buff.
A joint British/American crew aboard the shuttle Churchill are studying Halley's Comet when they discover a giant contraption hidden within the coma's comet. Knowing this will be their only chance to board this enigma, they suit up and enter this contraption. Inside, they discover thousands of frozen, giant bat-like creatures, and just as interesting, three humanoids (one female, the other two male) encased in crystal-like containers. They decide to take the humanoids and one bat back to the ship with them.
Thirty days go by and London has lost complete contact with the crew. So another shuttle is sent, and they discover the dessicated remains of the Churchill crew, but all three humanoids are still intact. Bringing them back to London for examination, the female one awakens, displaying the ability to drain the lifeforce out of a human being, and escapes out of the compound. Enter Steve Railsback and Peter Firth, who star, respectively, as the sole survivor of the Churchill and an agent out to stop this space vampiress from taking over the planet.
If you've read the plot summary above and find this story interesting, then Lifeforce is most certainly the film for you. The first hour is probably the most engrossing, plot-wise. When you discover that whoever the vampiress kills will also rise to drain someone else's lifeforce, that's when the stakes grow much higher, as an epidemic becomes a possibility.
The first half of the film resembles Species quite a bit, since you've got a team that's searching for a nubile alien that's on the loose (though, without a doubt, Ms. May is so much hotter than Natasha Henstridge). This same part of the plot adds another interesting aspect that makes the team's job more difficult; the vampiress has the ability to enter another person's body. Thus, they're no longer searching for a young, dark-haired beauty. She could be in anyone, which further raises the stakes.
The engrossing story-telling sort of gives away to loads of special effects and action, but I found it a good transition. The effects are often terrific and the action is really quite exciting, surprising considering that director Tobe Hooper is usually incompetent at creating thrills and suspense. Judging from the all-out chaos that occurs in the last half-hour (burning buildings, thousands of zombie-like creatures stumbling around searching for nourishment), I'd say the film had a pretty big budget to work with (I've heard figures as high as 28M, which would be higher than Aliens' 18M a year later).
Acting's probably what you would expect, with Peter Firth delivering a pretty good performance as Agent Caine. I like the guy's straightforward, calm attitude toward the situation and how he handles it. Steve Railsback as his partner who's being seduced by the vampiress in his dreams is much less impressive, sweating and overacting to amusing extents, but never coming across as very convincing. Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame is here, too, in a role that he's probably a bit embarrassed by these days.
But the most impressive of the cast is none other than Mathilda May. Watching May stand around calmly as she seduces a victim is an interesting transition from titillation to all-out horror. She's actually frightening, and that's impressive for a nude woman. Speaking of nudity, most people must have noticed that's often the most mentioned aspect of the film. Indeed, Mathilda May is one of the most gorgeous women I've ever seen. It's really perfect casting when you think about it. There's something exotic and "alien" about her looks (maybe the fact she's a foreigner helps) that adds a brilliant touch, and her perfect body helps, too, of course. Because of that exotic, "alien" look, I can't see any other drop-dead gorgeous actress who could pull this off quite as well (and this includes superhotties like Chasey Lain, Carmella DeCesare, and Tracy Ryan).
Henry Mancini's score is a pretty enjoyable listen, though hardly as good as so many have claimed it to be. Even at 116 minutes, Lifeforce actually feels rushed. Some material could have explored a little further, but that's not too big a complaint. This is one wildly entertaining film I highly recommend.
Like several other reviewers here, I'm surprised to see many negative
reviews on this film. Dan O'Bannon's previous effort was the
'Alien' of 1979. Because it and 'Star Wars' introduced the stylistic
approach of 'Used' or 'Dirty Space' in art-direction for these kinds of
features doesn't mean that this was the only way to produce them.
Rather than dismiss 'Lifeforce' out-of-hand as a sort of schlock and primitive exploitation feature, it's important to recognize that the film draws upon the 'esteemed' traditions of British horror and science-fiction - specifically Hammer and American International features like Quatermass (specifically 'Quatermass and the Pit', 1967), Doctor Who and 'The Day of the Triffids' (1963), if not the works of Gerry Anderson ('UFO', 'Space:1999' and 'Thunderbirds'). But none of these influences would be a surprise if other reviewers recognized writer O'Bannon's genre-scholarly appreciation for 'Queen of Blood'(1966) and 'It! The Terror from Beyond Space'(1958) - the immediate sources for 'Alien' (1979).
Granted this film has some 'legacy' elements, but perhaps it's worth comparing this film to its more immediate peers - 1981's 'An American Werewolf in London' and 'The Company of Wolves' (1984) - other 80's films that share a 'looking-back' while they adapt those stories to the 80's zeitgeist. All three films drew on earlier incarnations of the same, but substantially sexed-up their themes (because they could), and, at the same time they recognized the tongue-in-cheek, humorous aspects of their projects.
Neil Jordan's 'Wolves' played to many of the psychoanalytic memes floating around at the during the '80's, while 'American Werewolf' curdled its theme as a 'coming-of-age' film. It's called artistic license, and the adaptations of these three films are no less valid than the latter-day dramedy inherent in the 'Scream' franchise, 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' and 'Final Destination'. But these teen-targeted, films seem to be part of a box-office trend, whereas the 80's films like 'Lifeforce' belong a canon of British sci-fi - even if this one was written by an American.
In many ways this film holds up much better than latter-day disaster and alien-invasion flicks ('Independence Day', 'Armageddon', 'Deep Impact') in that the 'solutions' don't reside in gun-battles, weaponized payloads and testosterone. At the opposite end of the pole, it is unfortunate that Steven Soderbergh and James Cameron didn't examine Tarkowski and Lem more closely before they remade 'Solaris'...
The goal of this film was fun, not ponderousness or stupidity.
I first saw Lifeforce back in 1985. I thought it was a decent sci-fi/horror concept of alien vampires. I agree with many of the other reviewers who said the ideas or concept of the film was good. Other than that it was entertaining, not great, but entertaining. There are really two good reasons to see this movie. And they are Mathilda May's boobs. Hell, her whole naked body for that matter. Man is she hot. She has to be the best looking vampire/alien that has ever graced the screen. Like another reviewer said, she plays evil, seductive, vulnerable and serious very well and all while being naked. To say the least it couldn't have been easy for her to play the role naked throughout the whole film. Needless to say,I'm glad she did. I agree Railsback was miscast in this. Otherwise, the film is alright. If you need to see major boobage,then rent this and watch it with the guys.
I hate to admit it, but I really love this movie, although on every level it
really is horrible! The moments of incredibly bad acting (does Steve
Railsback HAVE to scream like a maniac in every part he plays? Is it a part
of his contract?), cheesy effects (oh, yeah, gotta love those animated
corpses...), completely senseless "scientific" explanations and gratuitous
nudity... Okay, so the last point is a plus rather than a minus, because
Mathilda May has to have been the most beautiful-looking woman on the planet
when this film was made, but it's just a little bit obvious that she's
serving as a distraction from the rest of the movie rather than an
enhancement to it.
You know what? I really don't care. I've watched this movie repeatedly, especially when I've had a few, and I never fail to enjoy it thoroughly, although not perhaps in the way its creators intended. I mean, where else can you see Frank Finlay pontificate in such a wonderful take-off of the original mad scientist? And for screaming, Patrick Stewart sure gives Steve Railsback a run for his money. (That's saying a great deal, believe me!) Let us not forget some other fantastically talented actors whose facial expressions seem to indicate that they can't believe they've been trapped in this low-budget purgatory--Aubrey Morris, Michael Gothard, Jerome Willis, and, of course, the incredible Peter Firth. Oh, Lord, how I love it!
If you're after a movie that doesn't make you think at all but has wonderful eye-candy value (if you appreciate female beauty, anyway), this is the one for you. Slightly better now that all of the original scenes have been re-instated--so many more opportunities for howling with laughter. It just screams "B movie!" but somehow it is so much more fun. Oh, dear, now I have to go and watch it again!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Though it hardly compares to other sci-fi film giants like 2001: A SPACE
ODYSSEY or CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, LIFEFORCE does work as a
totally berserk and bizarre melding of science fiction and horror elements.
Somehow, despite dialogue that approaches the ridiculous and acting that
does the same, it manages to work because of a few highly different
Loosely based on Colin Wilson's 1976 novel "The Space Vampires", this film from director Tobe Hooper (POLTERGEIST; THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) focuses on a joint US-British mission aboard the British space shuttle Churchill to study Halley's Comet. Led by an American commander (Steve Railsback), they discover an alien spacecraft in the comet's coma. And when they investigate the interior of the spacecraft, they find alien occupants that look like giant bats. Later on, the Churchill reaches Earth's orbit, but no response is given from radio calls issued from the mission's home base, the Space Research Center in London. Columbia is launched to rendezvous with Churchill, but they find the entire ship gutted by fire--all except for the alien beings encased in glass who, far from being untouched by the fire, look absolutely perfect. The aliens are bought back to Earth...and that's where the incredible happens.
These space vampires escape from the Space Research Center and, instead of draining their victims of blood via bite wounds, suck their victims' lifeforce totally out of them. One of them is the Space Girl, a thoroughly nude vampiress played by Mathilda May. Railsback, the only actual survivor from Churchill, is bought in by the SRC's chief (Frank Finlay) and a British special agent (Peter Firth) to track May, who is in telepathic contact with him. Pretty soon, however, the vampires have turned London into a scene of pure holocaust; people are either being dessicated or turning into zombies, and the threat by NATO to sterilize the city with thermonuclear radiation looms large. Railsback finally catches up with May, and sacrifices himself by impaling her with a large metal sabre.
Undoubtedly disjointed, unquestionably uneven, but nevertheless worth watching, LIFEFORCE, despite the frequent incoherency of its script and its acting, benefits from some drop-dead excellent special effects work by John Dykstra (STAR WARS), some of the best ever seen. The other working element, and a surprise one it is, is the incredible orchestral score by Henry Mancini, almost Wagnerian in the same way John Williams' score for STAR WARS was--and Mancini, like Williams before him, uses the London Symphony Orchestra, to boot!
Largely forgotten these days, and a critical and box office disaster in 1985, LIFEFORCE, if for no other reason, should still be seen for anyone with a taste for the bizarre. There had never been a film quite like it before, and there will certainly not be anything like it again.
The space shuttle Churchill is assigned to observe the Halley's Comet
under the command of Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback). They see a
strange form attached to the comet and Carlsen goes with a team to
investigate. They find three humanoid life forms in caskets and they
bring them to the Churchill. However, Earth loses contact with the
shuttle and the Space Research Center sends another spacecraft to
search the Churchill. They find the crew dead and the shuttle burnt and
one rescue pod missing. They bring the humanoids to Earth and soon Dr.
Hans Fallada (Frank Finlay) and his team discover that the Space Girl
(Mathilda May) is a sort of vampire and drains the life force from
people transforming them into zombies. When the authorities find that
Col. Tom Carlsen has survived, they summon him to explain what happened
in the Churchill. Carlsen tells an incredible story about the three
aliens and he teams up with Col. Colin Caine (Peter Firth) trying to
save mankind from the evil vampires from the space.
"Lifeforce" is a great sci-fi movie, with a story that uses the storyline of Alien entwined with zombie apocalypse movies. The most curious is that the gorgeous and sexy actress Mathilda May works naked all the times. I had seen this movie on 23 January 2001 and 21 Dec 2001 and I liked most than today. The plot has flaws but it worth to see this movie, not only because of Mathilda May, but because it is a good story. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Força Sinistra" ("Sinister Force")
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