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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 27 February 2014
Great Edition of a Geeky Classic from the 80s

This is a movie for the ones that enjoy rare movies with good casings and rare extras
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on 14 December 2012
I bought this spur-of the-moment, but on reflection I wish I hadn't. This may be a cult film for some people but it didn't really deliver properly, for my liking. I enjoy the nostalgia of 80's films and Sci-Fi, and thought this might be good. Sadly, it didn't live up to expectations, despite an imaginative and ambitious script.

Lifeforce tries to take on too much, as a piece of British Sci-Fi action/drama. The plot becomes unneccesarily confused in its attempts to create a dynamic and varied experience for the viewer. The only redeeming feature is the relatively unknown actress Mathilda May, who plays a naked space vampire (yes, the plot is on that kind of level). What the film obviously lacks in a coherent script, she almost makes up for with an amazing figure (esp. her breasts). That may keep us guys watching, for a while. But at 151 minutes, this film seemed just a bit too long, for something that was muddled from the start.

Premise: astronauts discover dormant alien vampires in a spaceship, hidden in Haley's Comet. The lead female vampire uses her mental powers & obvious physical charms to control the male psyche, thereby hitchning a lift back to earth in order to lure unsuspecting victims to their death. This is done when Mathilda May drains the lifeforce out of various unsuspecting men, during a few soft-porn moments.

The vampires reach earth and infect/control/kill and zombie-fy everyone. In the end lead astronaut (Nicholas Ball) manages to withstand May's seductive powers (sort of) and helps destroy her ship in a desperate save-the-earth-from-complete-destruction type scenario.

There are some good moments (a burning City of London, dessicated human husks - poor souls who've had the life force drained from them) who scream and stagger and blow to bits, after May has had her way with them. Frank Finlay, Patrick Stewart & Peter Firth also put in an appearance. But overall the film isn't as good as the likes of David Cronnenberg's 80's classic 'Scanners' or as watchable as Stephen King's 'Cats Eye'. Both of those DVD's are worth getting instead of this one.

It's ok to watch once in a blue moon (which incidentally Mathilda May shows plenty of - it must have been rather chilly walking around stark naked for most of the film, not that I mind) and some folks might find it better than I did.
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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.

While the DVD offers a non-anamorphic transfer of the 116-minute version with a trailer the only extra, both Shout Factory's US Region A-locked Blu-ray and Arrow's region B Blu-ray offer both the original 116-minute version that opened in the UK and the heavily edited 101-minute US version, which loses most of the spectacular opening and a lot of entertaining inanity in its misguided desire to up the pace. The longer version 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.

There are some subtle differences between the transfers on the two pressings - the UK edition is spread over two discs (with the extras all on the same disc as the long version) while the US edition crams both versions of the film and the extras onto a single disc, with some resulting minor compression issues. The grading on the US edition has also been slightly tweaked by Hooper to make Ms May's flesh tones look colder, the UK edition following the original grading.

Both versions share new interviews with Mathilda May, Tobe Hooper and Steve Railsback, two audio commentaries and trailers, but each has unique extras as well - the US release the original making of documentary, the British one an additional commentary by the VFX artist and, best of all, a terrific new 70-minute documentary with Hooper, Nicholas Ball, serial overactor Aubrey Morris, script doctor Michael armstrong and various members of the crew recounting an endless shoot (long enough for May to learn perfect English) with a director described as a demonic dwarf with impeccable manners fuelled by caffeine, cigars and other substances and doesn't stint on the problems of, er, downstairs grooming for its leading lady.

Let joy be unconfined!
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on 6 March 2015
The film speaks for itself, the bluray transfer is superb as are the extras. Highly recommend.
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on 2 August 2017
How much you are likely to enjoy Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce depends on how you approach it. If you’re expecting a slick, stylish sci-fi horror blockbuster with top notch performances, sharp dialogue and cutting edge visual effects, you’re likely to be disappointed. If however you sit down expecting an extravagant homage to horror flicks of yesteryear with slightly dodgy acting and hit-and-miss effects, then you won’t be disappointed.

Based on Colin Wilson’s novel Space Vampires, Lifeforce sees a shuttle mission to Halley’s Comet stumble upon a giant alien ship in the coma which contains some giant dead bats and three naked bodies, one played by the exquisite Mathilda May. Naturally the astronauts decide to bring the bodies back to Earth, whereupon all hell breaks loose. It turns out that that they’re actually alien vampires who drain ‘life energy’ from their victims instead of blood. Shuttle commander Steve Railsback, who has a psychic link with May’s space vampire, and po-faced SAS man Peter Firth team up to track May down.

The story is fundamentally sound, but while Lifeforce is visually impressive the whole thing feels like something made in the 70s. Hooper has said that his intention was to make an expensive Hammer movie, and that’s probably a good way to describe Lifeforce, though personally I don’t think that was the best approach. What could have been a classic 80s sci-fi horror flick instead descends into an absurd zombie movie with scenes which look like outtakes from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

Performances are variable to say the least. While the supporting cast is very good (including the likes of Frank Finlay, Aubrey Morris and a pre-Picard Patrick Stewart), the two leads are a bit of a liability. Peter Firth is a great actor, but here he’s so stiff and humourless that you don’t really give two hoots whether he lives or dies, and Steve Railsback is woefully wooden throughout. Of course when most people think about Lifeforce the first thing that springs to mind is Mathilda May who spends most of the film in the buff. May’s space lady doesn’t have much to say, but she certainly makes an indelible impression.

The visual effects, supervised by the legendary John Dykstra, are generally very good, though even for 1985 they sometimes seem a little antiquated. The make-up and creature effects are rather more variable though – while the animatronic zombies are effective given how old this movie is, the bat creatures are pretty rubbish. One indisputable triumph is Henry Mancini’s energetic score, which for some peculiar reason was largely replaced for the US release.

Arrow’s high definition presentation is generally good, though does seem quite grainy at times (the clips in the bonus material seem sharper than the movie itself, though I believe these have a different aspect ratio so a comparison probably isn’t valid). Arrow have also carried over most of the special features from the earlier US Shout Factory release, with the exception of a vintage ‘making of’ featurette. So you get interviews with Hooper, Railsback and May and two trailers which amount to around 30mins, plus commentaries. However Arrow have also included a new 70min ‘making of’ documentary with contributions from many of the behind-the-scenes personnel. This is pretty good, though Hooper only makes a few appearances, and Railsback and May don’t appear at all. Shockingly none of the bonus features have subtitles, which really is not acceptable.
There is no doubt that Lifeforce is very watchable and pretty entertaining, but there is undoubtedly a ‘so bad it’s good’ element to it at times.

Underneath the ludicrous zombie antics, dodgy lead performances and iffy effects there is a good movie trying to break out which could have been realised with a different approach. But then maybe with a different director at the helm we wouldn’t been treated to the sight of a naked space vampire lady. The film itself is really only worthy of 3/5, but with a decent HD transfer and a good selection of bonus features I’ll give the overall package four stars.
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on 27 July 2016
Bonkers , but near brilliant Cannon extravaganza. A mess, but what a mess.
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on 5 March 2017
This was Cannon Pictures big chance to make their studio big. They had a seasoned director, a wonderful cast, and a considerable budget for the time.

But the film squanders any idea it had by just being that little bit too long, and being convoluted to the point that you just decide to watch it for the arguably wonderful effects, and a certain Mathilda May walking around with no clothing whatsoever.

Elsewhere in the film, we have Steve Railsback playing Basil Exposition, explaining the plot to rest of the characters.

But it has that Cannon sheen, and any film that features Patrick Stewart being taken over by a woman, has to be worth a watch.

The final third of the film is just beyond the laws of plausibility, with a very cheap looking London being overrun by wait for it.....Space Vampires.

28 Days Later this is not.

But it has it's charm, it's funny to see all this seasoned actors keep a straight face when spouting utter bilge from the script.

If like me, your a Cannon completest, it needs to be seen. Just don't expect to get the enjoy-ability you had from their very low budget out put.
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Gentleman, disregard that last remark, this is a B Movie situation.
Sorry I just had to say that, it's a B+ or A- movie in my eyes. This movie has it all, science fiction, horror, space vampires, zombies and an alien woman who has not quite grasped the need to wear clothes.
Based on Colin Wilson's "The Space Vampires", a massive alien ship is found hidden inside the tail of Halley's comet, the surviving humanoid inhabitants are brought back to Earth and mayhem ensues.
This is a great movie, the effects are superb (bear in mind it is over 20 years old now), the scenes in London at the end are well done, but why drive through a zombie infested city with the windows open? Sure there are lots of cliches like that and plenty of macho behaviour here but on the whole it works for me. I especially love the creature's transformation at the end.
This movie has had more than its fair share of bad reviews but there are many people who appreciate it. Thanks for the re-issue as my VHS version was showing its age.
Presented in widescreen so you miss none of the action, the only negative point in my view is the lack of any extras.
Possibly the only place you will hear the words "Mission Control Great Britain" uttered.
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on 9 May 2015
It was one of favourite films of the eighties: utterly prepostorous, sey, sheek, stylish and scary; Lifeforce was what cinema is about.
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on 20 May 2015
Great Blu-ray from arrow, has both cuts of the film on 2 blu-rays, the international version is on disc 1 and runs for 116 mins
The theatrical version is on disc 2 and runs for 101 mins, has some great extras and a booklet, a must
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