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Blu-ray Review: ‘Lifeforce’

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Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce comes across as big and bold as an absurd melodramatic opera; everything is big and cheesy. That’s not a bad thing though because this is cheese made with money and love It shows on screen.

As Carlson (Steve Railsback) and his crew investigate Haley’s Comet they discover an unlikely passengers–a 150 mile long spaceship hiding in the tail of the comet. When they investigate they find giant bat-like creatures and three humanoids encased in crystal coffins. Carlson decides to bring them back to Earth but something goes horribly wrong with the mission as Earth loses contact with the ship and discovers corpses rather than a crew. However, the three crystal coffins are mysteriously intact.

When the coffins are brought to Earth by the U.S.S. Columbia, the female humanoid (Mathilda May) comes to life on the autopsy table and proceeds to drain the life out of the man that awakens her. Colonel Caine (Peter Firth) is brought in to investigate and find out what humanity is facing. She leads a team of vampire like creatures that lead to the destruction of London.

Shot for a $25 million budget when Cannon Films was at the height of its power in 1985, Hooper’s film has a tone that swings widely from camp, science fiction suspense to horror. Hooper was, arguably, at his most popular as a director having come off the success of Poltergeist. Working with a top notch visual effects crew headed by John Dykstra, Lifeforce has ambition mixed in with its bad dialoge (penned by Dan O’Bannon who wrote Alien with rewrites by Dave Jacoby the co-author of the script for Blue Thunder but the script features numerous uncredited rewrites by a variety of script doctors)mixing the bad moments seamlessly with the good.

Shout! Factory’s reissue gives this cult classic the deluxe edition that it has long deserved. Featuring new interviews with Hooper (who discusses the genesis of the film), Railsback (who expresses affection for the film) and May (who regrets doing her role nude throughout most of the production) as well as two audio commentary tracks (one hidden which features the special make up effects man and one with director Hooper).

Shout! Factory continues to set the pace for vintage cult classic reissues with a beautifully restored presentation of the film. Colors are bold and the detail remarkably sharp even during the visual effects scenes (unusual for a film that is 28 years old).

Shout! Factory also includes the original vintage featurette, stills, theatrical and TV trailers in addition to both the extended 116 minute International cut of the film and the 101 minute U.S. theatrical edition on one Blu-ray. The set also includes a DVD with the extras as well as but with only the International Edition of the film.

As with all Shout! Factory reissues the cover art is reversible with the original poster art as the cover which contrasts nicely with the newly rendered cover art for the film.

Although it was panned by critics at the time, the wonky cult classic Lifeforce manages to be both entertaining and involving with its mixture of bad dialogue, top notch visual effects and well directed action sequences. Fans will feel their life force enhanced as they watch this deluxe reissue.

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About Wayne Klein