Thursday, October 13, 2016
Based on the novel The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson, Lifeforce is the story of space crew who find a spaceship inside Haley’s Comet where they unleash a trio of space vampires on the streets of London. Directed by Tobe Hooper and screenplay by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby, the film is sci-fi horror film that explores the mysteries of the universe and what happens when humans come in contact with alien vampires. Starring Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May, and Patrick Stewart. Lifeforce is a dazzling and enthralling film from Tobe Hooper.
A joint American-British space crew find a mysterious ship inside Haley’s Comet as they bring in a monster plus three living bodies inside a case home unaware of what they unleash as one of them in a young woman (Mathilda May) has caused mayhem around London. It’s a film that is a sci-fi horror film of sorts where space vampires have been unleashed as Scotland Yard has to find and stop them with the help of a surviving astronaut from that mission as well as a British colonel and a scientist. The film’s screenplay by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby, with additional work from Michael Armstrong and Olaf Pooley, showcases what the American space commander Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback) found as well as the mind connection he had with the vampire girl he fell for in space. With the aid of Col. Colin Caine (Peter Firth) and Dr. Hans Fallada (Frank Finlay), Col. Carlsen do whatever to find the woman but also deal with the two other vampires who had been captured but also learn exactly what they’re dealing with.
What the vampires are doing is taking away the essence of humanity in their need to survive instead of blood as they can also possess people to live. Adding to the stakes is that Col. Carlsen is infatuated with the girl as he has trouble trying to do his duty while revealing some truths about what happened in his space shuttle where his entire crew were killed by the vampires. The script also has this unique narrative that uses some flashbacks from Col. Carlsen’s perspective but also moments that has him seeing what the girl is doing. Even as his attempts to free himself from her would have some dire consequences as it relates to events in the third act.
Tobe Hooper’s direction is definitely grand from the scenes set inside the spaceship as the usage of the wide shots help play to the large scales of the scenes in space as well as what Col. Caine and his crew would discover. While much of the film is shot on location in London and other parts of England, Hooper does maintain something is grounded but also has an air of mysticism as it relates to the space vampires. The usage of the medium shots and close-ups help play into the way characters interact as well as some of the chilling moments in the film where the girl would wake up and create chaos while walking around naked. There is a bit of humor considering that the guards who are wanting to go after the girl are a bit excited considering that she is naked but are unaware of what she is capable of.
Hooper also create these moments that do play into a sense of terror where Col. Carlsen tries to find the girl in a body she has possessed as it leads to this chaotic third act where London is in a state of panic as the people are being plagued as zombies of sorts. The direction has Hooper going all out in terms of what is happening as well as creating moments that are gory but not overtly as it’s more about that air of mysticism. Especially in what Col. Carlsen has to do to save London and the world in general with the aid of Col. Caine who would fight one of the male vampires who would wreak havoc all over London. Overall, Hooper creates an exhilarating and compelling film about humans fighting space vampires on Earth.
Cinematographer Alan Hume does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from some of the interiors set in the shuttle as well as in the science building along with some unique lighting for some of the exterior scenes set at night as well as the few set in the day. Editor John Grover does amazing work with the editing with its usage of dissolves to play with some of the flashbacks as well as other stylish cuts to help create some of the rhythm in the suspense and horror. Production designer John Graysmark, with set decorators Denise Exshaw and Simon Wakefield along with art directors Robert Cartwright, Terry Knight, Tony Reading, and Alan Tomkin, does brilliant work with the look of the interior of the mysterious spaceship as well as the building interiors including the setting of the film‘s climax. Costume designer Carin Hooper does terrific work with the costumes from the clothes that many of the men wear as well as the uniforms.
Prosthetic makeup effects creator Sue Higgins does fantastic work with the look of the vampires in their decayed states as well as the humans who become infected by the vampires during the plague in the third act. The special visual effects work of John Dykstra is superb for the way some of the visuals look for some of the scenes set in space as well as the way some of the mystical moments look for the scenes in the third act. Sound designer Vernon Messenger does nice work with the sound in creating some sound effects for the moments involving the vampires taking the energies of others as well as other moments that play into the suspense. The film’s music by Henry Mancini is great as it has these amazing orchestral flourishes with the string arrangements that play into suspense and terror as it‘s one of Mancini‘s more underrated scores.
The casting by Maude Spector and Ann Stanborough is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Chris Jagger and Bill Malin as the two male vampires, Nancy Paul as a nurse the girl had possessed, Sidney Kean as a guard who tried to kill the two male vampires, and Nicholas Ball as a middle-aged astronaut who was part of Col. Carlsen’s crew that got sick early due to the first encounter with the vampires. Aubrey Morris is terrific as Sir Percy Helestine as a royal official who tries to help Col. Caine in making sure none of these events go public. Michael Gothard is superb as Dr. Bukovsky as a scientist who would have an encounter with the female vampire as he becomes aware of her powers as he helps the men of Scotland Yard. Patrick Stewart is excellent as Dr. Armstrong as an asylum doctor who has been possessed by the girl as he tries to maintain his own self despite being possessed. Frank Finlay is brilliant as Dr. Hans Fallada as scientist with an interest in vampires and mortality as he would also find a way to kill one of the vampires for good.
Mathilda May is fantastic as the girl who is this space vampire that often appears in the film naked as she is this unique presence that is just fun to watch while not saying much in the film which makes her more interesting. Peter Firth is amazing as Col. Colin Caine as a British special Air Force officer who helps Col. Carlsen in finding the alien as well as try to make sense of everything as he would also deal with zombies and vampires roaming around London. Finally, there’s Steve Railsback in a marvelous performance as Col. Tom Carlsen as this American astronaut who survives the mission as he copes with the guilt over the loss of his crew as well as being in love with the vampire where he has a psychic connection with.
Lifeforce is a sensational film from Tobe Hooper. Featuring a great cast, amazing visuals, a bombastic score from Henry Mancini, and a crafty premise. The film is definitely a sci-fi horror film that manages to be interesting as well as create something that is scary and provocative. In the end, Lifeforce is a phenomenal film from Tobe Hooper.
Tobe Hooper Films: (Eggshells) - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - (Eaten Alive) - (Salem’s Lot) - (The Funhouse) - (Poltergeist) - (Invaders from Mars) - (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) - (Spontaneous Combustion) - (I’m Dangerous Tonight) - (Night Terrors) - Body Bags - (The Mangler) - (The Apartment Complex) - (Crocodile (2000 film)) - (Toolbox Murders) - (Mortuary) - (Djinn)
© thevoid99 2016
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Way back when I was a movie loving teen, I kept monthly lists (don't laugh) of my favorite movies and how they ranked. Each month I would do a new list and see how the last list held up. I remember first seeing Lifeforce and being blown away by it. It stayed in the top five of those pointless lists for a long, long time. I've forgotten a lot about it over the years. Maybe a revisit is needed?
I think it's worth a revisit. I saw it for the first time and thought it was awesome. Plus, what straight-laced teenager wouldn't enjoy a film that featured a beautiful naked woman walking around throughout the film?
Definitely need a revisit. I saw it not long after it hit VHS and remember liking it, but not much else these days.
@Wendell-I think it is time for a revisit. It's really underrated and deserves some more love.
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