Most will agree that hearing a song can illicit fond memories from long ago. Movies can hold the same power to take us back in time as surely as if you had a Blue British Police call box in the spare room. This halo affect attaches itself to films with the same ability to move us to the past. What is perhaps the greatest benefit of films being transferred to DVD and more recently Blu-ray is that studios are opening their vaults of treasured films and making them available as additions to our collections. ‘Life-force’s a cult classic science fiction movie that certain fit the consideration just defined. It was released in 1985; about the time that cable television was gaining a foot hold as a means to watch fairly new movies. The film, famous for, among other factors, is a scene of full frontal nudity and a well know icon of the genre garbed in women’s clothing. With those puerile elements aside this film was directed by one of that time’s most influential filmmakers in horror and Sci-Fi, Tobe Hooper. ‘Lifeforce’ represented an early attempt to meld the two most popular genres for the young predominantly male demographic. It started Steve Railsback who was a regularly working actor gaining popularity in film and television. His big break was about a decade prior with an eerily actuate portrayal of Charlie Manson in the definitive TV film of the infamous Tate-LaBinaca murders, ‘Helter Skelter’. The intensity Railsback focuses in the insane eyes of the cult leader was one of the more frightening presentations of a real life monster ever depicted. He brought that same uncanny control and dedication to his party to his presentation here of an astronaut caught in the end on the world.
The space shuttle Churchill was on a mission to investigate the tail of Halley's Comet. Quite unexpectedly to the crew and mission control they discovered a space craft over 150 miles in length. An exploratory team is dispatched that find three humanoid forms, two males and a female, in a mummy like state of extreme desiccation held within individual containment capsules. On their return to Earth Mission Control loses contact with the Churchill and a recovery mission is sent. They find the shuttle it is badly damaged with nothing but the alien capsules remaining intact. The aliens are taken to European Space Research Centre in London for further examination and research, over seen by Dr. Leonard Bukovski (Michael Gothard) and Dr. Hans Fallada (Frank Finlay). One night the female alien (Mathilda May) awakens and restores herself to an exceptionally attractive human woman by draining the life force out of an unlucky security guard. She drains the remainder of the security staff to strengthen her and manifests an ability to alter her form. Everyone with a Y chromosome looks at her human manifestation and finds and alteration unnecessary.
While this life force consuming vampire is making the rounds in London over in the United States, in particular, Texas, the escape pod from the Churchill is located and a survivor, Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback) recovered. Immediately he is flown to London for a debriefing, crucial considering recent events. Greatly enhancing his importance in this crisis is the fact that events in space have forged some sort of psychic bond between Carlsen and the alien. There is the requisite chase around the city and surrounding countryside and one of many extremely eccentric plot twists. They believe they have the alien trapped in the sedated body of Dr. Armstrong (Patrick Stewart), the director of a psychiatric hospital in Yorkshire. As you watch Sir Patrick Stewart cavorting around in drag remember he is a classically trained Shakespearian actor and performing in women’s attire is a traditional part of the curriculum. The ‘Space Girl’, as she is listed, escapes and along with her male consorts being a process of draining the life force from the population of the greater London metropolitan area. The victims, once drained are transformed into dehydrated zombie like creatures. The dénouement is an example of Deus ex machine devoid of the traditional flair. The film by most standard criteria not the best representative of either horror or Sci-fi and is undeniable not the best in the illustrious resumes of either director Tobe Hooper or the screenwriter Dan O'Bannon. Both men are certifiably talented with such classic moves as ‘Screamers’ and ‘Blue Thunder and ‘Alien’ for O’Bannon and horror classics helmed by Hooper including ‘Poltergeist’ and the first TV adaptation of ‘Salem's Lot’. Even with some of the huge plot holes, large enough to drive the alien ship through and the erratic mélange of genre tropes the movie remains one that is enjoyable. This is the sort of movie you have fun with not one to be overly analyzed. Actually, in this regard it is quiet similar to the always popular dastardly threat from out space flicks that were standard offerings for the Saturday afternoon matinees we watched as kids. This is the side of horror that you just need to experience built on the segment of science fiction and turn off the higher reasoning center of your brain and accept.
Like many movies in this category you know you have the VHS and DVD copies already. You might restrict that knowledge sharing it with others that understand the matinee criteria for a fun popcorn flick although you wouldn’t bring this up in an erudite discussion of cinema as artistic expression. In any case the high definition edition was worth the wait we fans have endured. The visual effects at the end take on an improved perspective. The remastering of the video is a considerable improvement over previous releases as expected and according to the commentary track personally supervised by Mr. Hooper. This did produce one of the better transfers for a relatively minor release from the mid-eighties. The color palette and contrast are much better than I had expected although just short of contemporary standards. There are similar observations regarding the DTS 5.1 Master Audio. The dialogue is crisp and the sound effects significant improved. The depth of the sound field is occasionally shallow but there are moments when the surround sound truly shines.