DVD Review: 'Lifeforce' rises from the dead

One of benefits of reviewing home video releases is the opportunity to revise first impressions. "Lifeforce" was one of the earliest reviews of my professional career, and, after the passage of 28 years and 6,000-8,000 more features, it's a relief to be able to say sorry to Tobe Hooper for my non-rave. "Lifeforce" has indeed improved with age.

This 1985 sci-fi/horror movie was adapted from the Colin Wilson novel "Space Vampires" — a much catchier and more apt title. Steve Railsback ("Helter Skelter," "The Stunt Man") plays an astronaut commander, who makes his way back to Earth after his ship is mysteriously wrecked. A rescue mission manages to salvage some of the cargo, including three apparent humans in suspended animation, among them a comely wench (Mathilda May, in her film debut). After she revivifies, she escapes the authorities and runs around London naked, sucking the life force out of humans, most of whom leap back to life as (for all practical purposes) zombies. She can also jump from body to body (mostly clothed bodies, to the disappointment of all the straight guys in the audience).

All of this is as silly as it sounds, but the silliness is cranked up to operatic proportions, thanks to Henry Mancini's great score and line readings of epic seriousness. (The cast includes Peter Firth, Frank Finlay and Patrick Stewart.)

Shout! Factory (under its Scream Factory label) has released a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo edition. Both discs have the 116-minute UK cut; the Blu-ray also includes the original American theatrical version, which is 15 minutes shorter.

The rest of the extras appear on both discs. There are two commentary tracks — one with Hooper and interviewer Tim Sullivan; the other with Michael Felsher and Special Make-up Effects Designer Nick Maley. We also get the 20-minute 1985 "making of," as well as new interview shorts with Hooper, Railsback and May. May's beauty has changed but not diminished; one could say innumerable wondrous things about her, but many of them would be R-rated, so we'll exercise restraint.

"Lifeforce" (Scream Factory, Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, $29.93)


ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World