Saturday, April 28, 2012


I've been pulling up some old DVD and Video Risk reviews from the cybertomb that once was Hope you enjoy. This review was from November 2000.

Tobe Hooper's 1985 sci-fi/horror movie "Lifeforce" is a gonzo mishmash of bad-acting, incredible (if slightly dated) special effects, interesting ideas and the most beautiful naked space vampire ever to walk across the screen. If you've ever finished watching a movie and asked yourself, "what were they thinking?" then you may know how I felt at the end of this ham and cheesecake classic.

An international space shuttle mission sent to study Haley's Comet discovers a gigantic space ship hidden in the cone of the comet. (I wonder if that whacked out suicide cult in San Diego saw this movie.) Upon investigation, the astronauts, led by Colonel Tom Carlson (Steve Railsback) discover a cavernous shell of a ship inhabited by several hundred dried up bat-like creatures and three naked humanoids in clear vaults. There are two men and one woman (the incredibly beautiful, naked, gorgeous, naked, sexy, naked, talented, naked Mathilda May), who are promptly taken aboard the space shuttle.

The film then jumps ahead several months and the shuttle is found orbiting earth. A rescue crew discovers the burnt out shell of a ship and the three naked beings still in their vaults. Of course, the naked folks are brought to earth to be studied. Thus begins an outrageous end of the world reign of terror as the three naked folks wake up and turn greater London into their own vampire smorgasbord.

Needless to say, the forces of good rally to try and put an end to the shape shifting energy sucking babe from space and her male-model cohorts. These vampires don't drink blood, instead they suck the lifeforce out of their victims. Two hours later, the mummified remains of their victims wake up and must then suck the life force out of the nearest person they can find. If they don't they explode and leave a mess not unlike what would happen if you aimed a leaf blower into a fire place full of ashes. This mayhem continues in geometric proportion until the entire population of the earth is at risk of becoming extinct.

This movie is so bad that it achieves a rare greatness among bad films. The acting is uniformly hammy. The forces of good are led by Colonel Carlsen (Yes he miraculously escapes the burnt out space shuttle and turns up later to help save the day!) and Colonel Colin

Caine (Peter Firth) of the OSS. Firth chews up the scenery with such bravado that it would be funny if one didn't believe he was being serious. Colonel Caine shows up after the naked space girl escapes into the general population. He walks in, shows his ID
and says, "I'm Colonel Caine, OSS" in such a way that he believes women should strip naked at the mere mention of his name and that men should commit suicide because they are not him. Firth's performance has to be seen to be believed. He marches and stomps around with an arrogance not seen since Munich in 1936. The funny thing about his performance is that his character performs no special of heroic feats to warrant his attitude. While Caine and Carlsen cavort all over the English countryside tracking space babe, Professor Hans Fallada (Frank Finlay) holds down the fort in London trying to discover what makes these unwanted visitor tick. What kind of name is Hans Fallada anyway. It sounds like a gyro sandwich I used to order at a Greek deli. Finlay showed his talent for comedy and action in Richard Lester's classic Musketeer movies of the 1970s. Here he also adds to the comic relief, but not intentionally. His character discovers the naked alien's weakness. He delivers his Chariots of the Gods style explanation to Carlsen and Caine in time for them to do battle with the space babe. His explanation includes one of the film's best ideas. In explaining the alien's weakness, he gives a possible explanation for the vampire and werewolf legends of earth. This bit is one of the needles of vision in a mostly blurry eyed haystack (How's that for mixing a metaphors!). Patrick Stewart appears in a cameo as the head of a hospital for the criminally insane. There is a scene in which the camera pans down past the hospital's sign and it actually reads, "Hospital for the Criminally Insane."

Railsback fares better than the rest of the cast. With the exceptions of "The Stunt Man" and "Helter Skelter" I have found Railsback's work to be dull. Here, he plays it straight and does his best with some of the cheesiest dialogue this side of Green Bay. It seems that the space babe has a thing for him and he is telepathically linked with her. He walks around in a fog dreaming about space babe for most of the movie. I imagine most guys would operate in such a manner were they the object of space babe's affection.

As for space babe, what can I say. She sure is naked in this movie. French Actress Mathilda May has quite a resume, and is regarded as a top actress in France. She has not done much work this side of the pond because after this movie she was typecast by American producers as the "naked" girl. Duhh! She has only one line of dialogue in this movie. She is the perfect woman! Naked, fearless, silent and naked! (This is humor guys!) Can Ms. May act? Hell if I know. I've never seen any of her French films. She sure is naked though. Director Hooper's wife Carin is credited as the costume designer; she deserved an Oscar for Ms. May's outfit!

The special effects in Lifeforce are excellent. John Dykstra created a truly eerie alien craft. The craft returns at the end of the film in a menacing combat stance. The apocalyptic street scenes near the end of the film owe a debt of gratitude to George Romero. As the population of London becomes more vampire than non-vampire the viewer is treated to some grizzly carnage and make-up.

You may wonder by now why I am recommending this movie (other than for Ms. May's costume). I don't know, but I will try to explain. I hate sour kraut, rye bread, corned beef, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. I cannot stand them. I hate them with a passion. However, when all of those things I hate are put together to form a Rueben sandwich I love it. I could eat a Rueben sandwich everyday and not get tired of it. So, while I like naked vampires and good special effects, that alone is not enough for me to like a movie. I hate bad acting and especially bad writing. I've written several scripts and came close to selling one. I know how hard it is to write so that you don't have any of those "because it's in the script" leaps of logic that abound in this movie. All I do know is that when all of the elements of this film were mixed together, the outcome was quite tasty. This is a "buy a six-pack with the guys and kick back and enjoy" type of movie. Lifeforce is frivolous fun. Don't examine it to closely, just sit back and enjoy this guilty pleasure. I understand that the original 116 minute British version is now available. I have not seen it yet but I understand that it includes extra mayhem and more explicit scenes of space babe.

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