Tobe Hooper should have been at the top of his game after the success of Poltergeist. Instead of being able to savor success, he had to fight off rumors that he was merely Steven Spielberg’s errand boy on the set. There were even more whispers of what he was doing during the shoot. There would be no major motion picture deal with Spielberg, but his career was far from over. The horror director found himself in the inviting arms of Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan’s Cannon Films with an old fashioned 3 picture deal. The key to the package was a sequel to Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But he wasn’t going to be limited to movies about hardware killers. His first project for Cannon was to adapt the novel The Space Vampires with the help of screenwriter Dan O’Bannon (Alien). The title got changed to Lifeforce, but the film kept the soul sucking space vampires.
Halley’s Comet returns for it’s every 76 years visit. The Earth greets the heavenly body with the Space Shuttle Churchill. Among the crew eager to investigate is Col. Tom Carlsen (The Stunt Man & Helter Skelter‘s Steven Railsback). They discover in the tail of the comet is a spaceship. The crew boards the UFO to see what’s inside. First they find giant dead bat creatures that resemble demons. As they go deeper, they turn up humanoids. Two males and a female are inside glass chambers. They’re also naked. The crew loads the trio into the space shuttle and prepare to head back to Earth. Something goes horribly wrong and Mission Control must send more Space Shuttles to retrieve the non-responding Churchill. Turns out the crew became human beef jerky, but the space humanoids are in perfect shape. What happened? No need to ask too many questions since the scientists on the ground are eager to check out the naked space woman. Turns out that she’s not merely a woman, she’s a space vampire eager to suck the life out of her victims. She escapes the government facility to visit London. The town is torn apart as if the Spice Girls have reunited once more. The only way to stop her is Col. Tom Carlsen. Turns out he escaped from the Churchill before things went bad. He appears to be the key to locating the naked female alien since they have some sort of bond. There’s plenty of explosive action as her diabolical plan is exposed.
For a Cannon movie, they really went beyond their normal cheesy budget on Lifeforce. They hired Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation) for a supporting character role. The effects by John Dykstra (Star Wars) and his crew look fine for the times. They even landed cinematographer Alan Hume (Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi) to capture the action. Even more astounding is a score from Henry Mancini. His robust opening theme still gets used in NFL promos. There’s two cuts of the film on the Blu-ray. You get the original American theatrical cut and the longer International cut that was tweaked by Hooper for the release. The DVD in the set only has the longer cut. You really don’t need to watch the American theatrical version.
Lifeforce still remains a fun science fiction film after all these years since Halley’s comet’s last visit. What makes it special is that Tobe Hooper could truly relate to the material. He was able to make this a personal project since it deals with a space vampire sucking the life out of people. He didn’t have to go far to remember the helpless, depowering sensation unleashed on him by Spielberg.
The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfer is a major upgrade from the earlier letterboxed DVD. You can really appreciate certain aspects of the production with the increased resolution. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. This increased sound mix brings out the stirring nature of Mancini’s score. The DVD has a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround and 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo mix. The movie has subtitles.
The included DVD has all the bonus features found on the Blu-ray.
Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper has Tim Sullivan asking the questions. He’s pleased this new Blu-ray allowed him to color correct so it has the 70mm look back. There’s a separate commentary track with special make-up effects designer Nick Maley.
Space Vampires In London with Tobe Hooper (9:57) is a fresh recollection from Tobe Hooper about the production. He didn’t like The Space Vampires as a title since it sounded like Planet of the Vampires.
Carlsen’s Curse with Steve Railsback (7:07) lets us know that his relationship with Tobe Hooper started on the set of Helter Skelter. He seems pleased that Tobe didn’t want his astronaut to be a Charles Manson character.
Dangerous Beauty with Mathilda May (15:15) has the actress pondering why she had no qualms playing a naked space vampire.
Vintage “Making-Of Lifeforce Featurette” (21:15) is the promo package that has quite few views of Tobe lining up the shot.
TV Spot (0:30) does its best to hide the naked alien.
Theatrical Trailers (3:29) are two trailers that promote the life sucking elements. The second trailer is the red band that lets us know the alien is naked.
Still Gallery has dozens of production still including details from the special effects crew.
Lifeforce: The Collector’s Edition finally lets this movie shine. The longer cut makes things a lot more clear than the befuddling American edit. There’s enough bonus features for a fanatic to understand everything the complete context of the production.
Scream Factory presents Lifeforce: The Collector’s Edition. Directed by Tobe Hooper. Screenplay by: Dan O’Bannon & Don Kakoby. Starring:Steven Railsback, Peter Firth, Mathilda May and Patrick Stewart. Running Time: 116 minutes. Rated: R. Released: June 18, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.