Hello again and welcome back to the NOFS Video Vault! Mind your step, it’s a tad dark in here. You see we’ve been trying out our new Ridley Scott Memorial Observatory. Now before you go on to tell us that Ridley Scott is alive and well, we know that but isn’t it better to dedicate something to someone while they’re still around to enjoy it? Conversely, Mr. Scott has declined all of our invitations to visit the observatory. In fact, he has issued several restraining orders against us which clearly means we must be doing something right!

Why the sudden fascination with space, you ask? To gaze upon the stars, of course… and to coincide with NOFS’s Space theme.  And yes, we are also aware that the stars you are looking at are merely glow-in-the-dark stickers dotting our ceiling but I assure you all of the major constellations are there in all of the intergalactic glory, including our favorite, Algol the Demon Star. See it there? The blood-red one? Don’t look too long, the consequences could be dire. Which brings me to a movie title that just happens to fit our spacey celebrations. It’s an intergalactic thriller with space vampires, astronauts, soul-sucking and more full-frontal nudity than most folks are comfortable with. I’m talking about the late great Tobe Hooper’s horror/sci-fi classic, Lifeforce (1985).

 

Captain’s Log

A space mission sees a crew of British and American astronauts encounter an alien craft where humanoids within are found in hypersleep. They are, in turn, brought aboard the astronaut’s shuttle and transferred back to Earth, but one of the extraterrestrials is slippery, see? She escapes into London where she proceeds to feed off of the souls out of the locals. This results in a city roaming with half-dead people and an alien on the loose. But a surviving American astronaut takes notice of the shenanigans and sets out to stop the ruthless extraterrestrial exhibitionist.

Lifeforce stars Steve Railsback (Ed Gein, 2000) as Col. Tom Carlsen, one of the American astronauts of the fated space mission. On his team of cosmonauts are Peter Firth (The Hunt For Red October, 1990) as Col. Colin Caine, Frank Finlay (Cthulhu Mansion, 1992) as Dr. Hans Fallada, Sir Patrick Stewart (Green Room, 2015) as Dr. Armstrong and the late Michael Gothard (Scream and Scream Again, 1970) as Dr. Leonard Bukovsky.

Rounding out the cast of stuffy bureaucrats and English aristocracy are Nicholas Ball (Hammer House of Horror, 1980 TV) as Roger Derebridge, Aubrey Morris (A Clockwork Orange, 1971) as Sir Percy Heseltine, John Hallam (The Wicker Man, 1973) as Lamson, and Nancy Paul (Space Percinct, 1994-95 TV) as Ellen Donaldson. Our space baddies are played by Chris Jagger –Mick’s little brother– (Home Before Midnight, 1979) as First Vampire, Bill Malin (Dr. Who 1987-88 TV) as Second Vampire and Mathilda May (The Jackal, 1997) as Space Girl, the E.T. who wreaks havoc on unsuspecting Londoners.


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Tales From The Asteroid Belt

Lifeforce saw its beginnings when director Tobe Hooper signed a three-picture deal with Cannon Films following the success of Hooper’s previous offering, Poltergeist (1982). Lifeforce was the first in the trio and subsequently followed by Invaders From Mars (1986) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986). Principal photography began on February 2, 1984.

Based on the 1976 novel Space Vampires by Colin Wilson, the film was originally promoted under the same title but Cannon Films never liked the title, likening it to low budget b-movies. After sinking $25 million into the project, they wanted a title to reflect the major motion picture appeal they were trying to achieve and opted to go with a title befitting of the film’s essence and thus the Lifeforce moniker came to be.

The script was written by the late Don O’Bannon (Return of the Living Dead, 1985) and Don Jakoby (Vampires, 1998) but had strong input from Hooper who made changes to the origin of the aliens and the time in which the story was set. Some ghostwriting was also done by Michael Armstrong (Screamtime, 1984) and the late Olaf Pooley (The Godsend, 1980) in order to tighten up the story but novelist Wilson was not happy with the changes. He felt the final film was but a mere shell of his original story and spoke about his displeasure publicly.

 

Burning Up Upon Reentry

Lifeforce was released June 21, 1985, with fanfare and hoopla only to meet poor critical and fan reaction. Critics maligned the film calling it splintered and difficult to follow. Janet Maslin of The New York Times said in her June 21, 1985 review entitled The Screen, “Its style is shrill and fragmented enough to turn Lifeforce into hysterical vampire porn.

That being said, Lifeforce wasn’t (and isn’t) without its fans. The film sits at a solid 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of about 5/10. Pretty solid for a movie that 30 years ago couldn’t get a good review to save its life.


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Home Video Vampires

Release on video 1986 by Vestron Video, the UK release featured the heavily edited US domestic cut of the film. There was also a full international cut but it wasn’t made available on home video in the UK until MGM released it in the Aughts. The first US release of the international cut was MGM/UA’s 1994 release on LaserDisc.

June 18, 2013, saw the Scream Factory Blu-ray/DVD combo which featured both the US domestic and international cuts of the film. The UK also saw an Arrow Video release of Lifeforce as a steelbook two-disc Blu-ray special edition a few months later in October 2013, which held the same features as the US Blu-ray release.

 

Closing Credits

In truth, we here at the NOFS Video Vault believe that everyone should experience horror movies (or any art for that matter) for themselves to form their own opinions about them. Critics are fine and serve a purpose but we should all find our own way through the dark corridors of this beloved genre for there are gems aplenty to discover. All we can do is recommend titles and we highly recommend Lifeforce for your intergalactic viewing pleasure.

Sure, it is all of those things that fans and critics mentioned above said it is and that is the beauty of it. It is a smart, quirky, fresh take on the age-old vampire story with incredible special effects, solid acting and a unique vision that tends to creep and crawl rather than all-out assault your senses.


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Now I know you’ve been curious ever since I mentioned it so I’ll elaborate. Algol, that red star on our ceiling you’ve been eyeing all night, she bases her winking vigil over us from the Medusa legend of Greek folklore. So if you stare at her too long you could turn to– well hell, now you’ve done it. You’ve been staring at it all this time, haven’t you? Whelp looks like I’ll have to call a moving van to get you out of here… Its a shame really. I was about to remind you to check out our Twitter, Subreddit and Facebook Fiend page but, well, here we are. We lose more customers that way. Until next time, fellow fiends… stay creepy.