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Have you ever seen a movie that starts out well, but later completely falls apart? It's a disappointing experience, and the better the beginning is, the more disappointing the inevitable crumble becomes.

And "Lifeforce" is possibly the most extreme example of that -- it begins as a haunting, artistic sci-fi movie with a beautiful score and stunning special effects. But once the action is transferred to Earth, the movie begins a slow, subtle descent into outright silliness that grows more intense with every passing scene. Hamtastic acting, massive plot holes and even the once-lovely special effects grow more bizarre as it winds to its jaw-droppingly bad conclusion.

A space shuttle with a joint US/UK crew has been sent to investigate Halley's Comet, under the command of Colonel Thomas Wolfe Carlsen (Steve Railsback). But they promptly stumble across a vast alien spaceship hidden in that comet, which is filled with dead batlike creatures and three humanoids in suspended animation. When the shuttle returns to Earth, everyone on board is dead except for the three suspended humanoids... who turn out to be life force vampires.

The female (who is naked and the director never lets you forget it) promptly sucks the life-force out of some poor guy, who temporarily resurrects himself by sucking the life from someone else. If these newly-made vampires don't feed regularly, they shrivel up and explode. The Space Girl (seriously, that is what they call her) also apparently can float around and possess people... usually more sexy women, but occasionally Patrick Stewart.

The only one with a vague idea of what is going on is Carlsen, who was found in an escape pod in Texas, and who seems to have a psychic link to Space Girl. So of course, he is humanity's best hope for thwarting the space vampires before all of London is turned into a playground of alien-infected zombies. Did I mention there were zombies?

"Lifeforce" is almost a hypnotic experience, because most movies don't descend so steadily or completely into wretchedness. The opening scenes of the movie are some of the most spellbinding sci-fi exploration that has ever been put in a film, with exquisite matte paintings and hauntingly rich atmosphere. These scenes are probably the best work director Toby Hooper -- who directed "Poltergeist" just a few years before -- has ever done.

And yet... as soon as the action moves down to Earth, EVERYTHING deteriorates. It's like the movie was written and directed in one-off shifts by people who never actually conversed with one another. There are plot holes the size of the alien spacecraft (that's over a hundred and fifty miles, if you don't know) and massive continuity errors that stagger the entire storyline.

For instance, consider the infected humans. Initially, they are turned into dried-out mummies that return to normal (mentally and physically) by sucking the life force out of hapless humans. Unless fed, they will return to their mummified state and EXPLODE. That is... until the final act of the movie, when suddenly they become masses of telepathic rage zombies with oozing sores, who can be killed by a gunshot to any part of their anatomy. Why does this happen? Never explained.

Hooper tries desperately to tie together this sagging, hole-riddled mess with lots of nudity (but only from the FEMALE alien, never the males!), and the sight of Carlsen racing around the British countryside in an effort to interrogate the Space Girl (ugh, that name). But by the movie's grand finale, it's deteriorated into a mass of sleazy, weird, unexplained cheez involving columns of blue energy, zombies, a big sword, and the weirdest sex scene you'll ever see.

That slow descent into silliness also applies to Railsbeck, who starts off pretty subtle and normal, but slowly descends into ham worthy of Christmas dinner ("WHERE ARE YOOOOOOU? WHERE'S YOUR BOODDDDYY?"). It doesn't help that his character makes no sense, since he is often stated to be one of the space vampires himself... but this is never explained or shown at all. It's just a cop-out explanation for why he has a plot-convenient psychic link with the Space Girl.

Speaking of the Space Girl, aka French actress Mathilda May, her acting is negligible at best, but she clearly was cast for her more tangible talents. Two of them. And since those are very nice, I suppose she works well. Patrick Stewart is wasted as a character who mostly lip-syncs and screams, but Peter Firth gives a very good performance as the cynical, no-nonsense SAS guy who has to drag the screaming, melting-down Carlsen around.

"Lifeforce" isn't merely a bad movie -- it's a disappointing one, starting out with beauty and mystery and ending up a silly mass of boobs, zombies and hammy acting. If there's ever a movie that desperately needed a rewrite and remake, it's this one.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 3, 2013
Lifeforce(released June/85)stars,among others,Steve Railsback as Col. Tom Carlsen,Peter Firth as Col. Colin Caine,Frank Finlay as Dr. Hans Fallada,Mathilda May as Space Girl,Patrick Stewart as Dr. Armstrong and Michael Gothard as Dr. Bukovsky.I recall quite clearly seeing this in its theatrical debut back in /85.I saw it at a drive in then and my initial impression was what a ponderous,boring and overy long Sci Fi picture.Well,it is now 2013 and nothing has changed.It is all that and also a psychoanalysts dream come true.The film is full of various forms of sexual/erotic scenes and references,including domination and sadomasochism.This is a film written by guys,directed by guys and FOR young guys.
The story finds us in the future and a space crew has discovered a derelict ship very near a comet the are exploring.They go on board and discover three human bodies in suspension(two males and one female),and alot of dead bat like creatures.The crew decides to bring back the human cases.On the way back to Earth mission control loses contact with the craft,which they later find floating aimlessly in space.They board and find only the three suspended bodies and the crew dead in a huge fire.Back on earth in London in a laboratory,the female comes to life and drains the life energy/lifeforce out of a guard and escapes.
Meanwhile an escape pod from the ship that originally found the aliens has been located in Texas.The astronaut is flown to England to help in their investigation there.When he arrives all hell has broken loose as the female has attacked and killed others.In their discussions it seems the astronaut has some kind of link with the female.They also learn these creatures can jump from one body to the other.They manage to find her in another woman's body and take her to a psychiatric facility.While there the alien jumps to the head doctors body.Back at the labs the two male aliens have now come to life and have taken on the bodies of guards and have left the facility to head into London proper.
While they transport the head doctor back to London the alien jumps out of his body and disappears.When they finally reach London the city is in chaos as the aliens have turned most of the populace into Zombie like creatures,searching for life force of any kind to survive.The epicentre of all this is St Pauls Cathedral,where the life force energy from the local human population is being funneled skyward to the self same ship discovered near the comet.In the cathedral is the female alien,who is the conduit.The astronaut heads there and confronts the alien.She is on an altar and the two make love while the energy is constantly moving through them and upwards.She tells him they are forever linked and are one.With his last strength he impales himself and her with an iron rod.With the energy/lifeforce link broken they both ascend to the ship above which returns to outer space.
The first thing one can see is the terrible editing.This thing comes in at almost 2 hours and it shows.There are just so many places it could have been pared down,but director Hooper just seemed to want to tell every little detail no matter how trivial.As a result the film plods along from one scene to the next and you are soon looking at your watch wondering when this is going to end.The film doesn't start out so badly with the discovery of the alien ship in the comet,but after they arrive back to Earth the film is all over the map.I won't dwell too much on the heavy sexual goings on here,except to say I just wonder why this film wasn't X-rated?There is full frontal nudity in the form of the female alien,who is the "dominant" force,in more ways than one.Then there is the totally sadomasochistic moment where they confront the female alien in another woman's body.The astronaut,through his psychic link,says the woman is a masochist and WANTS the guys to beat the answer out of her....and they do! Totally gratuitous,and unnecessary.
Technically speaking the film is in its its original a/r of 2:35:1 and is clear and crisp.Extras include the trailer.
All in all a disappointingly long Sci Fi opus made in the UK way back when.It features some good English actors but they and the plot that had potential,are all totally wasted.The film is graphic in nature as far as sexual elements are concerned and most are totally gratuitous.2 1/2-barely 3 stars.
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on July 11, 2001
Lifeforce is a mildly entertaining sci fi/horror film about swinging space vampires that will only appeal to those with tongue firmly in cheek.
Brought to you by the writer of "Alien" and the director of "Poltergiest", the movie comes across as a very weak combination of the two.
While unabashedly exploitive in the all of the worst ways, there are still one or two memorable moments (for example, one scene where a space vampire explodes when hit by a car, seems to have inspired a similar scene in Robocop).
But perhaps the most obvious (only?) reason to watch this campy experience is the beautiful Mathilda May, who spends a significant amount of her screen time nude.
On the DVD side of things, the 5.1 audio track is a welcome addition and the film transfer is decent.
In a rather telling footnote, however, the only extra features are an uncensored theatrical trailer, and an 8-page booklet with production notes and a behind the scenes article. I guess the fact that MGM didn't take the extra time or expense to program the information from the booklet onto the disc says it all!
Although I personally enjoyed it as a "guilty pleasure", this one definitely fits under the Rent-Before-You-Buy category.
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on April 12, 2000
Lifeforce is strange science fiction/horror. It's not really scary, though it does have some suspenseful and memorable moments. It's somewhat well-paced and there are some decent action sequences. The plot is also somewhat interesting but there are so many other aspects that hurt this movie.
The plot? The shuttle Churchill discovers a ship hidden inside Halley's comet. Exploring inside it, they discover hundreds of frozen bat creatures and three nude humans (or humanoids) inside see through chambers. Two of them are males, one of them female (the very beautiful and sexy Mathilda May). However, something aboard the shuttle goes wrong and the crew is killed off with the exception of one man. A rescue shuttle brings back the three humanoids. They escape and begin a rampage of terror throughout London as two men (Peter Firth and Steve Railsback) must try to stop them.
I was very much engrossed in the plot, especially the whole lifeforce idea and the interesting twist on vampires. But the movie went downhill as soon as Railsback reentered the movie. He overacts his part and is totally unconvincing. The scene where he shouts at a possessed Patrick Stewart is almost laughable. There's also the musical score from Henry Mancini. It's way out of tone from the movie and sounds almost ridiculous at certain points.
The special effects in the film range from mediocre to good. At some points, the film looks cheesy and at other times it looks like the big budget film it is.
As for acting, some of it is actually not bad. Railsback is terrible but Firth is okay. To be honest, the best performance probably goes to Mathilda May, one of the most drop-dead gorgeous actresses I have ever seen of film. I wish she accepted better roles than this. Maybe this is the reason I have never seen her in another film. She's actually very good at being the seductress that she is in the movie, just as good and even more subtle than Sharon Stone was in Basic Instinct. This is also quite amazing considering the fact she walks around the movie naked most of the time and acts very calmly and cooly.
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on January 17, 2000
Well, I had heard so many things about this film saying howweird and cool it was that I was very excited. So, I popped it into myDVD player, and pressed play. Here's the review. Well, I managed to sit through the whole thing. The beginning, on the Church Hill and inside the ship by Halley's Comet, was fairly interesting. Kinda cheesy, but effective. Good effects from Dykastra, whos always dependable. Then, well, it got weird.
The rest of the film was interesting, but it just seemed to be so darn pointless, and very badly paced. It was boring much of the time, with dialoge mouthed by mediocre actors doing things muddily explained or just not explained at all. All the while, it still has good effects, though.
There were definitly some good, even original ideas in the film, but Tobe Hooper is, to tell you the truth, so bad at Science fiction (Which is what this film is at its heart) that things seem . . . . well . . . . . just plain clumsy.
The set design is also something I have some beef with. While the sci-fi sets look good for the time, every other set looks like something out of a moderatly budgeted Television show. I don't know why, they just looked fake, without enough details to even pass as real.
And whats the deal with the music. Totally, completely, utterly wrong for the movie. It ruined the tone at almost every turn. Overly dramatic and just plain innappropriate for the film.
Lifeforce did have excellent effects (Though they were not shown enough), some good ideas, and some interesting and frightening moments. But, with Tobe Hooper at helm, it loses it's way. My advice, rent it first, to see if it's for you.
PS - The 15 minutes of restored footage were seamlessly inserted. I couldn't tell what was new and what was original
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on June 11, 1999
What exactly was Tobe Hooper aiming for when he directed this movie? He seemed to have a lot of buzz behind him after he helmed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist. I watched Lifeforce twice (People usually say weird cult films need more than one viewing to like it although I don't see much truth in that) and I still didn't like it much better. It begins a lot like Alien and Event Horizon. A group of astronauts are sent to outer space only to encounter space vampires that come to Earth. Eventually, most of London has become infested by zombies. One man must stop a female vampire (who is naked all the time) who is behind the whole thing. Not surprsingly, the movie's climax has our hero making love to the vampiress. Whoa, and all this comes in only an hour and forty-five minutes. Lifeforce is a mix of science fiction, horror, and erotica. Does it work? No way. If Hooper had stuck to one of those genres (Erotica in this movie didn't exactly work) I think he would have had a lot more success. What exactly is wrong with this movie you might ask. It's the fact that each event that occurs in the movie doesn't match very well with the events before it. That may sound confusing, but if you watch the movie you'll understand.
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on February 20, 2004
The problem with this film was it had the wrong title. It should have been called: "Attack of the Soul-Sucking Vampire Zombies from Haley's Comet." This would give viewers a much better sense of the true spirit of the film.
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