Random Film of the Week(end): LIFEFORCE

LIFEFORCE_MPIf you were a big sci-fi flick fan around in 1985 and of a certain age, you probably went and saw LIFEFORCE for one of two reasons. You were either a horny guy or gal looking for cheap thrills or you were the girlfriend, husband or wife of that horny guy or gal elbowing your man/woman in the ribs and hissing at him every time Mathilda May appeared on screen, naked as a jaybird or not. Of course, there were most likely couples who saw this and grinned together at her wondrous curves, but let’s not turn this into a more saucy post than it’s intended to be.

Granted, at least a jaybird had feathers and it’s a damn good thing women back in that era weren’t overly obsessed with strategic downstairs depilatory action or this film might not have been as fun to watch as there would need to be some even more strategic editing than what’s here. Based on Colin Wilson’s 1976 novel, The Space Vampires with a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon, directed by Tobe Hooper and chock full of some wild practical effects,lots of blood and some gore, scenery chewing performances from most of the cast and an ending that’s still a bit baffling on a few fronts, this is one of those films that you’ll either love outright for its craziness or hate because after all is said and done, it doesn’t do anything grand with its space vampires at all other than show off how nude they are…

How nude? Well, I normally run trailers for movies at the top of the page. This one’s got boobs in it, so it’s a bit NSFW (“But G! They’re LOVELY boobs!” a friend said to me when I told him I was doing a RFotW on this flick. I had to hit him with a rolled up newspaper because he missed the point again):

See what I mean? Anyway, the plot is simple and nothing fantastic, although the build up is tremendous and that Henry Mancini/Michael Kamen booming orchestral score always lets you know you’re in a big, expensive sci-fi movie. A space ship exploring Halley’s Comet find a huge alien ship with three completely naked humanoids (two males and a female) inside what look like glass coffins of a sort. Of course, they’re all transported back to earth, get loose in London and all hell breaks loose as the city is pretty much decimated by a sort of zombie plague that those who have their life force drained contract. Those are the basics, but you really have to see this to believe it and even then you’ll vacillate between roaring with laughter and wondering what the hell is going on and why everyone and everything is so damn loud.

Steve Railsback plays an astronaut on the doomed spaceship that returns to earth with him as the sole survivor with the three space nudists and yes, the aforementioned Mathilda May spends most of the film nude before she ends up in the body of another actress then back into hers, both times wearing a cover up or actual clothing. I do recall back in ’85 the plot was hard to follow because half the audience was ladies hissing and elbowing and the rest were either chuckling nervously or making other noises whenever May was on screen. Hey, I took art classes for a few years, so I was used to nudity, as were the friends I went with. That said, I was still impressed and amazed at how much was in this film to the point where yes, it WAS funny whenever May appeared on screen because most of the men in the film acted as if they’d never seen a naked lady before either.

The film also has a hilarious sequence where you’ll be counting the number of doors people need to open in order to get to someone in peril. I think that was one of two or three times the hissing and elbowing slowed down. There’s also what amounts to an extended cameo by Patrick Stewart (don’t expect him to pull any Picard-like moves here, folks) and the final act plays like the final act in An American Werewolf in London with a dash of zombie apocalypse thrown in for good measure. It’s all a beautiful mess of a movie and you can clearly see all the money spent on screen as well as the areas where the film was horribly rushed and edited down from what could have been some sort of “epic” genre entry. It’s been a cable staple on Encore for a while and I keep going back to it just to get laughs at the door scene and Railsback’s amped up to 15 yelling and screaming. May still mesmerizes me, but only because I don’t think I’d ever seen her in a movie since.

Then again, where do you go after movie goers have already seen about as much of you as an R rating will allow? Oh… thank you, Wikipedia. If anything, LIFEFORCE is a welcome genre flick because it shows the difference between a weak modern PG-13 film that doesn’t do all that much to be memorable and an Restricted film that yep, you want to keep the kids far enough away from until they’re able to chuckle at all those doors opening and closing. I guess some sort of remake might work today, but I haven’t a clue who I’d like to see strolling around in nothing but makeup and probably some strategic CGI work in some shots. Knock yourself out and come up with suggestions if you like…

5 thoughts on “Random Film of the Week(end): LIFEFORCE

    • Ha! I don’t hate anyone who’s never heard or seen of anything I scribble about. I like pointing people into odd places and hope they look around a bit. In a nutshell, it’s basically Naked Christmas, but with soul-sucking and exploding skinned Muppets. And door counting.

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    • I’m telling you, man… that first time seeing this was hilarious because of all the ticked off folks not expecting such casual frequent nudity in their sci-fi films. A friend of mine told me that when he saw it, some family with 3 kids was in front of him and yep, they covered up those little eyeballs and scooted out of the theater when Miss May got her first close-up shot.

      Of course, I ended up seeing the movie like 3 more times in theaters, a few more on cable and getting it on VHS, lol…

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