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Feature Friday: “Lifeforce” (1985)

I’ve already written at length about this one, a sci-fi alien-invasion zombie gothic horror movie that lurches crazily between genres and plot points while audaciously justifying excessive, excessive, excessive nudity and poetically innovative special effects—and still finds room to let Patrick Stewart kiss a man. But allow me to write a bit more!

Because although Lifeforce (1985) steals shamelessly from many other films—2001, Alien, Erotic Kill, Planet of the Vampires—there is no other movie like Lifeforce.

The screenplay is by Dan O’Bannon, the brilliant screenwriter behind several of the films that Lifeforce pilfers—namely Alien and The Return of the Living Dead; he also penned screenplays for Dark Star, Total Recall, and so much more. (It’s based on a novel, The Space Vampires, by the ultra-prolific Colin Wilson.)

The beautifully aimless direction is by Tobe Hooper, the man behind The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist (although debate surrounds how much he did on that one). His work here is practically Philip K. Dickian, in that the movie seems to keep forgetting, every fifteen minutes, all that’s happened.

The score (most of it, at least) is by Henry Mancini, the composer behind Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Charade and of course the Pink Panther movies (and theme). He claims that most of what he wrote got chucked from the film, but what remains is a wonderfully playful take on John Williams. (Michael Kamen provided other bits, right around the same time he was scoring The Dead Zone, Brazil, Mona Lisa, and Highlander. Quite a year!)

Finally, and most impressively, the film stars the unsinkable Mathilda May, an alien vampire come to wreak feminine—and possibly feminist?—terror on a cast of weak ineffectual men who stack up one by one beneath her ample, uh, spells.

Just yesterday—day of days!—I discovered that the entire film is online in a single file!

Let he or she
who did not
this movie
answer to me.

  • A. D. Jameson is the author of five books, most recently I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING: STAR WARS AND THE TRIUMPH OF GEEK CULTURE and CINEMAPS: AN ATLAS OF 35 GREAT MOVIES (with artist Andrew DeGraff). Last May, he received his Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the Program for Writers at UIC.

8 thoughts on “Feature Friday: “Lifeforce” (1985)

  1. Excellent post! I finally got around to watching this movie (despite opportunities to see it in my youth) late last year after reading your review about Mary Poppins being a space vampire. For all it’s incredible and stunning flaws, it’s an entertaining film on multiple levels. I find that quite an achievement.

    1. Oh, great! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      “Incredible and stunning flaws” is absolutely correct. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t change a second of it.

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