Feature Friday: “Dark Star” (1974)

I caught up with Dark Star only a few years back, at one of the Music Box‘s science-fiction marathons. I was pleased to discover that Dark Star ranks among John Carpenter’s best, while at the same time standing out due to its odd, grim humor. (Kubrick’s influence hangs over the picture, which pokes lovingly not only at 2001—just look at the opening scene—but Dr. Strangelove.) Much of the comedy is also due to the presence of writer/star/production designer/editor Dan O’Bannon, the brilliant screenwriter behind Alien and Total Recall and Lifeforce. Appropriately, Dark Star contains lots of swipes from Philip K. Dick, as well as some ideas that would later infiltrate Alien: the cramped and tedious corporate working condition, an ornery alien creature running amok…

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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.

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Lifeforce—or, Mary Poppins Is a Naked Space Vampire

Space Girl (Mathilda May) (Possibly related to Moon Maid?)

[Update 7 April 2012: I wrote a bit more about the film here, and you can find the entire thing here.]

Tobe Hooper‘s science-fiction/horror film Lifeforce (1985)—and I’ll confess right up front that it’s one of my guiltiest 80s pleasures, despite it not being “all that good”—is a mess. It begins as an Alien ripoff, rapidly veers into sexploitation territory (where it dwells for a good long while), drops by an insane asylum to pick up some Gothic overtones, then devolves into a relatively generic zombie movie before metamorphosing one last time into something of a vampire flick (which it’s supposedly been all along).

The plot, very briefly:

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