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Lifeforce – Arrow Video Review


Tobe Hooper was a director who burst onto the scene with the notorious Texas Chainsaw Massacre and hit the mainstream with Poltergeist but has since had a very hit and miss career. Cannon Films approached him to direct a film version of the novel Space Vampires by Colin Wilson, later changed to Lifeforce.

Halley’s Comet returns to Earth and the English/American team aboard the shuttle are making a close-up survey of the comet, discover an alien spacecraft. Inside the spacecraft are some large bat-like creatures and in three cocoons are three “dead” humans – two men and a woman. The Shuttle takes the humans and a creature back to Earth. But before they reach home the shuttle is found burnt out and all but one of the crew – Carlsen – dead. The humans/aliens from the spacecraft suddenly awake and all those who come into contact with them are drained of their “lifeforce” and are turned into zombies all preying on the horrified survivors. It’s up to Carlsen and Major Caine of the SAS to stop them before the whole world turns into zombie chaos.

You know the saying “it’s so bad its good” well Lifeforce certainly fits into that category. With some top name British actors and the beautiful Mathilda May, who spends most of the film walking around naked, the film falls into a series of absurd set pieces and dialogue that will have you laughing or cringing depending on your mood.

zombie from lifeforce

You can take the film as a guilty pleasure, the excellent special effects still stand up well today, and the film belts along at a great pace. No way can anybody call Lifeforce a good film, but fans of horror, sci-fi, and gorgeous naked women will certainly find themselves entertained for two hours.

Arrow films have gone all out to give Lifeforce a special edition 2 disc release. On disc one, you have the longer and better international cut (116 mins) of the film. The 1080P transfer is excellent, lots of detail, solid black levels and eye-popping colours. With the sound, you have uncompressed 2.0 Stereo PCM and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround Sound. Both are good, but the DTS mix has one of the most aggressive surround mixes I have heard in a long time and really takes you into the film.

Extras are what Arrow are also known for and you get a fantastic mix on this set. Firstly is the isolated music and effects soundtrack. One of the best things about the film is the superb soundtrack by Henri Mancini and this is a nice extra touch. There are 3 Audio commentaries, the first with Tobe Hooper, moderated by filmmaker Tim Sullivan, another with Academy Award-winning visual effects artist Douglas Smith, moderated by filmmaker and scholar Howard S. Berger and finally with make-up effects artist Nick Maley, moderated by filmmaker Michael Felsher.

lifeforce cast

Next is a great documentary called ” Cannon Fodder” The Making of Lifeforce – A UK-exclusive look at the genesis, production and release of Lifeforce featuring interviews with Hooper, producer Michael J. Kagan, editor John Grover, actors Aubrey Morris and Nicholas Ball, makeup artist Sandra Exelby, screenwriter Michael Armstrong, sound designer Vernon Messenger, artistic designers Tom Adams and Douglas Smith and effects artist John Schoonraad. This gives some informative and amusing anecdotes about the making of the film, cast, crew etc.

Other extras:

  • Space Vampires in London: An interview with Tobe Hooper in which he discusses the problems of making Lifeforce and the difficulties involved.
  • Dangerous Beauty: An interview with Mathilda May, Lifeforce’s star talks candidly and eloquently about her time of filming Lifeforce, the nudity involved and how this was her first time in London and she spoke little English!
  • Carlsen’s Curse: Star Steve Railsback looks back on Lifeforce and his subsequent career.
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by science fiction expert Bill Warren, a new interview with Oscar-winning visual effects artist John Dykstra by Calum Waddell, illustrated with original archive stills and posters
  • Trailers

Disc 2 has the theatrical cut in HD, definitely inferior to the International version, 14 minutes were cut out for this version, dialogue, some nudity, a lot of the opening with the space shuttle and other bits and pieces. After watching the longer version I would say this is for completists only.

Lifeforce is certainly not a good film, but it is a lot of fun and fans of the film definitely have the ultimate edition with this release.

Also available as a limited edition steelbook.



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