1985 science fiction movie
Based on the novel The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson.
“From the Director of Poltergeist” Tobe Hooper.
“From the Writer of Alien” Dan O’Bannon.
Special effects by Academy Award winner John Dykstra, who did the special effects for Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Star Trek the Motion Picture.
Music by Henry Mancini.
Steve Railsback as Col. Tom Carlsenm commander of Space Shuttle Churchill
Scream Factory announced they will be releasing Lifeforce on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack on 18 June 2013.
Lifeforce is not the best science fiction movie of all time, but it continues to be my favorite science fiction movie of all time. It is also classified as horror, and includes the genre of Vampire Literature.
Lifeforce includes people turned into zombies by the space vampires, so if you are a fan of The Walking Dead and zombies in general, as well as vampires, then you will like Lifeforce.
The space vampires do not take your blood. They take your lifeforce. They take your soul and use it for food for them, and maybe fuel for their starship.
I’ve never seen the movie in a theater. I didn’t even see the ad for when it was in movie theaters in 1985. It did not do well in the theaters. It went to extra-pay cable TV before it went to VCR, which was long before it went to DVD. It was briefly at Hulu.
It was late in 1986 when I first saw Lifeforce. A Sunday afternoon about 3:55pm, when I was bored, I looked in TV Guide for something to watch on TV. At first, found nothing. Then I noticed the listing for Lifeforce at 4:00pm, so I had about 5 minutes to think about it. I don’t now recall if it was Cinemax, or HBO, or Showtime, but it was on one of those. The description about vampires from outer space terrorizing London did not make it sound like a winner, so I almost didn’t watch it. Even so, I was so bored I decided to give it a look, to see if its beginning could win me over for the duration of the movie…
OH MY GOD!!! Instantly, I went to the edge of my chair, then moved the chair closer to the TV. No, this is not just a dumb vampire movie.
I wasn’t expecting a special effects beginning that rivaled the beginning of Star Wars with the massive starship. Space Shuttle Churchill, arriving at Halley’s Comet on a science mission, discovers a 150-mile long alien star ship hidden in the corona of the comet. The astronauts go aboard and at first find dead alien creatures resembling a horrifying combination of bats and gargoyles. Then they find three humanoids. Two males and one female. Apparently human. Nude.
Full frontal nudity on the female vampire then and through most of the movie, so you will never see Lifeforce on network TV. So far as I know and remember, this is the only science fiction movie with full frontal nudity of an actress, that is serious quality drama rather than a goofy sex farce. It does give the story an additional element of realism, rather than hiding the nudity of the character.
The female vampire is played by French actress Mathilda May. Lifeforce is her first movie. If you Google Search Videos for “Mathilda May Lifeforce nude” then you will find clips of those scenes in the movie at various video websites except of course YouTube.
The three human-like aliens are in suspended animation inside large crystals.
The astronauts take the hibernation chambers with the three aliens aboard the space shuttle, and then head back to Earth. By the time Churchill returns to Earth, all are dead except Carlsen, the life sucked out of them. Carlsen used an escape pod to get away. The pod lands in Texas. After he is rescued he is taken to London. Meantime, the Churchill is recovered by other astronauts in orbit of Earth. The aliens are taken to a special location to be examined. The two male vampires are apparently killed in a fight after becoming conscious, but their demon-like spirits possess a couple of humans. The alien star ship leaves Halley’s Comet and heads to Earth. Then the male vampires began to turn the population of London into zombies, and beam their souls up to the alien star ship. The female vampire has also escaped and does some body-hopping, including into the body of Dr. Armstrong played by Patrick Stewart.
Carlsen survived because . . . the female vampire tells him . . . “The web of destiny carries your blood and soul back to the genesis of my lifeform. You’re one of us. You always have been. You’re like me. Be with me. Just a little more.”
The implication is Carlsen has the soul or spirit of a space vampire, who was left behind on Earth during the previous visit of the alien starship the last time Halley’s Comet was close to Earth 75 years ago. Reincarnated into more than one human life until the return of the starship. Now, fully fueled and supplied with human souls, the starship head’s back toward Haley’s Comet, perhaps with Carlson as its old or new captain.
Horror is what you feel when you see what the space vampires really look like in their natural form, rather than the forms they can assume as shape-shifters. Terror is what you feel when you realize one of them has seen you.
Most movie critics didn’t like Lifeforce. They didn’t understand what the movie is about and said so. Exploding zombies, vampires that take souls instead of blood, and the nudity of the female vampire as a kind of honey trap for Carlsen. The nudity probably did more harm than good for the movie. Most people didn’t expect to see nudity, especially full frontal nudity, in a top quality science fiction horror movie made by some of the best people in the business. Imagine what the result would have been if Carrie Fisher had been completely nude through most of Star Wars.
There are some major differences between The Space Vampires novel and the movie version Lifeforce. I didn’t like the novel and style of writing, but it was a brilliant idea by Colin Wilson. Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby did a much better job on the screenplay. I felt the same about the novel Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle, compared to the superior screenplay of the 1968 movie that was written by Michael Wilson, and Rod Serling who created The Twilight Zone. It was Rod Serling who gave the movie the famous Statue of Liberty ending, significantly different from the novel. I didn’t like the novel.
I have yet to see the longer uncut version of Lifeforce, which will be on the new Blu-ray and DVD in June 2013.