Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce is an entertaining blend of vampires, science fiction, and zombie apocalypse, made long before these themes were “hip.” The film is also an homage to the Hammer Studio films of the 1960s, with a delightful British cast featuring Peter Firth (MI-5), Aubrey Morris (A Clockwork Orange), and Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation), American Steve Railsback (The Stunt Man), and the stunning French beauty Mathilda May in her major film debut.
Studio: Scream Factory
Distributed By: Shout! Factory
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/MPEG-2, 480P/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 5.1 DD, English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Run Time: 1 Hr. 56 Min. (Director's Cut), 1 Hr. 41 Min. (US Theatrical Cut)
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVDDual Blu-ray Keepcase
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
Region: A, 1
Release Date: 06/18/2013
Space shuttle Churchill, on a joint US-UK space mission to investigate Halley’s Comet, stumble across an alien spaceship hidden in the head of the comet and find three human-like life forms (two male and one female) aboard. The crew, lead by Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback), rescue them and begin to bring them back to Earth. When the Churchill re-enters Earth’s orbit, the crew are found dead while the humanoids are found perfectly preserved in stasis, with the exception of Carlsen, who is found on Earth in an escape pod. When the female humanoid (Mathilda May) is revived, she begins literally sucking the lifeforce out of everyone she comes into contact with, then disappears. The British SAS, lead by Col. Colin Caine (Peter Firth), request the assistance of Carlsen to investigate. It turns out, Carlsen has a connection to the female, and they begin the hunt to locate her before all of London is transformed into zombies.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
Lifeforce was Tobe Hooper’s follow-up to the Steven Spielberg written and produced Poltergeist, and was his chance to helm a big-budget (by Canon Film Group standards) summer blockbuster when Menahem Golan purchased the rights to the novel Space Vampires by Colin Wilson. Hooper hired Blue Thunder screenwriters Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby to pen the script, and the three definitely brought a matinee-style fun to the picture. The visual effects by John Dykstra (Star Wars, Battlestar Gallactica), for the most part, still hold up by today’s standards, as do the make-up effects by Nick Maley (Krull).
The film may be Tobe Hooper’s most under-rated film, a love letter, of sorts, to the Hammer Studios films from the 1960s, reflected best in both the production design by John Graysmark (The Bounty) and cinematography by Alan Hume (Return of the Jedi). Patrick Stewart has a small but pivotal role, long before being cast as Picard in Star Trek: TNG, and Mathilda May is simply breathtaking (and quite possibly the reason for the film’s cult status among teenage boys who stayed up late to catch Lifeforce on cable back in the day).
The 1080p transfer of the director’s cut, supervised by Tobe Hooper and compressed using the AVC codec, retains the film’s intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with well-saturated and consistent colors, deep blacks, exceptional detail, all the while retaining a film-like image with grain intact. The shorter, US theatrical cut is also included as a bonus feature in 1080p, and although it is compressed using MPEG-2, the quality is a near-match to the director’s cut.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The director’s cut includes a 5.1 mix (attempting to replicate the film’s 70mm theatrical prints) and a 2.0 stereo surround mix (replicating the 35mm prints), both compressed using DTS-HD Master Audio. While the 5.1 mix has terrific dynamic range, I felt the surrounds were mixed a bit too heavy, often overpowering the dialogue. I never saw Lifeforce in a theater, so perhaps that was how the 70mm prints were also mixed. The 2.0 matrixed surround mix was much more balanced, with clear dialogue throughout.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper: Hooper and moderator Tim Sullivan discuss making Lifeforce.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentary with Make-up Effects Supervisor Nick Maley: Maley is joined by DVD producer Michael Felsher, and the two discuss Maley’s work on Lifeforce as well as his career as a make-up artist.
Dangerous Beauty With Mathilda May (HD; 15:16): The actress discusses her career and appearing au naturel throughout most of Lifeforce.
Space Vampires In London With Tobe Hooper (HD; 9:58): The director discusses how the film came to be, the title change, and other matters.
Carsen’s Curse With Steve Railsback (HD; 7:07): The actor discusses making the film and his career.
Making of Lifeforce (SD; 21:18): Original EPK documentary on the film.
Theatrical Trailers (HD; 3:33): Both the Tri-Star and Canon Group trailers.
TV Spot (SD; 0:30)
Still Gallery (HD; 5:17): A collection of production and promotional stills.
Reversible Insert: Purchasers have their choice of the newer artwork or the classic, original poster art as the insert cover.
DVD Copy: The director’s cut is presented in standard definition video with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo tracks, along with all of the Blu-ray’s special features, except for the US Theatrical Cut.
Another fantastic release of a lesser-known cult horror film from Shout! Factory, with a terrific audio/video presentation and a fun set of extras that will please fans of the film.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
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