Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lifeforce (Tobe Hooper, 1985)

I've got good news for all of you crybabies who are constantly worrying about not being around after you die. Are you sitting down? It would seem that there is life after death. Isn't that great? Unfortunately, the bad news is your everlasting soul is going to be immediately sucked up by the bat-like aliens currently orbiting the earth in their umbrella-shaped spaceship. That's right. If you had hoped to spend the next five or so years haunting the living fuck out of your obnoxious neighbours after you kicked the bucket, you can forget about it. Your spirit is needed elsewhere. To be more specific, your energy, or, "lifeforce" is required to help feed a race of sophisticated space vampires. While all this talk about the after life and vampires from outer space is fascinating, what does the plot of Lifeforce entail? I mean, you're already halfway through your first paragraph and you have yet to touch on the film you're purportedly writing about. Oh, haven't I? What? No. Really? Get out of here. You mean to tell me that Lifeforce, directed by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) and produced by Menahem Golan (The Apple) and Yoram Globus, is about space vampires?!? No way. That's impossible. For one thing, the film is filled with classically trained British actors. First of all, I don't know what it is about the cast being predominantly British that makes you to doubt its existence. And secondly, to answer your question, yes, that's exactly what the film's about. Now, you can either remain wrapped in a veil of denial or come with me as I bask in the first-rate insanity Lifeforce was putting out there on a semi-regular basis. So, which is it going to be?
Judging by the fact that you're still here, I take it you're ready to dive headfirst into this film's kooky world of shapely, naked space vampires who are able to woo impressionable astronauts with a nipple-protruding ease. Wait a minute. Hold on. You never mentioned that the space vampires were naked. I didn't? Huh, that's funny. I'm usually quite reliable when it comes relaying details like that, especially when they involve naked space vampires who are purported to be shapely. Anyway, they're naked, all right. Naked for an extended period of time, if memory serves me correctly. Okay, I got it, they're not wearing any clothes. You make me sound like some kind of pervert who only cares about nudity. Well, aren't you? Pish motherfucking posh! I'm a well-rounded movie watcher whose interests are the epitome of multifarious.
Watching you get all defensive about the space vampires lack of clothing reminded me the way some of the characters behaved when they come face-to-face with the naked space vampires for the very first time. Reduced to a blithering pile of heterosexual inadequacy, most people, particularly males, when they meet the space vampire at the centre of this crafty enterprise can hardly move. Stricken with something I like to call, "erotic dementia," the men in this movie act as if they have never seen a naked woman in the flesh before. Is it because they're repressed? Nah, British people are surprisingly sexual. Which reminds me, is it because they're British? Don't be daft. Perversion is alive and well in Britain (they have photos of topless women next to the five-day forecast in their newspapers).
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the reason the men were so enamoured with the naked space vampire was because she was just that, a naked space vampire. Sure, most guys will go goo goo gaga over a housewife from Surry prancing around a field nothing but a garter belt and stockings, but put them in front of a naked space vampire, and we're talking total sexual subservience up in this girdle factory.
How do I know all this? Just ask Col. Tom Carlson (Steve Railsback), commander of the H.M.S. Churchill, a space shuttle headed to Halley's Comet, he knows all about the intrinsic allure of naked space vampires. His date with a naked space vampire begins when his shuttle approaches the comet, and the crew (a joint mission between British and American astronauts) spot a needle-like structure floating near the comet's tail.
Measured at around 150 miles long, Col. Carlson decides to lead a team to investigate the strange object. What do they find? What do think you think? That's right, large, desiccated, bat-like creatures. As they're bagging one of the giant bats to take back to their ship, the alien vessel literally opens its umbrella. After that occurs, a door opens. Inside they find three transparent cases containing three naked humanoids. Ignoring the naked fellas, Col. Carlson is drawn to the female (after he puts his tongue back in his mouth, he orders his away team to bring all three of them aboard).
Jumping forward thirty days, we find out that the Churchill is currently floating in space above the earth and isn't responding to hails from British mission control. Worried, the Brits enlist the help of the Columbia shuttle. And before you can say, "Houston, we have a problem" (something that is actually said in this movie), the rescue team find nothing but charred bodies and three transparent cases containing three...well, you know what they contain. 
Undamaged by the apparent inferno that took place aboard the Churchill, the three cases are brought back to England to be studied. If a professional astronaut had trouble resisting the womanly curves of the naked female (Mathilda May) under glass, what chance does a lowly security guard have? Let me tell you, he's doesn't have a prayer. And what do you know, a security guard is standing over the encased female with an inquisitive expression on his face that practically screams sex. Instead of biting him, like a normal vampire, she casually sucks out his lifeforce through his eyes, nose, ears, and mouth (i.e. anything with a hole), reducing him to a shriveled raisin of a man. Rejuvenated by the guard's energy, the naked female gets up and heads out the door. On the way out, the space woman grabs some energy from Dr. Bukovsky (Michael Gothard)–who must open at least twenty glass doors in order to get to the lab–but not enough energy to cause him to shrivel up, and she zaps a few guards along the way.
As the survivors of the naked space ladies escape are regrouping, including the aforementioned Dr. Bukovsky and a Dr. Fallada (Frank Finlay), a new character bursts onto the scene. I'll admit, when I first saw Col. Colin Caine (Peter Firth), Special Air Service, arrive to investigate the weird goings on at the spacelab, I thought to myself, who's this pratt? Which is a thought I think a lot when watching movies such as this. You see, I usually cannot stand macho tough guys who think they're so cool. However, I found myself strangely not annoyed by this trench coat-wearing S.A.S. commando. Like most people, I assumed Col. Caine was there to antagonize the protagonists (i.e. be a major dick). But after about five seconds, I quickly realized that Col. Caine is not only a reasonable chap who's only interested in what's best for Britain, but he is, to put it bluntly, a badass. Again, and I can't emphasize this enough, I'm wired to hate this guy, but I thought every decision he made was the correct one. In fact, every time an idea was thrown out there regarding what to do about the naked female vampire who drains people of their lifeforce, I would look to Col. Caine, and if he nodded in agreement, I would nod as well.
If you thought Col. Caine was a badass as a solo act, you should see him when he's paired with Col. Carlson. Wait, didn't he die in the Churchill? No, apparently he survived. Anyway, Col. Carlson is brought over to England to help Col. Caine piece together the events that occurred on the Churchill. 'Cause if you remember, we're not told what happened after the naked humanoids are brought aboard the Churchill. And according to Col. Carlson, things were quite insane. Actually, some might say what occurred aboard the Churchill is now taking place on earth.
Leaving shriveled bodies in her wake, the naked female humanoid starts to hop from body to body. My favourite being the body belonging to the gorgeous Nancy Paul, who plays a redheaded nurse named Ellen. Call me crazy, but I much preferred Nancy Paul over Mathilda May. Call me even crazier, but the sight of Nancy Paul walking in a black raincoat is way more sexy than any of the scenes that feature Mathilda May walking around naked. I know, I know, that's a lot of craziness to digest all at once. Buy, hey, I'm just being honest. I should start a support group for people who prefer a fully-clothed Nancy Paul over a completely naked Mathilda May. Yeah, that's a terrible idea.
Speaking of a fully-clothed redheads, the scene where a hypnotized Col. Carlson enters the mind of the space chick (yeah, he can totally do that) as she's wooing a man in a Volvo in the body of Nancy Paul was the film's sexiest. Now a strawberry-flavoured redhead with seductive eyes, the space girl has to feed on human energy to remain strong. But she doesn't want to leave a trail of wrinkled corpses in her wake. Good golly, what's a peckish space vampire to do? Suck in moderation, that's what. Taking little bits of energy here and there, the space girl feeds on people by extracting only what she needs, leaving the sucked party only a tad groggy.
In order to entice a male Volvo driver, the Nancy Paul version of the space vampire uses the ashen smoothness of her thighs to lull her victim into a state of erotic complacency. Inviting the male Volvo driver to caress her left thigh by lifting up skirt well above her knees, Nancy Paul is well on her way to getting the energy her supple body needs.
I think we can all agree that no one wants to see the Patrick Stewart version of the space vampire walking around naked. I have nothing against Patrick Stewart or his body. It's just that, to quote Elaine from the Seinfeld episode, The Apology,  "Whoa! Walking around naked? Ahh…that is not a good look for a man."
As more and more people come in contact with the space vampire, the more chaotic the situation becomes in Britain. Which is a bit of an understatement really, especially when you consider the fact that London is swarming with wrinkly zombies. You could say that the nation's world renowned stiff upper lip has become in desperate need of some kind of lubricant. But I'm not going to be the one to say something that egregiously lame. If you like movies where respected British actors and Steve Railsback openly talk about being in love with a vampire chick from outer space, you'll love Lifeforce. Of course, Peter Firth does not once express feelings of love toward any of the creature's many incarnations. Though, Peter Firth's character (I love the way he answers the phone simply by saying, "Caine!") does say that's he's a voyeur at heart at one point, which made me like him even more. At any rate, if you like the things I just listed, and dig high concept science fiction that takes itself way too seriously, you need to see this flick pronto. Even more so if your name is Tonto and you live in Toronto.

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  1. I have always loved this film.
    It starts out fast and just keeps running. The music is by Henry Mancini and I kick myself every time I remember that I could have bought the soundtrack and did not.
    As for your choice in women, I am sure your girlfriend appreciates your choice not to pick Ms. May. I am sure she also believes you read Playboy for the articles.

  2. It's insane that the relatively sober minded book this is based on (lots of new age spiritual energy mumbo jumbo) is called "The Space Vampires" while this unhinged ode to nudity and muppet zombies is called "Lifeforce." Someone once suggested that the titles should be reversed, and I completely agree.

  3. Yeah, sadly I prefer Mathilda May as well; despite my usual attraction to redheads. Lifeforce was based off a book called the Space Vampires by Colin Wilson, and this is one of the few cases where I've found the movie to be better than the book. What I find really funny is that the movie and the book really should have switched titles. Oh, and Yum Yum, I'm disappointed in you. You never once mentioned how phallic the alien spaceship is.

  4. @Lacey: If I was to read Playboy, it would be for the Patrick Nagel illustrations. ;)

    @Knarf Black XIV: If this film had been called "The Space Vampires," I probably wouldn't have waited twenty-five years to see it. In other words, I would have been first in line when it came out.

    @Nine-Fingered Menace: Weird. Knarf said, as you can now clearly see, the exact same thing about the switching the titles.

    You mean to tell me that not once did I refer to the alien spaceship's phallic appearance? That's so unlike me.

    Note to self: The next time you watch a film that features a spaceship that looks like a giant cock, make sure to point it out. ;)

  5. Giant cocks make me feel like slitting my wrists in the shower stall.

    Anywho, moving on, I'm on my third bottle of soju in under three hours, but I'm of pure Ukrainian Jew-Irish Catholic Heritage and bulky (thus the very unhappy blog of unhaappy nihilism duhhhh) so I only need another two get me really gone. There are little bottles. Actually, I finished writting by sixthy grant in six months, and if i don't get this funding i'm beyond fucked, plus i'm also working on three seminar courses right now, two for my disertatation, which involve using five different lanugages for my researach, english, contemporary japanese, classical japanese, kambun (which is a syntatic hybrid of classical japanese with classical chinese, which i use to read buddhist temple record from 15th century japan), and classical chinese, anyway i am actually relaxing for the first time in a long time and watching movies. i am watching Kaji Meiko films and Yum-Yum, you TOTALLY need to watch Ishii Teruo's "Kaidan Nobori Ryu" from 1970. Its a gloreous beaoutieiuys film of stunning artistic merit even if i awant drinkin korean alcohol. honestly, if you liked Female Prisoner Scorpion, this is 10000000000000000 times better, and I'll even write up detailed notes over my winter break to explain all of the cultural and occult information that would make no sense unless you are me and have been involved with this stuff yr whole life. i can even send you the film!!!!! it is great. i love this website and thank you for all the fun reviews. i'm, sorry i always post unrealated crap in yr comments. but Lydia Lunch playing with my hair was a big deal.

    oh, and the women in playboy are fake and gross. give me Lung Leg circa 1986 anyday,

  6. Soju is a Korean vodka drink.

    The Tattooed Swordswoman, eh? Okay, I totally will.

    Once you recommend a movie that I review on this site, it earns you the right to leave any comment you see fit. If it sounds like I just made that up, that's because I just did. But it's the truth.

    I don't like fake and gross, either. Well, I like gross. But not when it's paired with fake. ;)

    I've got some Lung Leg-centric film reviews coming soon.

  7. I love this movie. Especially the third act where London has turned into a vampire/zombie riot zone. People running around screaming...balls of extraterrestrial light zapping the lifeforce out of people...this is what all popcorn movies should aspire to!

  8. I totally believed that London was being overrun by vampire zombies from outer space.