LIFEFORCE — Special Edition Blu-Ray / Review
‘That girl is no girl, she’s totally alien to this planet and our life form. And totally dangerous.’
Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (1985) was one of the biggest film productions made at Elstree during a period when the British film industry was still in the doldrums. Since the Tory election victory of 1979 already declining film production was hit even harder by new legislation. During the mid-1970s British production seemed focused on low budget exploitation films, big screen outings for television comedies or prestigious period and literary adaptations. The technical expertise of British studios was, however, in huge demand internationally and was boosted significantly after the enormous success of Star Wars (1977).
Yet, fewer British films were made in 1980 and 1981 in any year since 1914 and the incoming government cut off various funding arrangements that industry relied upon, tightening up tax regulations, suspending the quota system and abolishing both the Eady Levy and the National Film Finance Corporation as part of 1985’s Film Act. British films continued to decline during the second half of the 1980s with only 30 home-grown productions made in 1989.
Rank and EMI gradually withdrew from film production and a group of smaller, independent companies, including Goldcrest, Handmade and Channel 4 were left with the difficulty of trying to raise funding for their productions in the UK. Into this depressing situation arrived the Cannon Group. Founded in 1967 by Dennis Friedland and Chris Dewey, Cannon had produced a string of low budget films, usually within a budget of $300,000 per film. They also co-produced and distributed a number of films for the US market, notably Michael Reeves’ The Sorcerers (1967), The Beast in the Cellar (1970) and Piers Haggard’s Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971).
In 1979 financial troubles saw the company sold for $500,000 to Israeli cousins Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus. Golan and Globus, known as the ‘Go-Go boys’ in Hollywood, established a business model for the company where the pre-selling of films generated cash flow. They were able to develop a slate of films which already had recouped their budgets before the cameras even started turning. Pre-selling rights to television, cable and the rapidly expanding home video market of the 1980s covered costs. Marketing was their key to producing profitable, low budget exploitation films. Even Roger Corman dubbed Golan as ‘the master of the pre-sell on the international market’. 
Although mainly remembered for their slew of exploitation films, including the Death Wish sequels and the oeuvre of Chuck Norris (a seven-year deal valued at $21 million), they did expand their output to include musicals, comedies, science fiction and art house movies. Their push to break out of the exploitation market included the production of such high-brow fare as John Cassavetes’ Love Streams (1984) and Godard’s King Lear (1987).
They were not only active in production, but also in distribution and exhibition, including a lucrative deal with MGM/UA. Supported by Credit Lyonnais, they bought distributors, independent production companies, back catalogues and cinema chains in the US, Netherlands, Italy and Germany. By 1982 they had 20 films in production and at their peak, in 1986, they had 43 films on a slate which easily embarrassed any major Hollywood studio.
In 1982, Cannon bought Classic, the UK’s third biggest chain of cinemas, for £7 million and thus acquired 67 cinemas and 130 screens rebranded as Cannon-Classic. They then consolidated this by buying the 37 cinemas of the Star circuit in 1985. This made the Cannon Group the second biggest on the exhibition circuit and in 1986 they added the ABC chain and Elstree Studios to their portfolio when they bought Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment for £175 million. At this point they had a 40% share of the market. By the time Cannon Films had released Lifeforce in 1985, they were at the height of their endeavours in the beleaguered British film industry.
Lifeforce originated in a 1976 novel by Colin Wilson, The Space Vampires. According to Wilson’s autobiography Dreaming to Some Purpose, the story was inspired by a dream he had about a fifty mile long spaceship ‘full of holes made by space debris’. Describing it as ‘Dracula’s castle in the sky’ he fashioned this idea into a book in which an exploratory space vessel from the late 21st century, the Hermes, discovers the wreck and recovers three bodies, one female and two males. The three humanoids are a variation on the theme of psychic vampires, beings who can control or drain the life force from their victims. 
Captain Carlsen, the book’s main protagonist, joins forces with Dr Hans Fallada, a scientist researching energy vampirism and longevity, to recapture the female vampire when she escapes. They discover the aliens can transfer from one body to another as a form of energy vampirism and come to understand that this potential exists in humans as a parallel between vampirism, sexual fetishism and criminality. Wilson himself believed the novel was an exploration of the sexual impulse, ‘that sex is somehow an exchange of vital energies.’
‘Instead of blood, these vampires feed on energy.’
In May 1981, Wilson was approached by Cannon, who had optioned the rights to The Space Vampires in 1979, and was paid $13,000 as the company had decided to take up the option, adapt the book and proceed into production of the film. Over the next five years, Cannon wrestled with the development of the script. Their screenplay adaptation was written by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby after the book was recommended to director Tobe Hooper and he was asked to make the film by Golan and Globus.
O’Bannon, a science fiction and horror enthusiast, had met Jakoby while studying at USC Film School and where, with John Carpenter, O’Bannon had written, shot and edited their student film Dark Star (1974). He then worked on the animation effects for Star Wars (1977) and was hired by Alejandro Jodorowsky to supervise visual effects for his production of Dune. When this production collapsed, O’Bannon slept on his friend Ron Shussett’s couch and between them they crafted the screenplay for what would eventually become Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979).
After writing some of the segments — ‘Soft Landing’ and ‘B-17’ for the Canadian animation feature Heavy Metal (1981), O’Bannon and Jakoby collaborated on the script for Blue Thunder (1983). Their experience on the John Badham film, about a Los Angeles helicopter surveillance team, was a portent of things to come as the political tone of their thriller was jettisoned in favour of wisecracks provided by another script writer, Dean Reisner. Jakoby explained further: ‘Badham saw the chase and the film as a comic strip for a 12-year old. We saw it as a life-and-death shoot-out with professional military hardware over a major metropolitan city. It was intended to be serious, not jocular.’ 
O’Bannon and Jakoby continued as creative consultants on the spin-off TV show of Blue Thunder (ABC, 1984) but it was an unhappy experience. Before they completed the screenplay of Lifeforce, Jakoby then made several polishes to the screenplay of Stewart Raffill’s The Philadelphia Experiment (1984) and O’Bannon stepped in as director of Return of the Living Dead (1985) after original director Hooper had declined and instead signed on the dotted line with Cannon to direct Lifeforce, then still known as The Space Vampires, as part of a lucrative three-picture deal with the company.
Jakoby recalled that, over several years since the optioning of the book, eight different drafts of the Lifeforce script existed. All ‘were atrocious to varying degrees’ and adapting the novel had proved difficult. The film differs from the book in many ways. At Hooper’s suggestion, the setting was changed to modern day and incorporated the 1986 flyby of Halley’s comet as a sub-plot. The character of SAS Colonel Caine is also much more prominent. The vampires reflect certain traditional legends and the turning of their victims is depicted as an out-of-control contagion in the film rather than the more spiritual expression of the book.
‘It turned out to be an interesting script. Lifeforce deals with a variation of the vampire theme, as did Wilson’s novel. Instead of blood, these vampires feed on energy. We treat vampirism in this film as a disease — a contagious disease — rather than focus on the poor guy up all night trying to get his fix before the sun rises. We treat it as a social contagion which spreads rapidly and becomes quite horrifying,’ Jakoby explained shortly after the film’s release. 
Lifeforce, for which filming began on 2 February 1984, was an immense, sprawling production helmed by Hooper. In the ten years since his dramatic horror film debut with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974, Hooper’s career seemed to always take two steps back after each step forward.
Eaten Alive (1975) was considered a failure in trying to recapture elements of his debut and Hooper moved briefly and quite successfully into television to direct the mini-series of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (CBS/Warner 1979) where, as he told Cinefantastique at the time, his approach was very different from the visceral style of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: ‘This film is very spooky — it suggests things and always has the overtone of the grave. It affects you differently than my other horror films. It’s more soft-shelled.’
While Salem’s Lot, which was granted a European theatrical release, had provided Hooper with some kudos The Funhouse (1981), a combination of slasher flick and classic monster movie, didn’t really generate a lasting appeal with the horror film audience and was allegedly a troubled production with differences between Hooper and the producers. His biggest box office success followed with Poltergeist (1982), produced by Steven Spielberg. It was, again, not a pleasant experience for Hooper. He clashed with Spielberg and, while rumours abounded that Spielberg actually took directorial control of the film, Hooper denied that he was ever usurped from the director’s seat.
Hooper was allowed free reign with Lifeforce and the $25 million dollar film occupied him for a very long and complex six-month shoot. As the production began script writers Michael Armstrong and Olaf Pooley were brought on board and worked closely with many of the art and effects departments. Armstrong was ‘scripting what was being come up with or conceived by these storyboard artists. Particularly in the area effecting the special effects because when I read the script… it was very loosely written and hadn’t been broken down in actual cinematic terms for storyboarding.’ 
The story now saw the crew of space shuttle Churchill discover an alien craft in the corona of Halley’s comet, retrieve the bodies of the three vampires and attempt to bring them back to Earth. When contact is lost, the shuttle is found by a rescue mission. The crew are dead, the vehicle burnt out and the three vampires are brought to the European Space Research Centre, where they are examined and analysed by a team of scientists led by Dr. Leonard Bukovski (Michael Gothard) and Dr. Hans Fallada (Frank Finlay). Meanwhile, a survivor of the Churchill’s mission, Colonel Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback) arrives on Earth in an escape pod.
Debriefed in London, Carlsen explains the nature of the vampires and his efforts, by setting the ship on fire, to prevent them from reaching Earth. Their ability to drain the lifeforce of their victims initiates a plague across London and as chaos reigns he, Fallada and SAS Colonel Colin Caine (Peter Firth) discover that the vampires are channelling this accumulated energy back to their ship as the population of London are transformed into zombies. However, Carlsen has become obsessed with the female vampire and her nature seems to tap into something deep inside his psyche.
Original casting announcements in 1983 suggested John Gielgud, Klaus Kinski and Olivia Hussey were playing the leads. Gielgud was apparently the first choice for the role of Dr. Armstrong, the director of a psychiatric hospital and in whose body the female alien has hidden. Patrick Stewart was offered the part after Gielgud departed over a salary disagreement and other actors, including Harry Andrews and Tom Baker, had been considered for the role.
… the make up and hairdressing department had to trim down May’s pubic hair in fear of inciting the censor’s wrath
Kinski was originally offered the role of Hans Fallada and Hussey rejected the film, on the basis it would require too much nudity, when she thought she was being asked to play the female vampire. She was the original choice for Ellen Donaldson, Armstrong’s psychiatric nurse, eventually placed by Nancy Paul.
The casting of Peter Firth as Colonel Caine was, according to certain sources, settled after the first choice of Anthony Hopkins, then Terence Stamp and Michael Caine all proved unavailable. Michael Gothard, who was cast as Bukovski, had also tested for the role of Caine. The role of the Home Secretary Percy Heseltine was accepted by Aubrey Morris after Ronald Lacey rejected it because of the demands of the complex make up effects.
For the lead role of Tom Carlsen, Hooper sent the script to actor Steve Railsback. ‘Toby and I are from Texas and we had known each other for nine years. We had always wanted to work together but it had just never worked out — I was always doing something when one of his projects came up before this one. Then I got this script Space Vampires from my agent. He told me Tobe was directing and that he needed an answer in a couple of days. I read it once, wasn’t sure about it, so read it again. It seemed like a commercial venture that could make a good picture as well. So, I said yes.’ 
Railsback, a method actor trained in the Lee Strasberg Actors Studio, was probably best known at the time for his stunning work in Tom Gries’ TV movie Helter Skelter (ABC, 1976), playing Charles Manson, and for his role as Cameron, a Vietnam veteran on the run from the police who stumbles onto the set of a film production in Richard Rush’s brilliant The Stunt Man (1980).
Perhaps the most striking performer to grace the film, and certainly the centre of its appeal for a great percent of the male audience, was that provided by 18 year-old French actress and ballet dancer Mathilda May. She spent most of the film naked as the female vampire and was cast after Hooper discovered the English actors he called upon refused to play the part naked. Make up artist Sandra Exelby offers some amusing anecdotes on the disc’s documentary about the impact May’s scenes had on the crew and technicians and how the make up and hairdressing department had to trim down May’s pubic hair in fear of inciting the censor’s wrath.
The schedule on the film was extended due to the complex nature of the visual effects and prosthetics, supervised by Nick Maley, with Hooper often calling upon producer Michael Kagan to give him more time to complete certain sequences. Many of the delays were incurred by visual effects tests carried out by John Dykstra at Apogee where the production would have to wait for footage to come back from California to determine if it was usable or if it required Hooper to reshoot scenes. The opening sequence of the Churchill’s exploration of the alien ship also required time-consuming set ups on the Elstree sets using actors in flying harnesses to simulate weightlessness.
Golan and Globus would often take completed footage and use it to promote the film and raise more money in pre-sales as the budget escalated. They and distributor Tri Star eventually decided that the title Space Vampires was too close to Cannon’s exploitation roots (reminding them perhaps of Mario Bava’s similarly themed Italian science fiction film Planet of the Vampires), and considered a change of title to the more sober Lifeforce would improve the film’s box office appeal.
However, when Hooper presented them with his 128 minute original cut Golan and Globus took the film out of Hooper’s control and, as sound designer Vernon Messenger attests in the disc’s accompanying documentary, ‘hacked’ it down to a 101 minute version. This played in the US without sections of the superb Henry Mancini score because by the time the longer version had been edited and scored Mancini had already moved on to his next job. Michael Kamen was hurriedly brought in by Cannon to re-score the re-edited sections of the film. The full Mancini score only appeared in the 116 minute cut which opened in the UK and across Europe.
As Mancini told Randall Larsen: ‘I scored to the full length picture, but when it was finished the distributors from America got in with their axes. The original first twenty minutes of the film were like a ballet to me — that’s one of the reasons I was so interested in doing the film — and it was just beautiful. There were some lovely effects. But the picture ran two hours and five or ten minutes, and the distributors here got into it and started truncating. They eliminated almost all of the beginning.’ 
However, this was all to no avail. Lifeforce opened to lukewarm reviews and weak box office. This, coupled with an investigation into Cannon’s financial irregularities, signalled their demise. Janet Maslin, in the New York Times, described the resulting film as ‘nonetheless sterile. And Mr. Hooper, despite “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to his credit, doesn’t even make it scary’.
Author Colin Wilson, in his autobiography, was equally disappointed and memorably reflected that ‘John Fowles had once told me the film of The Magus was the worst movie ever made. After seeing Lifeforce I sent him a postcard telling him I had gone one better.’  Writers Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby ‘were very unhappy with Lifeforce and that bothered Tobe’ and yet Hooper remained defensive and suggested to Lee Goldberg in 1986: ‘If 27 minutes had not been cut and it had remained Space Vampires, you would have seen the movie in a whole different light.’ 
And seeing Lifeforce in a whole different light was perhaps Arrow’s intention with this Blu-Ray release of the restored film. Hooper’s film rather tenaciously wears its influences on its sleeve but, as the bizarre story unfolds, its often bombastic energy is appealing and, forgive the allusion, infectious. The epic scenes of London under attack from a zombie population nod back to Hammer’s Quatermass and the Pit (1967) and Hooper openly acknowledged that Lifeforce was his 70mm Hammer film. There are also touches of Italian exploitation films in some of the vivid colour schemes of blue and red, reminding the viewer of Mario Bava or Dario Argento.
Although many have compared Lifeforce to the Quatermass films, Hooper’s film doesn’t quite emulate Nigel Kneale’s transposition of mythology, superstition, witchcraft and ghosts onto a modern, rationalist world, although it does offer a refreshing angle on vampire mythology. It actually touches base significantly with the dystopian science fiction cinema of the 1950s, the disaster genre of the 1970s and parallels the traumatic disruption of human identity present in Alien (1979) and John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing (1982).
The opening sequence of the Churchill’s discovery of the alien ship in the tail of the comet and the subsequent exploration of its interior owes a great deal to Ridley Scott’s film, particularly the sexual symbolism of the alien ship being penetrated by human explorers. Figures are seen entering a phallic object and finding access to the interior through womb like structures as the crew of the Nostromo were similarly subjected to H. R. Giger’s deeply disturbing bio-mechnical expressions of the subconscious.
Even in the exploration of the inner chambers there is a deep contrast between vampiric forms and humanoid beauty, the bestial and the angelic. The beautiful humanoids encased in their glass coffins are surrounded by the desiccated bodies of huge bat creatures, a nod to the classical form of the vampire as well as an indication of the humanoids’ true form. Stacey Abbott sees their intent to drain the human race of its lifeforce, rather than blood, as the film’s ‘reinterpretation of the nineteenth-century equation of vampirism with sexually transmitted disease through the language of science than simply sex.’ 
‘… the masturbatory fantasy of being in love with such a ‘creature’’
While the glass coffins are seemingly cellular repositories containing the queen and her concubines, their clinical appearance anticipates the way bodies and diseases are catalogued and examined by science in the film. Corpses are constantly seen in hi-tech medical facilities and the naked vampires are also starkly contained within such scientific establishments until they become active and so explosive they can literally shatter the very buildings, and the forms of medical, military and legal power, that attempt to secure them.
If Alien was a nightmare predicated on the penetration and alteration of the human body and the strange reformulations that could occur when rapacious alien DNA combines with human physical frailty, then Lifeforce seems to be a response to the chaos of the neo-liberal agenda’s acute fear of sexually transmitted diseases, and with the 1980s in mind, specifically its reaction to AIDS. In essence, Lifeforce is about bodies and sexuality freed from repression and allowed to develop impulsively. Human beings diminish or explode, their urges and desires become unfettered as the vampires spread this contagion across London.
At the heart of the film is a male horror of rampant female power and sexuality. Mathilda May’s exploitation as an attractive and nubile young woman may well smack of a certain misogyny in the film but she is also rather a blatant symbol of what Hooper, O’Bannon and Jakoby are trying to say about male fear of the female other. For Colin Wilson, the novel was more about the ability to harness the sexual impulse as an evolutionary, perhaps spiritual force. Here, the idea of the unstoppable, alien woman is a throwback to 1950s exploitation science fiction such as Devil Girl From Mars (1954) or Fire Maidens From Outer Space (1954) where women both threaten and feed the fantasies of men.
Peter Wright aligns Lifeforce within a sub-genre of British horror films such as Inseminoid (1981) and Xtro (1982) where alien intrusion is codified as a conservative reaction to women, reproduction and patriarchal fantasy. He sees the Space Girl — this is how the Mathilda May character is credited in the film — as a figure who confidently rejects the male, middle class values of Britain. The theme of alien intrusion and reproduction reflects her attack on repression and conservatism, with the result that ‘Lifeforce shows England threatened not by alien manifestations alone but by the collapse of English reserve into unbridled debauchery.’  The writhing vampire bodies and hordes of zombies in the film, many of them depicted on the brink of sexual frustration as they seek to suck dry the populace, all suggest the energies of one vast orgasm are being gathered into space courtesy of John Dykstra’s optical effects.
The naked space girl is thus confronted by a cohort of respected British thespians — Frank Finlay, Patrick Stewart, Michael Gothard, Aubrey Morris and Peter Firth — as representations of male English class and power. It’s interesting to note that the American character of Carlsen is the one male figure to become obsessed by the female vampire, is seduced by her and develops a deeper understanding of her purpose before joining her in an afterlife in the stars.
Peter Wright also acknowledges that Carlsen, instead of aligning himself to the conservative ranks of the scientific-military-industrial complex, is subjugated by her as his fantasy, by ‘love on a level you’d never know’. Hooper fashions this as a morality tale, ‘alerting men to the dangers inherent not only in loving a sexually liberated, self-reliant woman but in the masturbatory fantasy of being in love with such a ‘creature’.’ 
The film’s narrative is therefore concerned with restoring the symbolic order and rejecting the aberrant sexuality the space vampires have activated in humans. Attraction between vampire and human is fluid and polymorphic, often includes same-sex encounters and kisses between withered vampire creatures and the male characters in the film. This polymorphism achieves some bizarre expressions in the film. In one scene there is a kiss between a possessed Dr. Armstrong and the film’s conflicted hero Tom Carlsen, who hallucinates and sees Armstrong’s features momentarily transmogrified into those of the female vampire.
John Kenneth Muir sees this and a sequence where an emaciated male vampire wakes on an operating table and seduces a male doctor as indicative of a homosexual undercurrent in the film and Stacey Abbott’s view that ‘transference of the disease of vampirism through same-sex contact’ operates as an AIDS metaphor in Lifeforce.  However, the perversity of the contagion in the film is of an equal opportunities nature. A nurse is possessed by the female vampire and her masochistic tendencies are brought to the surface when Carlsen violently beats her to elicit information from her in a rather disturbing scene in the film. As he does this, Peter Firth’s character, Caine, indulges in a spot of voyeurism and, it seems, relishes the show of violence.
Religious iconography, a major element of vampire narratives, appears in a dream sequence we share with Carlsen where the female vampire seduces him in what looks like a crypt adorned with rows of cruciforms. It’s a foreshadowing of the film’s ultimate pronouncement on the perils of promiscuity as the showdown between Caine, Carlsen and the vampire woman ‘climaxes’ in the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Here, vampire mythology meshes with the film’s images of penetration when Caine despatches one of the reconstituted male vampires with an ancient sword left behind by Dr. Fallada — proudly gifted by the Ashmolean Museum to one Captain Leigh John Masters. The sword reveals the true vampire form of a giant bat creature.
Carlsen also impales himself and the woman on this sword, clearly the symbolic piece of ancient iron used to ward off evil. The result is that Carlsen and the woman ascend into heaven in a bizarre form of redemption, his obsession labeled by her as being the ‘feminine in your mind’. He is part of the alien along with all the other souls sucked dry from the city. Apparently, and according to her, ‘the web of destiny carries your blood and soul back to the genesis of my life form’ and they return to a ship tumescent with life energy as it sets course for Halley’s comet.
Lifeforce equates the sex drive — the libidinous — with the death drive and the diseased and, as a film that emerged during the panic about AIDS, especially in the paranoia and fear of the Reagan era, this seems fitting. Fallada’s own research in the film is connected with death — ‘Well, I’m fascinated by death itself. What happens as we die, when we die. What happens after we die.’ The orgasm and the throes of death are seemingly interchangeable in the conservative world of Lifeforce where some men particularly resist an acknowledgement of both. Tim Dean suggests that ‘the greatest psychic horror of AIDS for a society that always segregates and shifts death elsewhere lies in how AIDS intertwines life with death — and with what is generally assumed to be the lifeforce: the sex drive.’ 
This drive is rendered in the spectacular optical effects created by Dykstra, which were probably state of the art at the time, and the climax of the film contains a mix of practical effects, lighting and opticals which demonstrate Hooper’s skill at controlling the film. Some of the animatronics, particularly for the re-animated corpses, are now unintentionally amusing and the make-up effects, inspired by the likes of An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Michael Jackson’s Thriller, are not as sophisticated as the prosthetics work of today. However, they add a charm to a film made long before the advent of wall-to-wall CGI and it’s a pleasure to know most effects were realised physically with models, matte paintings and motion-control or practically on huge sets.
The film is helped immeasurably by Mancini’s driving score. The title music is glorious and the electronic tonalities of the opening sequences, with the Churchill finding the alien ship, work very effectively to generate a foreboding mood. That mood gives way to the film’s sense of escalating chaos as the contagion takes hold and the space sequences are replaced with a taut Earth-bound thriller and, by the film’s conclusion, a fully fledged depiction of a city plunged into Hell as cars crash, buses and buildings burn and the streets fill with zombies and explosions. Hooper seems to glorify in this material and it offers an epic scale in counterpoint to some rather odd, often hilariously misjudged performances and dialogue earlier in the film.
Lifeforce is the grandest of exploitation films and it is a pity that distributor Tri-Star did its utmost to distance itself from the director’s intentions and spirit. The international version is certainly the more coherent of the two available and despite Don Jakoby’s claim that the film was pulled in several directions by director, writers and producers and ended up as ‘a film experience, which is, at times, a little out of sync’, it is still a delightfully barmy one.
 Stephen Prince, A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood Under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980–1989
 Colin Wilson, Dreaming to Some Purpose.
 Edward Gross, Interview with Don Jakoby, Starlog, Issue 99, October 1985
 Michael Armstrong in ‘Cannon Fodder — The Making of Lifeforce’ documentary, Lifeforce Blu-Ray, Arrow Films
 Marc Weinberg, Interview with Steve Railsback, Starlog, Issue 97, August 1985
 Randall Larsen, Interview with Henry Mancini, CinemaScore #15, 1987
 Colin Wilson, Dreaming to Some Purpose
 Lee Goldberg, Interview with Tobe Hooper, Starlog, Issue 108, July 1986
 Stacey Abbott, Celluloid Vampires: Life After Death in the Modern World
 Peter Wright ‘The British post-Alien intrusion film’ in British Science Fiction Cinema.
 John Kenneth Muir, ‘Lifeforce’ in Horror Films of the 1980s.
 Tim Dean, Beyond Sexuality
About the transfer
Considering the film is effects heavy and contains an abundance of blue screen, mattes and optical effects, the 1080p transfer expertly manages the telltale degrading of picture quality which can result from such work. Quality does dip depending on how much effects work is present and therefore the image is occasionally slightly softer and grainier. Some blue screen and matte work is now painfully obvious but this was in the days before CGI and can be forgiven.
Overall though this is a detailed image with excellent colour fidelity. Blues, reds and greens are particularly vibrant and Alan Hume’s cinematography really benefits from this restoration and transfer. There is good detail in faces, clothes and sets, some solid contrast and black levels. Sound is robust and uses the 5.1 stage admirably with great effects and clear dialogue. Mancini’s score also sounds terrific. A highly enjoyable viewing experience.
- Three commentaries
Audio commentary with Tobe Hooper, moderated by filmmaker Tim Sullivan; Audio commentary with Academy Award-winning visual effects artist Douglas Smith, moderated by filmmaker and scholar Howard S. Berger, and Audio commentary with make-up effects artist Nick Maley, moderated by filmmaker Michael Felsher. With these three commentaries you get plenty of detail about the making of the film, reflections on the shoot from Hooper and a career profile from Nick Maley. All worth listening to.
- Steve Railsback: Carlsen’s Curse (7:07)
Short interview with Railsback who chats about his background and work, how he came to star in Lifeforce after previously meeting Tobe Hooper on the set of Helter Skelter, remembers those much maligned flying harnesses, a screen kiss with Patrick Stewart and working with Mathilda May.
- Tobe Hooper: Space Vampires in London (09:58)
The spirit of it was ‘space vampires’ according to Hooper and despite the meddling with the title. He describes his meeting with Golan and how he was introduced to Wilson’s book The Space Vampires. He recalls how easy it was working with Cannon, the hiring of Dan O’Bannon, prepping the film and working with production designer John Graysmark. And, of course, the flying effects and Mathilda May’s arrival after 50 screen tests and a conspiracy among unionised German actresses.
- Cannon Fodder — The Making of Lifeforce (1:10:02)
A comprehensive and warts and all look at the making of the film with producer Michael Kagan, writer Michael Armstrong, director Tobe Hooper, editor John Grover, prosthetics designer John Schoonraad, art department folk Tom Adams and Roger Stewart, make-up artist Sandra Exelby, actors Aubrey Morris and Nicholas Ball and sound designer Vernon Messenger. It’s a tale of drugs, cigars, Dr Peppers, pubic hair, sound effects in space, condoms, phallic spaceships and flying harnesses.
- Dangerous Beauty — Mathilda May (15:16)
A brief interview with May who recalls her casting and arrival in London at Elstree Studios to make Lifeforce. She has fond memories of working with Hooper and ‘delicious’ actors such as Railsback and Frank Finlay and recalls a particularly arduous eight-hour shoot on her birthday.
- Tristar Trailer (1:28)
A very Alien-esque styled trailer with an especially earnest American voice over.
- Cannon Trailer (2:02)
‘In the tail of Halley’s comet, there’s something wrong’. And only Frank Finlay could get away with: ‘That girl is no girl, she’s totally alien to this planet and our life form. And totally dangerous.’
- 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.
Golan-Globus Productions / Easedram Limited / London-Cannon Films
Arrow Films / Catalogue Number: FCD837 / Released 14 October 2013 / Region B Blu-ray.
Feature aspect ratio: 2.35:1 / High definition digital transfer of the film in 1080p, transferred from original elements by MGM with supervision by director Tobe Hooper / Colour.
Optional uncompressed 2.0 Stereo PCM and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround Sound / Isolated Music and Effects Sound Track / Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
International Version Running Time: 116 minutes; Theatrical Version Running Time: 101 minutes.