DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Lifeforce, Blu-ray 2-disc Collector’s Edition (1985/2013)

A wild and crazy sci-fi-horror film from the ‘80s is still thrilling to watch.

Published on August 2, 2013

Lifeforce, Blu-ray 2-disc Collector’s Edition (1985/2013)

Director: Tobe Hooper
Cast: Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May, Patrick Stewart
Studio: Cannon Group Inc. Distr. by MGM/Shout! Factory [6/18/13]
Video: 1080p 2:35:1 anamorphic/enhanced 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 & Stereo 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English
Extras: Audio Commentary by Director Tobe Hooper, Retrospective with cast and crew, Vintage ‘Making of Lifeforce’ featurette, Theatrical trailers, Still gallery, TV spot
Length: 101 minutes. Director’s cut: 116 minutes
Rating: ****

Lifeforce is a bizarre sci-fi horror mashup that has had a cult following since its release in 1985. A big budget, epic in scale release from the now long gone Cannon Group, the film is about an alien spacecraft hiding in Halley’s comet on the way to earth to suck the ‘lifeforce’ out of the human race. To describe the plot is laughable, yet somehow, as over the top as the film is, it works. People explode, the dead return to life, vampires impersonate a beautiful nude woman who walks around a space complex spreading death and destruction.

This new Blu-ray release contains a first rate restoration supervised by director Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist). Both Blu-ray and a regular DVD are included, plus a longer Director’s cut on Blu-ray, and commentary by Hooper and a retrospective with cast members.

The film itself is similar to the old British Quatermass films, both in tone and plot essentials. The space vampires have been to earth before and worked their way into our myths and legends. The plot parallels the 1967 feature Quatermass and the Pit.

The film itself looks beautiful, almost brand new. You can see the large budget up there on the screen. Audiowise, there is a fresh DTS Master Audio 5.1 mix, a Dolby Digital mix for the DVD, and a stereo mix which was the original audio format presented in 1985. The DTS audio is spectacular, with vivid surround and startling directional effects.

Also of note is a terrific score by Henry Mancini. It might seem a film like Lifeforce is out of character for the composer of “Moon River,” but actually Mancini’s early career was writing music for cheap horror films. Mancini penned a thrilling score for a large orchestra, and it sounds great on this Blu-ray disc. When the film was cut down in size because the producers felt it was too long, some of Mancini’s score didn’t fit, and Michael Kamen was brought into write about 20 minutes of music, but it’s the Mancini score that you will remember.

The film bombed when it was first released, but slowly picked up a substantial following. It’s held in high regard today by genre fans today.

Lifeforce is a terrific crazy and bizarre joyride. It is great to see it treated with respect in this loving restoration.

—Mel Martin




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