Lifeforce. (1985) dir. Tobe Hooper. starring:Sir Aubrey Morris, Mathilda May, Patrick Stewart, That Bloke from "The Stuntman",
We begin up the arse of a disaster. A disaster, so the film claims in one of its periodic winnets of exposition, is one of the earliest names for a comet; literally an "evil star". Like Piers Morgan. Despite the film's tidal blood-letting we are never flushed from this black-hole. Which is not to say that this not a brilliant film; it may not be the last word in British cinema but it's probably the colon.
Some British Astronauts (yeah yeah yeah - the past is a foreign country etc) are being menaced in the tail of Halley's comet by a giant umbrella. Nicholas Ball glides about on a nifty and clearly non-British made jet-pack against snippets of unused incidental music from Excalibur.* It's a solidly British space mission. You can tell this because the ship is called "The Churchill" and you can open the air-lock with the head of a cork-screw. There is dialogue like "Soft-dock confirmed" and an awful lot of "Oh My Gods!". There is pencil-snapping tension as the astronauts pad about the mysterious umbrella-ship like cacky-nappied toddlers.ne of them isn't English. Keep your eye on him.
It's thirty days later and Halley's comet is still in the sky. But three strange caskets have been brought back to earth from the mysterious ship though the astronauts have disappered.
"We were just talking about the caskets when they popped open of their own accord" says a security guard. They continue to be mysterious as they contain three sexy naked people; two boys and a girl. The girl wakes up. Peter Gothard (best porn name ever!) runs through a series of doors to see the beautiful naked alien-girl (the perfectly cast and formed Mathilda May) nipping off; the security guard already toast. Why Gothard remains immune to her charms is not altogether clear. He confesses she was "The most overwhelmingly female presence I have ever encountered". It didn't seem to do much for him.
Meanwhile, in Texas, an escape pod from the "Churchill" is found with Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback - The Stuntman, with his worried animal eyes) still alive. ("I'm sure you'd rather be recuperating with a pretty nurse.")He is flown to London and tells how the crew were drained of their life-force. In order to save Earth, The Stuntman set fire to the shuttle and escaped in the pod. During hypnosis it is clear Carlsen has a psychic link to the female alien so The Stuntman and Peter Firth, try to track the female alien down in a confusing business with Patrick Stewart and a heavily sedated woman in Yorkshire. It reminded me of Patrick Wymark's "We must allow the evil to grow" line in "Blood on Satan's Claw" - a weird caveat to justify an otherwise padded and pointless part of the film.
Some good dialogue here-
"I notice from your door that you're interested in bio-chemistry."
"That girl was no girl!"
"I'm not paid to believe nuffng, an I?" (from the pen of Colin Wilson, ladies and gentlemen**)
The alien chaps come to life but are immediately despatched before you see any of their bits. The murdered guard wakes up at his own autopsy and makes a noise like a rusty wheel-barrow before sucking the life out of the surgeon. This needs to be nipped in the bud!
(Mooted tag-line for the film - "They're not on for long")
Mathilda turns up in a diaphonous hoodie and gives The Stuntman magical powers, as well as making him a savage hot-flush. But never mind that - Frank Finlay's turned up and he's got a magic sword!
At the 120 minute mark there is some more exposition; and not before time:
"She took some of my energy and she gave me some of her energy!"
There is an audience with the Prime Minister about the Space Vampire question. He proves to be a sweaty fella with an on-going blue-light problem. More choice dialogue:
"Sterilisation by thermo-nuclear device!" "Have you heard anything about the ship?" "Ship?" "The space ship" "Oh yeah, it's directly over London!"
We're moving at break-neck speed now! (cautionary note to The Stuntman: if you're driving through a plague of zombies, as he is now for some reason, wind your window up! You wouldn't do it at Longleat!) The magic sword works! Yay. But Frank Finlay's been got at! Boo. The space vampire turned to dust when the sword was removed.What? Meanwhile Peter Firth is being chased down tunnels by an angry mob before being startled by a Prefab Sprout poster.
The Stuntman and Mathilda have a floaty naked snog, Firth stabs them with the magic sword and she bogs off back to Spencer Tunick world in a beam of light.
And that's it. What have we learned? We have learned that smooth and urbane Henry Mancini wrote the theme for this cin-emetic. We find that Adrian Hedley from "Jigsaw" was involved as "head of mime" (where was all the mime?) And we have learned that Colin Wilson has a deft and naturalistic touch with dialogue. But we haven't learned what happened for the last two hours. That much remains a mystery.
*Wagner wrote a lot of incidental music, right. Incident packed!
** It isn't really. He wrote the original novel "Space Vampires" and had no part in the screenplay here. I'm sure his original dialogue was marked with authenticity and a vivid sense of nuance.