A recent, and wonderful, Cinemologists discovery is Beaux Arts Video on the corner of 10th and Spruce in Center City, Philadelphia. Currently, it is mostly an antique store, however, the store houses around 10,000 VHS tapes in a backroom but only about a couple hundred videos actually in the store itself, and more are always being put out. The videos are all very cheap so, a few days ago I grabbed myself five. Two of them I watched the following night with some friends. A great time was had and I'd like to quickly go over the first film I watched. (At a later date we will get to talking about the whole video store experience, so stay tuned for that!)
Lifeforce is one of those movies where even looking at the trailer, I knew I would at least appreciate it. I suspected that I would be amazed by it and, more than that, I was blown away. So many moments in this film caused my jaw to drop. It definitely has all the makings of cult classic and yet it feels like a blockbuster, one that takes plenty of risks. The film itself hits the ground running with a shuttle mission to Haley's Comet and soon we are introduced to the stunning, vast interior of an alien ship with corpses of bat creatures floating throughout, Henry Mancini's brilliant score vaulting my imagination into overdrive. Astronauts find three human beings in suspended animation and bring them back, not knowing what they will unleash onto Earth. The film could have gone in so many different directions from there and, in some ways, it does. Mostly it's a vampire film, but it also manages to include sci-fi, zombie elements, and even a Van Helsing type character (Frank Finlay), who probably would have been played by Peter Cushing had the film been made a decade earlier.
It does indeed have all a sci-fi or horror fan could want, though, I'd say unfortunately it's renown is due more to the fact that the "Space Girl", played by Mathilda May, is nude for about 3/4 of the film. This is the reason many people saw the film at all. The producers actually pushed director Tobe Hooper for more nudity (this was a Canon picture, after all). Honestly, that's never a reason I see a film and going in I was hardly aware of this fact anyway. I merely watched it for the other aspects, such as the exploration of the unknown, the scenes of mass spectacle and the strange relationship between Carlson (Steve Railsback) and the Space Girl and how that would play out. Even so, the nudity isn't as distracting as I thought it would be since she mostly stands around or is walking or lying down (things which I'm probably now numb to because of having attended figure drawing classes at art school).
What was really memorable about this film, for me, is how it continually held my interest with the variety of things I'd never seen before, whether it was the alien spacecraft being explored in zero-G to the Space Girl being formed out of blood in mid-air. Not forgetting the incredible sense of apocalypse in London at the climax, with zombified people running about, sucking the life out of one another, while John Dykstra's beautiful laser effects dance in the air above. This film is absolutely memorable. Due in a major part to Henry Mancini who gives one of his greatest scores which propels you along with the main theme, or reveals the grand, cosmic scale of the story.
Lifeforce is constantly surprising and worth watching with several people. Some see the film as a guilty pleasure (and the way most ogle Mathilda May, it's no wonder they'd feel some guilt afterwards), yet I find the over the top quality of the action, and even some of the acting, only creates a mythic filmgoing experience that I will definitely count among one of my favorite thrill rides.