Lifeforce: Special Edition on Blu-ray – The DVDfever Review


Lifeforce was a film I always wished I’d got round to seeing on video when I was a teenager because there was a naked woman on the front cover. Of course, even if I had, videos were almost always cropped to 4:3, so the full glorious visuals from Tobe Hooper would be severely compromised and it never seemed to get an airing on television, either.

So, what better way for my debut viewing than for it to be on a Blu-ray Special Edition which features both the Theatrical and Director’s Cuts of the film. And the first thing I noticed, is that while this is a 2-disc package, Disc 1 is the Director’s Cut (aka “International Edition”), also containing the extras, while Disc 2 is the Theatrical Version. Usually, both are seamlessly-branched on the same disc. Oh well, not to worry – I watched the longer “International Edition”, anyway.

The English-staffed HMS Churchill sets off to investigate Halley’s Comet up close and personal, where they discover a 150-mile long rocket, seemingly hidden in the head of the comet. When they go into the belly of the beast, so to speak, it looks like a massive colon before they get to some weird ‘stomach’-looking thing. They find where all the occupants are seemingly dead, decide to take one with them, and then it looks like they’re in jeopardy while one of them comes across three human bodies held in suspended animation – one woman and two men, all of which are devoid of clothes.

Fast-forward 30 days later and the HMS Churchill hasn’t been responding to Ground Control, so the spaceship Columbia is sent up to intercept and take a look. This is the same spaceship Columbia which was also seen at the start of the film but then just seemed to disappear out of the script for reasons I couldn’t work out.


Cast-wise, Peter Firth acts like he’s playing a character from Blackadder, as he plays Army colonel Caine, determined to get to the bottom of what ensues, while Michael Gothard (as Bukovsky) has the deepest voice I’ve ever heard as he tells the tale of his recollection of events from his Earth-bound desk.

I don’t want to say any more about the plot beacuse it’s a wonderful film which I really enjoyed and which you discover as it goes on, but kudos also go in the acting stakes to Frank Finlay as Dr. Hans Fallada, Patrick Stewart as Dr. Armstrong – who runs the local mental hospital, Aubrey Morris as Home Secretary Sir Percy Heseltine – although I mostly remember him as the Captain of the Golgafrincham B-Ark in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and, of course, Mathilda May, billed simply as Space Girl.

I also liked the way the film gets straight into the story. If it was a modern movie, like Man of Steel or The Lone Ranger, it’d take a good 60 minutes of build-up before it actually started to get anywhere.

It felt great, too, to see a film where special effects and models are actually done with some thought put into them, and not with endless, great big doses of soulless CGI all over the place.


The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high defintion, and at first I was thinking that a film of near-30 years can’t hope to look completely pristine, but there are some scenes which are faultless in their clarity. That leads me to believe that there are no faults with the transfer and that any slight grain you sometimes come across is part of the original filming process. It certainly *looks* like an 80s film, so that helps to transport you back to those heady days.

For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV with a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.

The sound has a DTS HD 5.1 option, but while I selected that, there’s a stirring score, but absolutely nothing going on in the rears.

The extras on this disc are as follows – most of which are in HD, too. Sadly, none are chaptered, nor have subtitles:

  • Cannon Fodder: The Making of Lifeforce (1:10:02): It’s a shame Arrow haven’t bothered to chapter this piece, especially since it’s discusses one topic then moves on to another, starting off with the Cannon Group, who made the film, and then gets insight from the making of the film from a number of the original cast (although not all the key members, most of whom are still alive), as well as key crew members, but as I type, while it’s enjoyable, I’ve seen around 20 minutes up until the discussion of Mathilda May’s nudity but there’s too much to take in in one go. When I go back to it, I’m going to have to fast-forward aplenty, rather than simply skipping through chapters. Please fix this next time, Arrow!

  • Tobe Hooper: Space Vampires in London (9:58): Space Vampires was the original title for Lifeforce, and there’s an insight into how the creatures were animated.

  • Steve Railsback: Carlsen’s Curse (7:07): The actor talks about how he didn’t work for over a year after Lifeforce because he was offered the role of killers in everything, and figured if he took it, he’d get typecast. Also, can you believe he was Patrick Stewart’s first ever screen kiss??

  • Mathilda May: Dangerous Beauty (15:16): The actress talks about her time on the film – the nudity and the ‘blood body’ scene, to name but two elements. Mathilda still looks damn hot nearly 30 years on!

  • TriStar trailer (1:28): Presented in 2.35:1, this was one of the cinema trailers.

  • Cannon trailer (2:02): And here’s the other one, also presented in 2.35:1.

  • Audio commentaries: Three here: One apiece from director Tobe Hooper, make-up effecs designer Nick Maley and Visual Effects Supervisor Douglas Smith.

  • Isolated music and effects track: This is in Dolby Surround-only, and is a feature on both versions.

As you put either disc in, the menu bursts into life with clips from the film and a piece of the theme. There are subtitles in English, but for this Special Edition the chaptering is anything BUT special with the usual 12 that so many films get these days. Very lazy.



Detailed specs:

Running time: 101/116 minutes
Year: 1985
Released: October 14th 2013
Chapters: 12 FCD837
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD 5.1
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (J-D-C Scope)
Disc Format: BD50

Director: Tobe Hooper
Producers: Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan
Screenplay: Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin (based on the novel “The Space Vampires” by Colin Wilson)
Music: Henry Mancini

Col. Tom Carlsen: Steve Railsback
Col. Colin Caine: Peter Firth
Dr. Hans Fallada: Frank Finlay
Space Girl: Mathilda May
Dr. Armstrong: Patrick Stewart
Dr. Bukovsky: Michael Gothard
Roger Derebridge: Nicholas Ball
Sir Percy Heseltine: Aubrey Morris
Ellen Donaldson: Nancy Paul
Lamson: John Hallam
Narrator: John Larroquette