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Lifeforce
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Stereo
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Isolated Music and Effects Sound Track
  • 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
  • Audio commentary with make-up effects artist Nick Maley, moderated by filmmaker Michael Felsher
  • Cannon Fodder: The Making of Lifeforce - An epic UK-exclusive look at the genesis, production and release of Lifeforce featuring interviews with Hooper, producer Michael J. Kagan, editor John Grover, actors Aubrey Morris and Nicholas Ball, makeup artist Sandra Exelby, screenwriter Michael Armstrong, sound designer Vernon Messenger, artistic designers Tom Adams and Douglas Smith and effects artist John Schoonraad
  • Space Vampires in London: An interview with Tobe Hooper
  • Dangerous Beauty: An interview with Mathilda May, Lifeforce's iconic star
  • Carlsen's Curse: Star Steve Railsback looks back on Lifeforce and his career
  • Region B
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • 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

Lifeforce

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Steve Railsback, Mathilda May, Peter Firth, Patrick Stewart, Michael Gothard
1985 | 116 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: £19.99 | Series: Arrow Video
Arrow Films

Release Date: October 14, 2013
Review Date: November 3, 2013

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amazon.co.uk

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SYNOPSIS

When a space shuttle crew finds a mysterious spacecraft containing three human-looking creatures in a state of suspended animation, they bring them back to Earth for further investigation.

It's only then that scientists discover that they are in fact a race of space vampires that feed off people's life-force rather than their blood. So when they escape and run amok in London, the consequences are apocalyptic - and the shuttle crew's only survivor (Steve Railsback) seems to be the only man who can stop them.

Based on Colin Wilson's novel 'The Space Vampires', co-written by Dan O'Bannon (Alien, Return of the Living Dead) and directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Poltergeist), this lively sci-fi horror romp has a stellar cast including Peter Firth, Frank Finlay and Patrick Stewart - although it's Mathilda May's appearance as a naked female alien that attracts most attention to this day.


PICTURE

Tobe Hooperís 116-minute International version of Lifeforce gets a Blu-ray edition from Arrow Video, who present the film in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on a dual-layer disc. The transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz. The disc has been locked to region B.

The transfer looks fine but has a few weaknesses. Some of the issues are related to dated elements of the film, specifically the effects, which were primarily optical in nature. These effects look rough and their seams show through here. But on top of that the digital transfer itself looks a little noisy, as if sharpening may have been turned up a little. This is a mild artifact but noticeable and at times a little distracting. But the transfer is otherwise pleasant delivering a sharp image with a few noticeably softer sequences I attribute more to the source, bright bold colours, excellent shadow delineation, and fairly rich blacks. The print is also in strong shape with very little damage present.

Itís certainly better than previous home video releases but it leaves room for improvement.

7/10

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AUDIO

The international version comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track that delivers the goods. The mix is particularly impressive, with Henry Manciniís score blasting (rather loudly I might add) through the environment, mixed beautifully between the channels. Some of the more action packed and effects heavy sequences present some impressive splits and movements between the speakers. We also get a few wonderful jolts to the trackís impressive range, which jumps from level, fairly quiet talkative moments to loud screams or action effects in a split second. The track handles it all well without any distortion or unnatural fluctuations. Dialogue is also never drowned out, even when the surrounds are blaring. Itís one of the more engaging and active surround tracks Iíve come across in a while, and suits the film particularly well.

9/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Arrow delivers an impressive looking 2-disc special edition, with the biggest feature being the 101-minute theatrical version of the film, provided on the second single-layer disc. This is the version that (at the very least) played in American theaters, a hatchet job by the filmís American distributor. The transfer looks similar in quality to the international version, and we also get a lossless surround track that also sounds as good as the one on the International version, save for Michael Kamenís less boisterous cues.

The remaining supplements are on the first disc, starting with three audio commentaries: the first featuring director Tobe Hooper, the second with effects artist Douglas Smith, and a third with make-up effects artist Nick Maley. The one with Smith is exclusive to this release, with the other two appearing on an edition released by Shout! Factory. The two effects tracks are decent, though I almost wish they were edited together in some manner since they kind of play out the same in the end. Each goes over their role in the film and the various issues that came up, specifically with Hooper. Thereís a few great anecdotes but both commentaries are pretty general technical tracks.

Hooperís track is a little better but not by a lot. Hooper seems a little reserved so itís up to an interviewer to keep things moving along. Hooper recalls the production and working with Cannon, who had primary say in to how the film would play out, talks about May, his other stars, and his reaction to the release. Of the three I would probably recommend Hooperís track over the other two, though I think other features, which cover the same material, are much stronger. Particularly the next feature, Cannon Fodder: The Making of Lifeforce, a 62-minute documentary on the filmís production.

It is surprisingly blunt in all areas, even in describing the design of the film (ďa giant dickĒ is how they describe the look they were going for with a ship in the film.) Gathering together interviews with members of the cast and crew (including Hooper) the documentary goes over the productionís history from the novelís release (the film is based on the novel The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson,) to set design, effects, and its eventual release after being hacked down by producers, who also felt the title Space Vampires was too tacky, leading to the title Lifeforce (amusingly opinions differ on whether this was a good idea or not.) There is of course a lot of talk about the filmís nudity and the effect Mathilda May had on the men of the crew (who would gather around during many of her scenes) along with discussion about the filmís impressive roster of actors. Steve Railsback seemed to be the most polarizing figure, with some finding him a charming man, easy to work with, while others found his method acting approach just ďweird.Ē Insightful and fairly comprehensive itís the best feature on this disc.

The remaining supplements seem to all come from the region A Shout! Factory release, starting with Tobe Hooper: Space Vampires in London, a 10-minute interview with the director. Itís a somewhat redundant feature here since it covers a lot of the same material found in the commentaries and the documentary, including the title change, the book, dealing with the more complicated aspects of shooting (specifically suspending the actors for the floating-in-space sequences) and casting (where he repeats the story of finding May for a third time.) Thereís some more material about the puppets used in the film but otherwise itís skippable.

Also skippable is a disappointing interview with Steve Railsback entitled Steve Railsback: Carlsenís Curse. Heís very excited to be talking about the film but he only covers topics vaguely, like filming effects scenes and working with Mathilda May. In the end all I really took from the 7-minute interview was that the experience was ďamazing.Ē

Much better is an interview with Mathilda May, under the heading Mathilda May: Dangerous Beauty. She recounts her experience on the film, which sounded to be overwhelming: she was an 18-year-old dancer doing one of her first acting roles in a foreign land, didnít speak a word of English, and was asked to do most of the film completely nude. She admits it was a little much but everyone worked to make her comfortable and she said she adjusted. She also recounts how she learned English thanks to the other actors. She does seem proud of the film and warmly recalls first seeing it, and seems surprised by the number of fans who recognize her from it. Of the three interviews included here itís the strongest, and also one of the better features on the set.

The edition then closes with two theatrical trailers, one coming off more as a teaser from Cannon, while the other is the Tri-Star theatrical trailer. I didnít get either with my review copy but the edition also apparently comes with reversible cover art and a booklet.

Admittedly I only found about half of the material on here particularly great, but Arrow has put together an impressive roster of supplements, hours and hoursí worth, which should keep fans busy.

8/10

CLOSING

A decent release in the end, Arrowís Blu-ray for Lifeforce comes stacked with a number of supplements and a good transfer that looks far better than previous home video incarnations.

(As mentioned previously this release is locked for Region B and viewers in North America will require equipment that can play back region B discs.)




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