Lifeforce is currently available on instant Netflix.

Lifeforce (1985) – Rated R

“American and British astronauts on a joint mission exploring an alien spacecraft discover that the vessel contains several seemingly human bodies. But after they’re brought back to Earth, they come alive and start turning Londoners into zombies.”

“No, you don’t understand. Part of me didn’t want to leave. She killed all my friends and I still didn’t want to leave. Leaving her was the hardest thing I ever did. “

Lifeforce is not the first movie to feature space vampires. The Planet of the Vampires arrived a full two decades before. In spite of Planet of the Vampire’s wonderful and highly influential visuals, Lifeforce is a lot more fun.

Lifeforce is, however, a mess. Lifeforce is a very haphazard adaptation of Colin Wilson’s banally titled novel, Space Vampires. The screenplay was written by Dan (Alien) O’Bannon and Don Jacoby. The script was then ‘doctored’ by Michael Armstrong and Olaf Pooley. In spite of, or perhaps because of, all those hands, there are huge gaping plot holes. The whole insane asylum subplot should have been jettisoned as all it does is take up time.

Golan – Globus wanted this to be a science fiction blockbuster. This must be why they hired a top horror director, Tobe Hooper, to make it. Actually of course they were hoping for a repeat of his 1982 success, Poltergeist. Henry Mancini’s bombastic score is quite out of place for a horror movie.

Oscar-winner John Dykstra was hired for the special effects. The space scenes are good for their time but not overly showy. Dykstra obviously tried to ground some of the scenes in reality. The zombification effects are quite well done and very creepy.

Olivia Hussey, John Gielgud and Klaus Kinski were all signed to star in the film. All of them bowed out before filming began for various reasons. They were replaced by Nancy Paul, Patrick Stewart, and Frank Finlay respectively. The cast is actually too good for the material.

Frank (The Three Musketeers) Finlay is wonderful as Dr. Hans Fallada. Peter (Equus) Firth is appropriately grim and business-like as Colonel Caine. Patrick Stewart is always good but has only a minor role here as Dr. Armstrong. Steve (Helter Skelter) Railsback is okay as a tormented astronaut. Character actor Aubrey Morris has a small but delightful role as Sir Percy Heseltine.

Kudos to newcomer Mathilda May for playing the head alien completely nude throughout the film. Other than lying nude in a coffin and on a table and strolling nude through the sets, May does not have much to do until the climax.

Lifeforce may not be a good film, in spite of the ingredients, but it is good cheesy fun with expensive effects and a fine British cast.

People Watch: John Forbes-Robertson, who plays the Minister here, played Dracula in Hammer’s The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (when Christopher Lee said no). The narrator is widely rumored to be John Larroquette. imdb lists this as unconfirmed.

The Mangler – King of Horror week

This week we are covering films based on works by Stephen King. The Mangler is currently available on instant Netflix.

PASS: The Mangler (1995) – Rated R for gory horror violence and language.

“Machines are not made to rise up against humans, but in this sci-fi thriller, one does. But why? Police detective John Hunton (Ted Levine) is on the case, as he begins to unravel the strange mystery of a folding machine that seems to yearn not for clothing but for flesh. What is behind this lust for blood, and just who is responsible for turning it into a mangling creature? The answer may lie with the gadgets owner, Bill Gartley (Robert Englund). “

How could this go wrong? Take a story from the master of horror Stephen King. Have horror director Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist) not only film it but help adapt the script. Sprinkle in actors who played two of the more horrific serial killers recently, Robert Englund (Freddy from the Nightmare on Elm Street series) and Ted Levine (Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb from The Silence of the Lambs). Bake until done.

Well first the short story by Stephen King, while entertaining, is a one-note joke. For goodness sakes, it is a story about a haunted/possessed laundry machine!

If you thought the old Universal Mummy movies were silly in that any victim could simply walk toward the exit and be capable of outrunning the lumbering Kharis then how do you feel about a huge threatening machine that simply sits there?

Tobe does have a lot of fun with this. When one of the older ladies is umm folded to death, they take her remains away in a small laundry basket. If you had not already guessed, this movie is not at all subtle.

Tobe uses a lot of bizarre colored lighting, especially green. He also favors a number of odd camera angles. I did not find this dramatic so much as offputting. It is somewhat stylish but makes the film less serious.

The acting is pretty bad in this. The performances from Robert Englund and Ted Levine mostly consist of odd tics and mannerisms. Robert Englund is buried under makeup as usual. The supporting actors range from ineffectual to dreadful.

The central monstrosity, the Mangler is a very impressive piece of machinery. It looks great, both malevolent and suitably steampunk.

This movie can certainly provide some seriously goofy, gory fun but I simply cannot recommend it. I can hardly believe that this movie spawned two sequels.

People Watch: The Curse of The Mangler! For stuntwoman Ashley Waldorf and actors Demetre Philips, Lisa Morris, Vanessa Pike, Larry Taylor, Gerritt Schoonhoven, Ted Le Plat, Odile Rault, and Irene Frangs, this would be their last (so far) feature film appearance.