Lifeforce is based on a book called The Space Vampires, by Colin Wilson. As the film’s credits roll, you might be mistaken for thinking it was actually based on a book called The Sexy Nude Space Vampires. I know I was. The sexy nude space vampire is a young Mathilda May, prowling the streets of London and the surrounding area with her boobs out, and seducing elderly farmers who can’t believe their luck on windswept roadsides. Thankfully, the elderly farmers remain fully clothed.
But how did it ever come to this? I’m glad you asked. It starts with a mission to Haley’s Comet aboard a space shuttle called Churchill. Once there, the crew discover something lurking in the comet, a huge spaceship filled with dead aliens, and three humanoid creatures wearing not a stitch of clothing, and encased in glass coffins.
Because the crew don’t realise they’re in a movie, they go for the dumb option, and decide to take the three glass coffins back to Earth. It’s not so much a mission dictated by science and a thirst for knowledge, more by the captain of the shuttle popping a boner when he claps eyes on Mathilda May’s tits.
"I feel invigorated," he says. Yeah, sure you do. Other members of the crew complain of feeling “drained”. I suspect, with Mathilda stored for all eternity in the wank bank, they might’ve visited the space toilet off camera to crack one out.
Back on Earth, the vamps escape captivity, giving a clutch of deadly serious British thespians the runaround in London. The likes of Frank Finlay, Patrick Stewart (in not much more than a cameo, sadly) and Peter Firthseem entirely unaware that they’re in a cheesy sci-fi horror movie. Or maybe their commendable earnestness in the face of such silliness is just a sign of the true professional: they might not be starring in a Shakespeare play, but you wouldn’t think so to watch them. They simply get on with the business of acting, the sort of thing they can do in their sleep, even with limited material.
Indeed, when Mathilda May body swaps, and ends up fully dressed, it takes some skill for an actor to make the line, “And now she has clothes!” sound utterly foreboding. Somehow, Peter Firth manages it. I’m sure I detected a slight flicker of disappointment in his eyes though. And I’m genuinely surprised the group of blokes stood around him at this point didn’t sink to their knees and scream, "Nnnnooooooo!!"
That vampires originated from outer space, and have visited Earth before, giving rise to the folklore that we know and love today, is an interesting concept. I’m surprised it hasn’t really been done since, at least not to my knowledge. Lifeforce doesn’t explore the idea to any great extent, save for some philosophical musings from Finlay, as it’s more interested in nudity, carnage, and over the top light shows.
It’s not a great movie, but it has bags of energy and B-movie charm to spare.