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. There's a lot of nudity in the delightful form of a young Mathilda May (playing the sexy nude space vampire), prowling the streets of London and the surrounding country roads with her boobs out, seducing elderly farmers who can’t quite believe their luck. 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, 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 knockers.
"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 spank 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 Firth seem 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.
The premise, 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 one. 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.
I'm not complaining. The movie has bags of energy and B-movie charm to spare. And it's a film I revisit every so often when I'm in the mood for some unashamed schlock.