Episode 123


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How awesome would it be if Dread Media rang in the New Year with any of the following: naked space vampire babes, a man French kissing Patrick Stewart while he has a seizure, homicidal Christmas trees, or Eighties glam rock stars playing with children's toys? How about ringing the New Year in with all of them? Oh yeah! This week, Desmond and Darryll sit down to review the Tobe Hooper-directed, Dan O'Bannon-scripted masterpiece Lifeforce, then the duo talks about Jason Eisener's short film "Treevenge," and Desmond embarks on a new segment that is sure to kill him where he stands when he discusses Phil Lewis' (L.A. Guns) first film role in Witchmaster General. [ 1:07:01 || 30.8 MB ]

The above is from: http://www.earth-2.net/podcasts/dreadmedia/episodes/dreadmedia_123.mp3

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Dread and I both enjoyed Lifeforce a great deal but our review was focused mainly on the pulp aspects of the film. Not surprising given our biases but there is a whole other level of psycho-sexual politics in this flick that we kinda glossed over. It's interesting that the only female presence in Lifeforce is a malevolent force of nature that very nearly brings the British empire to it's knees through the power of her sexuality. The movie's club of boys playing manly grownup roles (Spy, Astronaut, Scientist) fight valiantly to stick together and fend off her sexual advances. The astronaut, especially, is affected by her feminine wiles. When he dreams of sexual congress with her he awakens screaming horribly as if from a nightmare. When he describes a psychic vision of the female seducing another man it is the hight of horror while the other boys listen in leeringly. When the Astronaut and the Spy confront the female force in the body of a beautiful nurse they take perverted, voyeuristic pleasure in brutalizing her. The kiss between the Astronaut and the insane Doctor is another obvious sign of the characters' sexual confusion. Ultimately, it is a traditionally phallic weapon that dispatches the sexy vampire but not before she has snatched her prize away from the boys' club. Even the spaceship is an enormous sexual object that appears male on the outside but female inside.

So, what do we have here? A pulpy, sci-fi, vampire, zombie, adventure B-flick with blatantly sexual overtones that is actually a comment on male adolescence and a boy's sexual awakening to the appeal of those icky girl space vampires that will drain you of your lifeforce and leave you a mindless, desiccated corpse. How crazy great is that?

Highly recommended.

Oh yeah. During the review I forgot to recommend another film as a double feature with Lifeforce. Quatermass and the Pit (known in some circles as Five Million miles to earth) would pair neatly with Lifeforce given it's similar sci-fi themes and british locales (here's a trailer: http://www.trailersfromhell.com/trailers/185 . Add to that the Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue which I had previously paired with Lifeforce and you've got one hell of a triple feature. That would be a fun movie night.


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I'm not sure. While the screenplay for Lifeforce is by O'bannon, the book, (The Space Vampires) by Colin Wilson, upon which Lifeforce was based, was written in the seventies. Thatcher was a product of the eighties, right? I'll have to track down a copy of the book before I can comment on the political ramifications of the story. As it happens, a new edition of The Space Vampires was just published this last December. Fortuitous.

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Ah, Lifeforce...

I read Wilson's book and, despite there being some staggering liberties taken with the material (the victims do not reanimate and spread the vampirism, nor does London get destroyed), it remarkably faithful. Everything from the discovery of the alien spacecraft up to the mental asylum sequence is lifted directly from the novel.

Some trivia: Lifeforce was a Cannon Group production (that'd be Golan/Globus, the same studio/producers that would bring us Superman IV: The Quest for Peace some two or three years later) but was distributed by Tri-Star Pictures. The announced budget was $30 million US dollars (Tobe Hooper called the film his Ben-Hur of the genre) and only grossed $5 million during its theatrical release. (OUCH!)

Dan O'Bannon (and Don Jakoby) is rumored to have hated the movie (as several liberties were taken with their script during production*) but he hated Invaders from Mars (which was produced by Cannon and directed by Hooper the very next year) even more, going so far as to tell one magazine (and I paraphrase a tad, due to the magazine not being in front of me and having read it years ago, but it is the kind of statement that sticks in ones memory): "I wrote this amazing script that Tobe Hooper proceeded to turn into complete and utter garbage, and you can quote me on that."

*Ah, the production history. Hooper wanted to craft an epic, Golan/Globus wanted an exploitation picture. Hooper's final cut (as reported in Cinescape and Fangoria magazines back in the day) was two hours and ten minutes long. But Golan/Globus demanded recuts to quicken the pace of the film. The first round resulted in the what, up until the domestic United States release, was referred to the International cut. This version runs close to two hours, features a longer sequence in the alien spacecraft and expanded dialogue snippets here and there that flesh out the characters and story line. If the version of Lifeforce you are watching begins with a credit sequence featuring Henry Mancini's memorable theme and a tracking shot across the comet, then that is the Internationl cut.

But Golan/Globus were not satisfied with that cut. They demanded even further cuts, chopping the movie down to a sparse one hour and forty minute running time. Mancini, fed up with all the butchering being done to his score so that it would fit the new version, left the movie (with Hooper's full understanding and blessing) and Michael Kamen came into to rescore several sequences. This truncated cut was what Cannon opted to release to US theater in 1985 and, as far as I can tell, has been removed from the market in favor of the superior International cut.

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