Tagged in: 29 years too late

Lifeforce (1985)

Cover of "Lifeforce"

Lifeforce DVD

More Cannon fodder from the 80s as hungry “space vampires” descend on London in a for the most part dated mess but just about saved by a few stylish touches and the bones of a good SF story trying to get out.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

This review was written 29 years too late

“What’s 150 miles long?” asks the captain of the Churchill with a smarmy face that says, “Apart from  my cock?”. Thus we meet our leading man in “Lifeforce“, the uncharismatic Steve Railsback whose Wikipedia bio says he studied at the Lee Strasberg School. Question is, did he study acting? Not on this showing.

Indeed, Railsback spends the rest of the film in a glum mood that barely recalls his singular flourish upon first appearing. Credit, perhaps though, as he’s not got a lot to be pleased with.

Obligatory topless picture of "Space Girl" Mathilda May that must be displayed when reviewing "Lifeforce"

Obligatory topless picture of Mathilda May that must be displayed when reviewing “Lifeforce”

See, he is Col. Tom Carlsen, the captain of the Churchill – an Airfix space shuttle – on a once-in-a-lifetime space mission to fly into Halley’s Comet. Upon arrival, he finds naked humanoid aliens: two blokes and a bird totally starkers. Phwoar. Thirty days later, his ship returns to Earth’s orbit with everyone aboard roasted to a crisp except our trio of aliens. And not long after that Carlsen shows up in an escape pod acting slightly odd and spaced out.

So begins the slow awakening of the aliens who bite, infect and titillate Londoners, leading to a “plague” (read: zombie) outbreak. Only Peter Firth‘s unlikely SAS colonel Colin Caine can figure it all out and save the world from the umbrella-shaped spaceship orbiting Earth that seems to be sucking the souls – or lifeforce – out of the infected.

“Lifeforce”, directed by Tobe Hooper of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” fame starts badly, with SF cliches in abundance and no real SF – the Churchill has physical tapes as the black box recorder; you’d think they’d develop something a little better along with their really fast spaceship engine, but no. It has some dreadful dialogue and very low-rent acting, yet manages to chuck in some neat sequences too.


Desiccated coconut

The film is let down by one daft situation after another – Carlsen and Caine talking to the British PM in a rotten looking bunker set; Carlsen and Caine running from place to place with the Home Secretary inevitably called “Sir Something-Or-Other”, stupid guards who can’t help opening the lab door when they really should know better.

On the plus side, the FX depicting desiccated bodies of reanimated victims have a plastic puppet – yet pleasing – appearance, and the obvious model effects of London getting trashed are too fake but still somehow satisfy. Add in the promise of a good story, solid actors given not enough to do (Frank Finlay, Patrick Stewart), and you can clearly see the original ambitions of the film.

Picard spits blood

Picard spits blood

Like much of Cannon’s output, the budget dictating a hurried production is all too apparent – they couldn’t even spell stunt man Terry Forrestal‘s name correctly – and ultimately “Lifeforce” suffers for it.

Still, worth a look just to assess its very obvious remake potential.




Ninja III: The Domination (1984)

Ninja III: The Domination

Ninja III: The Domination (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Laughable attempt to fuse martial arts and the paranormal with ridiculous results in the final entry of Cannon’s initial series of ninja flicks from the early 80s.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

This review was written 29 years too late

Ninja movies reached a wider audience in the 1980s when budget-movie kings the Cannon Group produced first Enter the Ninja and then Revenge of the Ninja – both starring Sho Kosugi. By the time of this third instalment, the US interpretation of the ninja format seemed to be in place, and Ninja III delivers in poor quality spades.

Fight sequences are typified by reverse footage shots to simulate incredible leaps; sword-play is none too gory; acting abysmal; plot meaningless; logic non-existent – yes, this is what you got with Cannon’s ninja output, but Domination takes it to a whole new height of, at times, enjoyable nonsense.

Lucinda Dickey, she of Breakin’ and Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo, if you recall, is phone engineer Chrissy who spots a stumbling, injured man while up a telephone pole. Climbing down, she finds dying and bloodied the “Black Ninja” assassin whose spirit passes into Chrissy. From then on, a possessed and ninja-powered Chrissy sets out to kill all the people who did the original ninja in.

Standard revenge nonsense, then, given a few degrees of twist by employing the supernatural and a Kunoichi – a female ninja. What hope this plot ever had is underdone almost immediately in the most ridiculous opening fight sequence you’ll ever see. The Black Ninja, hired to kill a scientist on a golf course, rather than use his myriad skills of stealth and secrecy, instead jumps out of a bush where a poorly driven Titleist is buried in the rough and crushes said ball in front of his victim’s bodyguards. Despatching everyone around him, he then simply, er, runs away and gets chased by police cars and helicopters. So much for silent killing and legendary stealth.

The law eventually corner him and shoot him more times than Sean Connery gets it in The Untouchables, but he manages to escape by tossing a smoke bomb to the ground. Hey, Black Ninja, I’m no expert but maybe you could have done that while you were running away from the police instead of once they trapped you? Just saying, is all.

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 10.59.34 PM

A possessed Lucinda Dickey – you can tell she’s possessed by the dubious eye makeup

And so it goes on. One poorly executed fight scene after another; a half-arsed seduction by the admittedly lovely Lucinda Dickey and the decidely un-lovely Jordan Bennett as the cop smarming over her; various home appliances including a video game getting possessed and taunting Chrissy forcing her to dance to dreadful 80s pop to blot out the supernatural happenings; the arrival of Sho Kosugi from Japan, wearing an eyepatch the size of a frisbee to sort things out; dreadful, dreadful music – it really does not end.

This film is relentless in its delivery of trash in every form – I’d really urge you to see it.

Watch the trailer to get a sense of what to expect:


Enhanced by Zemanta