With the recent death of director Tobe Hooper, it was time to dust off a blu ray I picked up but had yet to open from Scream Factory. I was long overdue to revisit this science fiction flick anyways not having seen it since it’s debut on VHS way back when. I’d actually forgotten it was a Cannon Films production. One of those efforts that Menahem Golan and Yoran Globus actually spent a few bucks on to compete with other big screen sci-fi thrillers. And then there’s the obvious remarks from the boys gathered around the bar sharing a few pitchers of beer. “What guy in his right mind wouldn’t love to revisit this thriller with the stunning Mathilda May waltzing through the movie with nary a stitch of clothing on for the majority of it?”
With Steve Railsback and Frank Finlay leading the way, this sci-fi thriller tosses in a good many ideas that one might even say are lifted from other screen horrors and blended together to wet everyone’s appetite. Beginning a lot like Alien, a spaceship led by Railsback enters Haley’s Comet where it finds an ancient vessel with what appears to be fossilized bats. Big ones! In the next chamber Steve and his crew find three perfectly preserved humans. They will of course move them to their own ship. And so it begins……..
Next up is the similarities to the 1966 Corman production, Queen of Blood. By the time the returning ship enters Earth’s orbit, there is no one left on board alive. The only survivors are in the three glass coffins. The innards of the ship have been burned to a cinder. Railsback bailed out in a pod and he’ll be the one to tell the scientists led by Finlay of the disaster that awaited his crew once they moved Mathilda and the others on board their space ship. The crew were slowly being drained of their lifeforce. Now we enter the vampire part of our story and in a gender switch on the great Bram Stoker novel, Railsback takes on the Mina Harker role as he is now linked to the beautiful space vamp. When Mathilda awakens she’s very much like the vampire Count as she drains the lives of those around to her to sustain her own life and spreads a plague when her own victims rise to suck the lives of others.
With the help of police inspector Peter Firth, Railsback tracks Mathilda across the English countryside in an effort to stop her from spreading her vampire like plague. This will lead them to an asylum overseen by Patrick Stewart ( just like the Stoker novel). More terrors await as the trio attempt to track the evil Mathilda as her Lifeforce can move from one body to another.
While the chase is on, the vampire’s mother ship is taking up position in the skies above London and turning the average city dweller into a zombie like state. Cue the George Romero comments as people not yet infected are attacked and when Railsback and Firth return to the city, they’ll have to go commando in order to find the resting place of our sexy villain. Looking at the screenplay credit, you’ll notice Dan O’Bannon. Not surprisingly Mr. O’Bannon happened to be the credited writer on the hilariously gory Return of the Living Dead so it’s even easier to make the zombie connection. O’Bannon would join up with Hooper and Cannon the following year as well for the big budget remake of 53’s Invaders From mars.
There are plenty of cool f/x throughout and it’s a colorful show down the stretch thanks to the many credited artists that worked on the production. I for one love that dried up security guard who comes back to life. Time for another dig at CGI……. there is no way this guy would even exist on film today. “We’ll just CGI him in to the frame.” Shoot! That just takes the fun out of films like these!
The visual effects are credited to Star Wars Oscar winner John Dykstra. Truthfully there is so much going on in this flick that the story line seems to big for the budget as it’s essentially a glorified ‘B” film which is to be expected I suppose considering it’s a Cannon Films release.
With all the nods to other films, intentional or not, one can even see a bit of Superman II briefly with the three super villains arriving from space though the male counterparts to Mathilda are minor in roles. I’m sure there are more one could connect beyond my thinking of Dracula, Alien, Queen of Blood and The Living Dead. If you have any suggestions feel free to add them below. Before doing so, have a look at what I found here in the vault. Not sure when or where I located this but nice to have it lying about.