If any Tobe Hooper was over­due for the spe­cial edi­tion treat­ment, it was Lifeforce.  It is rare for such an odd blend of gen­res to get pro­duced with such a big bud­get — and the result was the kind of film that not only deserves a high-def­i­n­i­tion treat­ment but also demands to have its curi­ous sto­ry told.  Luckily for the director’s fans, Scream Factory stepped in to tack­le this long-await­ed spe­cial edi­tion — and the results are a high-cal­iber release that does jus­tice to this oft-neglect­ed film.

The pack­age begins with an excel­lent anamor­phic trans­fer of the film.  The blu-ray fea­tures both the inter­na­tion­al and U.S. cuts of the film via seam­less branch­ing while the DVD sticks to the inter­na­tion­al cut.  Whatever option you choose, this is a love­ly trans­fer packed with crisp detail, vivid col­ors and a gor­geous cel­lu­loid tex­ture.  Director Tobe Hooper super­vised the col­or tim­ing of the trans­fer him­self and the results are the best this film has ever looked on home video.

The audio is also quite impres­sive on this trans­fer, giv­ing the view­er the option of 2.0 or 5.1 stereo sound­tracks.  Both are pre­sent­ed in a loss­less for­mat on the blu-ray and the 5.1 option was lis­tened to for this review: it’s a real barn­stormer of a track, with plen­ty of sur­round effects dur­ing the many set­pieces and a sim­i­lar­ly vis­cer­al treat­ment for Henry Mancini’s stir­ring orches­tral score.

This set also includes a ver­i­ta­ble bonan­za of bonus fea­tures.  Not one but two com­men­tary tracks start it all off.  The first fea­tures Hooper, with Tim Sullivan serv­ing as mod­er­a­tor.  Sullivan is very enthu­si­as­tic about the film and takes the lead, direct­ing the will­ing Hooper through a con­ver­sa­tion about the film that bal­ances scene-speci­fic details with more gen­er­al tales about the film.  Hooper dis­cuss­es how he joined the project, the “mag­ic tricks” used to achieve dif­fer­ent visu­al effects and some fun bits of triv­ia (a sam­ple: Billy Idol almost played one of the male space vam­pires).  Sullivan can some­times get a lit­tle overex­cit­ed and rush the track but there’s nev­er a dull moment on it and the nice cama­raderie between him and Hooper makes for engag­ing lis­ten­ing.

The oth­er track fea­tures make­up effects super­vi­sor Nick Maley with mod­er­a­tor Michael Felsher.  Plenty of time is devot­ed to dis­cussing the com­plex­i­ties of the var­i­ous effects, par­tic­u­lar­ly the sce­nes involv­ing the ani­ma­tron­ic dum­mies, and what it was like work­ing with Hooper and the film’s visu­al and prac­ti­cal effects super­vi­sors.  Felsher also gets Maley to talk about the his­to­ry of his career, includ­ing fond mem­o­ries of his work on The Empire Strikes Back and Krull.  It’s relaxed but very infor­ma­tive and offers some inter­est­ing insight into how the make­up effects busi­ness func­tions in the U.K.

There is also an array of vin­tage pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als to be explored.  An exten­sive image gallery includes stills and poster art from dif­fer­ent coun­tries, includ­ing an eye-catch­ing poster for the film’s oth­er title, Space Vampires.  Better yet, it includes some cool make­up FX pho­tos from Nick Maley’s personal col­lec­tion.  A trail­er gallery includes 3 spots: a t.v. com­mer­cial and two the­atri­cal trail­ers.  They all use the strik­ing “eye vs. Earth” imagery that dom­i­nat­ed the U.S. cam­paign and the first of the the­atri­cal trail­ers is stun­ning, a most­ly silent mon­tage of shock­ing sights set to a throb­bing syn­th sound­track.

The jew­el of the vin­tage pro­mo mate­ri­al is “The Making Of Lifeforce,” an EPK cre­at­ed to pro­mote the film.  It includes inter­views with Hooper, Maley and visu­al FX mae­stro John Dykstra as well as quick inter­view snip­pers with Peter Firth and Steve Railsback.  This piece goes all out to sell the view­er on the production’s com­plex­i­ty and the amaz­ing spe­cial effects, includ­ing sev­er­al sequences that con­trast how the effects were achieved on set with the way they look in the film.  It’s unusu­al­ly detailed for an EPK and the FX-dri­ven mate­ri­al makes it a keep­er for the film’s fans.

Even bet­ter, there are a trio of new fea­turettes from Red Shirt Pictures to round things out.  The first is “Space Vampires In London”: it’s an inter­view with Tobe Hooper that acts as a 10-min­ute sup­ple­ment to his com­men­tary, with only slight over­lap.  New mate­ri­al he cov­ers in this seg­ment includes how Dan O’Bannon got involved in the project and the tech­ni­cal chal­lenges of dif­fer­ent effects sce­nes. “Carlsen’s Curse” is devot­ed to star Steve Railsback.  He’s a gre­gar­i­ous inter­view sub­ject and cov­ers a lot in 7 min­utes, includ­ing the gru­el­ing phys­i­cal part of being in effects sce­nes, the pro­tec­tive atti­tude he and the crew had towards Mathilda May and a fun­ny anec­dote about Patrick Stewart.

However, the big sur­prise of the Red Shirt fea­turettes — indeed, of all the extras — is a 15-min­ute inter­view with Mathilda May enti­tled “Dangerous Beauty.”  The still-beau­ti­ful star reflects on the whirl­wind nature of her first big act­ing gig, includ­ing the chal­lenges of doing the nudi­ty, learn­ing the English lan­guage and her fond mem­o­ries of the oth­er cast mem­bers.  She is soft-spo­ken but quite charm­ing as she shares her mem­o­ries in a gen­tly expres­sive way.

In short, this is yet anoth­er gem in the Scream Factory cat­a­log and a must for Tobe Hooper fans.  If you love the grand-scale mad­ness of Lifeforce, this set offers an appro­pri­ate­ly deluxe way to indul­ge that love.