The initial inspiration might have come from Pauline Kael, who decided that 2001: A Space Odyssey is a sophomoric film because there are no women in it. Kubrick figures in the initial décor, and also in the monumental structure derived from a dozen or so films, among them Alien, The Andromeda Strain, The Thing, Quatermass and the Pit, Night of the Living Dead, The Fury, Gog, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and at the very close, La Belle et la Bête (the lovers’ ascent).
The real construction is an excoriatingly satiric meditation on the theme of Mallarmé’s prose poem, “The Future Phenomenon”, in which the Showman of Things Past presents a Woman of bygone days “in an epoch that survives beauty.”
Lifeforce goes so far as to present itself in the tradition of British science fiction, and to offer a cataclysmic state of affairs. Its ultimate refinement is reflected in the addition of two male “space vampires,” an homage to Losey’s La Truite, in which Jeanne Moreau prophesies a time “when the question won’t be are you heterosexual or homosexual, but are you sexual or not.”
A rare film in which suspense is part of the structure, and building toward the image (out of Lautréamont and Gogol) of a giant space umbrella drawing up human souls, before transcending even this.
Maslin’s review carries on the tradition with an increase, its authoress having decided “about 30 seconds into [it]... this film is going to make no sense.”