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Hooper Targets Martians

August 10, 1985|DEBORAH CAULFIELD | Times Staff Writer

Before "Lifeforce's" June 21 release, Hooper spoke confidently about his latest undertaking. The special effects-laden extravaganza seemed a natural box-office draw and would, perhaps, remove the "Poltergeist" stigma.

Instead, most movie critics took simultaneous vacations from the superlatives they'd laid on many summer films and panned "Lifeforce" with a vengeance.

The New York Times called it "vampire porn" and "bewildering" while Washington Post reviewer Paul Attanasio wrote that the movie "is about Halley's Comet (in which the vampires hide), and if we're lucky, we won't see another like it for 75 years."

Moviegoers spurned the movie as well. Distributor Tri-Star Pictures stopped tracking the film's grosses after it took in little more than $11 million dollars during its first 30 days in release--hardly respectable figures. The film currently is playing in only a smattering of theaters.

On the "Invaders" set, Hooper still talked just as calmly about his expectations for "Lifeforce," despite its frosty reception.

"I'd expected mixed reviews, but I was even a bit surprised," he commented, chomping on the ever-present cigar. "I think part of it was due to the title change."

Hooper explained that Cannon changed the name from "Space Vampires" to "Lifeforce" for the movie's U.S. release "because the budget of the picture and the title didn't seem to go together."

He speculated that "Lifeforce" created a framework "where everyone expected it to be more serious, rather than satirical. It isn't quite camp, but we intended it to be funny in places."

Hooper's que sera, sera attitude was better understood when he explained that the film--because of exhibitors' pre-buys worldwide--was already in the black.

"I expect it to do much better in Europe," he speculated. "It already has been critically well accepted in France" (during early previews for reviewers).

Cannon assured Hooper that it planned no title changes on "Invaders," he said, grinning.

"Basically the story is a contemporary version of the original," the director explained, adding that James Hunt, who played young Jimmy in the original, will return this time as the chief of police.

He selected Eagle Rock Elementary School, with its long, narrow, high-ceilinged halls, as part of his tribute to Menzies' original "Invaders" concept. Although he directed the film, Menzies was better known for his production designs ("Gone With the Wind," the non-animated "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Thief of Bagdad" are just a few).

Before Hooper returned to the day's filming, he emphasized, "It should be known in advance that this is going to be a zany, warm, wonderful film--not dark and deadly. It's gonna be entertaining!"

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