The Films We Love- (yes, even Lifeforce…)

Its funny the films we love. Ignoring those ‘classics’ that are widely considered great films (you know the usual suspects, Citizen Kane, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, The Apartment, 2001 etc) there are those that we just fall in love with anyway, just because, well, we like them, whatever critics and anyone else says. Some are rather good films deserving our fondness, while others are guilty pleasures that we enjoy perhaps for reasons outside the films themselves- reasons like nostalgic memories of the times we saw them, the way we were. Some films we carry torches for from our teenage years all the way through adulthood and old age. I guess I’d count many of the late ‘seventies/early ‘eighties films that I love in that category. Blade Runner is my favourite movie partly for the experience of watching at just that time when it was new and breathtaking, and for that period when it was like the ultimate cult film that no-one had seen or heard of other than for hardcore sci-fi nuts like me. Its clearly not the greatest film ever made- indeed it was horribly flawed, damn near broken on its first theatrical version. But even though the versions have changed on its many re-releases, and I have seen it countless times -surely more than a hundred- in the 30 years since that first time back in September 1982, I still love that film as much as I ever did. Revisiting it is like revisiting an old friend.

But its like that sometimes even with those old films we didn’t like back when we first saw them. Perhaps we were too young to appreciate some films and we find that re-watching them when older and wiser we ‘get’ them and enjoy them. Maybe some films are just as bad as they were back in the day but in hindsight don’t seem quite so awful as the current crop of films for some reason or other. I’ve found I quite enjoy some older, pre-cgi films precisely because they are pre-cgi… as if the matte lines and dodgy effects and actors unfortunate hairdos give the films a charm and affinity it lacked originally. Is that more the charm of the old days, memories of the times, than anything in the film itself? Certainly a lot of older films lack the artificial sleekness of current films, as I find that there is a ‘perfection’ in how actors look these days, and how modern films are obviously co-designed by marketing departments and aimed with chilling sophistication at particular demographics. Older films seem more innocent shots-in-the-dark in that respect.


I must admit to a certain thrill at the news that Arrow is releasing a special two-disc edition of Lifeforce later this year (ain’t that steelbook a peach?). I saw Lifeforce at the cinema back on its original release. I think I was in college then. Saw it in town in the old picture-palace that was the ABC cinema- back in that huge, red-plastered, cavern-like Screen One that seemed like a theatre of lost silverscreen dreams, the dog-eared worn seats shadows of earlier, more prosperous times, back when The Sound of Music  and Zulu ruled the box-office.  Well, even inspite of Mathilda May’s obvious charms, Lifeforce was a complete stinker. As a horror film it was shockingly silly.  At the time I dismissed the film but as the years have passed and I’ve watched it several times, I actually have grown to like the film. Its a lousy horror film but it is so bad its actually rather funny, and I find I can giggle at the bad dialogue and cheesy performances and inept direction. So bad its good? And of course its all pre-cgi make-up and optical effects, the over-the-top music score is over-ripe Hammer… its a great bad movie.  To think after all these years someone is working on a two-disc special edition of the film with commentaries, docs etc.. well it restores my faith in humanity when a film as bad and broken as this one gets that kind of love and care. I’m just surprised some people still maintain its a horror film- if they marketed it as a deliberate comedy I think it would get a wider audience and recognition. No accounting for taste, eh?

But anyway, I’d hardly cite Lifeforce as a great film, but I love it all the same. Legend is one of Ridley Scott’s more lamentable misfires, but I have found that my affection for it has increased over the years. Partly because I remember seeing it back in its cinema release when it seemed to slip by unnoticed by most people, partly because its real-world sets/make-up/miniatures give it a ‘look’ utterly alien to the cgi wonders of The Lord of the Rings films and the recent The Hobbit.

Maybe part of it is how modern films are so obviously colour-graded in post, whereas the ‘look’ of older films is from the actual on-set lighting, lenses, filmstock…  maybe thats why when I rewatch these older films I feel something in them. Conan The Barbarian (the 1982 version) was a film I didn’t even particularly enjoy back when I first saw it, but nowadays I thinks its up there with Spartacus– its a bold, gritty, real-world movie that, in spite of its dodgy acting, mixed effects work etc, feels like exactly the kind of film they can’t make anymore (and the recent remake proved it). Bear in mind its also got a fantastic soundtrack score, which is something that a lot of older films have but current films usually lack. Indeed most of the older films I love have great music scores, while most current films ditch melodies in preference for ‘mood’ and ambience, or sound like Hans Zimmer/Media Ventures muzak.

So anyway, if it takes your fancy, please leave a comment regards the films you love that you just know aren’t great, or indeed perhaps even any good. I figure that every film out there has at least someone who loves it. I’m just curious how bad some of them are!

2 thoughts on “The Films We Love- (yes, even Lifeforce…)

  1. Several things provoked thought from me here, so, apologies, article-length comment:

    I definitely relate to being too young to appreciate certain films. There are some I merrily dismissed when I watched that I now feel I’d really get something from. I think it’s a realisation that comes with age, too — “that was awful, I’ll never watch it again” mutates into an almost-abstract “actually, I might appreciate that now”. There have even been times I’ve felt I won’t relate to a certain film if I watch it now, but maybe if I wait 5 or 10 years…

    Also, talking of colour-grading and all that modern shenanigans, I watched the first Harry Potter the other week and was amazed how film-like it looked. And that’s only 12 years old! Conversely, clips from the sixth one in an accompanying documentary looked like painted production art, so dense was the CGI and computer tweaking.

    Anyway, the real topic at hand. First things that come to mind for me are films like Flash Gordon, which is brilliant fun and perhaps misunderstood (I think it was (and is) taken as a wannabe-Star Wars, but even if the studio saw it that way I don’t believe the makers intended it at all). In a surprisingly similar vein, Josie and the Pussycats, which is a satire of media, advertising and mass-market music, but for some reason almost every critics took at face value and laughed at the makers for not getting the irony… when the irony was the entire point! But I haven’t seen it for years, so it might be dated and childish and very of-its-time by now.

    Also, Highlander, which is riddled with flaws and ridiculous bits but just works. And Face/Off, which I always thought was a well-liked somewhat-daft action movie, but recently I’ve only heard it discussed derogatorily. And, same director, M:I-2, which elicits genuine hatred from some that I’ve never understood. For me it might be the best of the series, which I enjoy all of (though somehow still haven’t seen Ghost Protocol).

    It’s difficult to know where to draw the line. There are films I don’t think are in any way bad, but still aren’t that widely known or acclaimed so maybe I’m wrong: Tony Scott’s Spy Game, for instance; or Mystery Men, or Where the Truth Lies, or Saved!, or the original Gambit (even the remake doesn’t seem to have bolstered it), or… Actually, perhaps king of them all: Easy Virtue. Utterly derided by critics, I thought it was magnificent.

    It’s the 10th year of my blog in three years — maybe given that kind of time I could whittle a list of favourites down to a reasonable number!

    1. You know, I have never seen Flash Gordon in its entirety. I always seem to catch either the beginning, or the end, whenever it is aired but I am sure there is a whole middle section I have never seen, I remember loving the album when it first came out, I have no idea why I never went to the cinema to actually see the film. Indeed I am sometimes tempted by the low-price Blu-ray in the bargain bins.

      Being a lover of films, its easy to fall into a revisionist habit of giving films ‘another go’, or some films being so bad they are somehow ‘good’ (which is how I see Lifeforce). Perhaps you should try a list of Top Ten Bad Films or Top Ten Guilty Faves. We all have them, I guess.

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