Lifeforce creator Colin Wilson dies

Ben Bussey
7 December 2013

Colin Wilson, author of the novel which inspired the sci-fi horror movie 'Lifeforce,' has died aged 81.

Wilson (not to be confused with the American film producer of the same name) wrote the novel 'The Space Vampires' in 1976, which was adapted for the screen by screenwriter Dan O'Bannon and director Tobe Hooper in 1985. Originally intended to use the same title as the novel, studio Cannon Films reportedly renamed it in hopes of making it seem less like a B-movie.

This made little difference however, as 'Lifeforce' was met with almost universal derision from critics, and proved a massive box-office flop.

[Sci-fi horror Lifeforce set for TV adaptation]

Colin Wilson himself was also somewhat less than impressed with 'Lifeforce,' as he detailed in his autobiography 'Dreaming To Some Purpose':

"The trouble with the film was that it tried to move too fast… from the moment the vampires kill the guards and walk out into modern London, the pace accelerates until it is like a gramophone record being played at twice its proper speed. And the audience, bombarded and stunned by absurd special effects, soon lapses into a state of exhausted indifference."

"John Fowles had once told me that the film of 'The Magus' was the worst movie ever made. After seeing 'Lifeforce' I sent him a postcard telling him that I had gone one better."

However, it's fair to say that the film's reputation as an unintentionally hilarious, so-bad-it's-good schlockbuster has done wonders for its cult status. The film certainly isn't short of admirers, as evidenced earlier this year by its release in lavish Blu-ray editions from Scream Factory in the US and Arrow Video in Britain.

The screen rights to 'The Space Vampires' were also picked up recently by US production company Ringleader Studios, who intend to make a new TV series plus various media tie-in properties - again using the title 'Lifeforce.'

[Hollywood still loves Stephen King]

However, both 'Lifeforce' and 'The Space Vampires' are mere footnotes on Wilson's long, prolific and occasionally controversial career as a writer. More well known for his non-fiction work, he broke through aged only 25 with his best-selling, critically acclaimed 1956 book 'The Outsider,' whose success led to Wilson being counted in the Angry Young Men movement, briefly making him something of a celebrity.

However, he struggled to repeat this early success, and by the 70s had seemingly reinvented himself as a paranormal researcher. Starting with 1971's 'The Occult,' Wilson produced an astonishing number of books on various esoteric subjects, such as 'Alien Dawn,' 'Poltergeist,' 'Afterlife' and 'From Atlantis to the Sphinx.'

On top of this he wrote a great many true crime books, including research on Jack the Ripper, plus numerous other novels, typically in the sci-fi fantasy/horror area, such as 'The Mind Parasites' and the 'Spiderworld' series.

While 'Lifeforce' may be something of a joke even among those who like it (this writer included), Wilson himself was a writer who always hoped to be taken seriously, exploring great philosophical and mystical questions which he considered of the utmost importance. Among those with a particular interest in these questions, he will certainly be missed.

Ben Bussey is a freelance writer, sci-fi fantasy/horror enthusiast, and an admirer of Colin Wilson's writing.

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