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Mondo Macabro presents
"He certainly implied to me he was on the verge of something extraordinary."
DVD ReviewMondo Macabro has made a good habit of releasing obscure cult films. Some are titles many thought would never see home video release are now readily available from this excellent young company. The newest addition to their catalog is the 1974 British production, Lifespan, a blend of numerous genres from science fiction to art house, which may not instantly come up when discussing that decade's best, but it has its fans.
Narrated by Dr. Ben Land (Hiram Keller) who goes from the US to Europe where he is to work with Dr. Paul Linden (Eric Schneider). The pair is to research gerontology (aging), but Linden is found hanged not long after Land's arrival. Land decides to delve into Linden's notes to continue the research himself and delves into the doctor's personal affairs as well. He meets Linden's ex-girlfriend, the gorgeous Anna (Tina Aumont), who is into some kinky sexual practices, to say the least. Soon, a mysterious Swiss man (Klaus Kinski) enters the picture, and Land is in way over his head.
This meandering film attempts take off numerous times, but never really rises above its mediocre screenplay. There's far too much dialogue about random scientific concepts that never make any sense or advance the plot. This is a case of director Alexander Whitelaw wanting to make more of what should have been a tightly paced cult film with the potential (given Kinski's presence) to reach underground classic status. Sure, we get Aumont's bondage scenes, and a requisite low-budget look, but there isn't enough smut or camp to make up for its flaws.
The acting is wooden; Keller's narration sounds as if it's read off of a cue card or some sort of prompter. Aumont is gorgeous and sexy, but she isn't much more. Her presence in numerous European cult films usually gives them a boost, but saving this one is even beyond her reach. The only actor seeming to have a good time is Kinski, who makes the most of his limited screen time. Still, those expecting the Kinski of his Werner Herzog collaborations will be disappointed to see this comparatively reserved performance.
The big surprise ending doesn't satisfy in the slightest, being all the more disappointing given the slow build-up. Such a talky film can be just as appealing as an action-packed one, but Lifespan is all talk and little payoff. It's just too bad there aren't any memorable scenes aside from those with Aumont, as a bit more of a complete, cult film experience might have elevated the film. Still, nothing but kudos to Mondo Macabro for releasing it on DVD, as even semi-stinkers deserve an audience.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: This new, 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is very impressive for a 1974 film. Not surprisingly, there is some softness, but these occasions are few and far between, as finely detailed images are a constant. Colors are nicely rendered, while contrast and shadow levels are consistent. Black levels are deep and solid, while grain, dirt, and other print flaws are nearly nonexistent.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The original mono soundtrack has been reproduced and cleaned up as well. Everything is just fine staying up front, as the limited sound effects and music blend in nicely with crisp, clear dialogue.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
23 Other Trailer(s) featuring Don't Deliver Us From Evil, Satan's Blood, Virgins From Hell, For Your Height Only, French Sex Murders, The Deathless Devil, Living Doll, Satanico Pandemonium, Panic Beats, Clonus, The Killer Must Kill Again, The Mansion of Madness, Alucarda, The Diabolical Dr. Z, Aswang, The Living Corpse, Blood of the Virgins, Seven Women for Satan, Lady Terminator, Crazy Love, Mill of the Stone Women, Dangerous Seductress, Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay: Special Edition
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Alexander Whitelaw
Packaging: Keep Case
There's also a 19-minute interview with Whitelaw in which he goes into more detail about the making of the movie. He spends some time talking about his career as a whole and Lifespan's place in it.
The extras conclude with the trailer, a collection of trailers for other Mondo Macabro releases, and a trio of stills galleries that give us a look at some color and black-and-white pictures, as well as photos from the Terry Riley soundtrack recording session.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsYou'll find far better European cult films out there than Lifespan, but Klaus Kinski (and Tina Aumont) fans will want to give Mondo Macabro's new DVD a look. The disc is a very solid effort, complete with nice new audio and video transfers and a handful of interesting extras.
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