LIFESPAN (DVD)

3.5 Stars
Year Released: 1974
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 81 minutes
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In the early 70’s, director Alexander Whitelaw became fixated on the idea of immortality. With the help of a wealthy friend he garnered enough capital to film a fictional piece based, in part, on his obsession. The aptly titled “Lifespan” was the fruit of his labors.

Dr. Ben Land meets with mentor and fellow researcher Dr. Paul Linden while attending a medical research conference in Amsterdam. That evening Linden hangs himself and Dr. Land soon finds that he is trapped within a web of deceit, corruption, unorthodox experiments and murder. Linden’s sexy and sultry mistress, Anna, plays into the “game” as she seduces and lures Land into an evil scheme. She then delivers the curious doctor directly to the hands of the unscrupulous Nicholas Ulrich.

Ulrich, played by the incomparable Klaus Kinski, is also hooked on the notion of ceasing death. As Dr. Land searches for the answer to Dr. Linden’s suicide he discovers that it was the determined and quite mad Ulrich who was partially to blame. Linden was Ulrich’s pawn. Ulrich was using Linden’s scientific knowledge to help further his study of immortality. Accidental fatalities and an unhealthy jealousy over Anna lead the doctor to his death. Now, Dr. Ben Land has been tricked into continuing the experiments, or did he really need to be tricked at all?

Morality versus mortality becomes the big question, as well as the likelihood of overpopulation and starvation. However, by the time Dr. Land is capable of addressing these issues he’s found himself too deeply involved to even care. Whether or not he honestly wants to cheat death for his own uses is never fully explored. But Land is a scientist and with only a bit of provocation by Ulrich, he becomes consumed with the desire to succeed. The deaths of animals, humans or even himself become irrelevant in his need to accomplish the seemingly unattainable.

The advertising for “Lifespan” is misleading to say the least. Originally it was touted as a horror film and then later a sci-fi thriller. Neither description fits the film properly. Driven far more by dialogue than by action, “Lifespan” comes across more as a cerebral mystery than anything resembling horror or science fiction. Still, it’s an engaging work that, in an odd way, will manage to appease genre fans.

Mondo Macabro released this with an interview with the film’s director, the theatrical trailer, a gallery of stills and the controversial bondage scene which was edited in many countries.



Posted on July 17, 2006 in Reviews by
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