Latest interp of Hitchcock’s 1944 “Lifeboat” tosses disparate survivors of an exploded spaceship out into the void somewhere between Venus and Earth in 2169, and lets them stew over which one may have blown up the space vessel. All the bells, lights and whistles may charm some viewers, but the vidpic’s a hollow, just-OK actioner.
The opening sequence aboard the spaceliner after the bomb goes off is surefire mayhem, and there’s a good sense of emergency as people abandon ship. Director/star Ron Silver mixes action and characters well enough to emphasize their specialties, but not their individuality.
The script by Pen Densham and M. Jay Roach lacks the cohesiveness of its predecessor; here, the enemy, instead of Nazi Germany, is a vague, threatening, fascist-like bunch called Earthcore.
Eight folks are locked into the lifepod: pilot Mayvene (CCH Pounder); blind (and mysterious) Terman (Silver); dread Earthcore rep Banks (Robert Loggia); photojournalist Claire (Jessica Tuck); shipworker Parker (Stan Shaw); ex-con Kane (Adam Storke); sour medical technician Rena (Kelli Williams); and “modified” little person Q-Three (Ed Gale).
This version features little more than the goal of self-preservation; one of the chief assets of the original, aside from how Hitchcock worked his story in such confined quarters, was delineation of characters reacting to wartime pressure. “Lifepod” needs some of that. The menace of lurking enemy craft has been jettisoned; more important, the overall united purposefulness is gone.
Pounder’s Mayvene is the most credible, probably because she’s the most original character. Shaw, playing the equivalent of the William Bendix character , displays self-discipline and that’s about it.
Tuck’s Claire, presumably a run at the Tallulah Bankhead role with a veneer of sophistication, intently videotapes what’s happening, but the interp doesn’t ring true. Storke’s Kane, apparently based loosely on the John Hodiak part, seems more a fill-in.
The sets, built on a Van Nuys soundstage, are lifelike and functional-looking as designed by Curtis R. Schnell, and model shots are first-rate as aircraft whiz through nothingness.
Tech credits are fine for a program whose uniqueness rests in how the “Lifeboat” story by John Steinbeck might be tailored for the space age. But for a spaceship, “Lifepod” weighs too much.