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They Live: Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

28 Oct, 2012 By: John Latchem

Street 11/6/12
Shout! Factory
$19.93 DVD, $29.93 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R.’
Stars Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster.

John Carpenter’s 1988 cult classic They Live is easily identifiable as the movie in which magic sunglasses allow “Rowdy” Roddy Piper to see the world has been overrun by aliens posing as human.

Beyond the plot, the film is best known for two scenes. First, when Piper stumbles into a bank toting a shotgun and declares, “I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum.” And second, the five-minute alley fistfight between Piper and Keith David that was re-created almost frame for frame on “South Park,” re-staged between two handicapped kids in the episode “Cripple Fight.”

Former pro-wrestler Piper breezes through his role, underplaying almost every scene as the homeless drifter who stumbles upon a vast conspiracy of political and monied elites enforcing a strict class structure while ensuring a docile population through subliminal messages.

The Blu-ray looks very clean, with a vivid color palette that contrasts nicely with the black-and-white view of the alien world beneath the sunglasses.

Given the economic conditions at the heart of the story, the script probably could have been dusted off a year ago and filmed without making many changes. The allegory is broad enough for those on both sides of the political aisle to find a certain level of truth, though Carpenter himself, speaking in the bonus features, is rather clear that his target was the what he saw as unchecked capitalism of the 1980s. If anything, the film certainly embodies an underclass fantasy that society is specifically structured to oppress them.

Piper joins Carpenter for a commentary track carried over from an earlier European DVD release, in which they have a friendly chat about the visual effects, the stunts and Piper’s acting inexperience. Along these lines, Piper is rather candid about his relationship with WWE boss Vince McMahon, who didn’t want Piper to make the film.

Other extras on the Blu-ray include new interviews with Carpenter, David and actress Meg Foster, plus a featurette about the film’s visual style, stunts and music. The disc also dusts off a vintage making-of featurette from 1988, as well as restored footage created for the fake commercials seen on TV screens in the film.

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