They Live [Blu-Ray] John Carpenter

They Live [Blu-Ray]John Carpenter
It's non-too subtle, but John Carpenter's passionate social inequity allegory is still a great deal of fun. Taking a reductive, leftist perspective, the one percent — the affluent elite — are depicted as evil, manipulative aliens, brainwashing regular citizens into complacency via frequencies embedded in television broadcasts. A gruff working class drifter played by legendary sports entertainer Roddy Piper finds a pair of special sunglasses that allows him to see the world as it really is. Advertisements are boiled down to fundamental commands like "Obey," "Marry and Reproduce," "No Independent Thought," etc., while the nasty, exploitive aliens have secret faces. The glasses also apparently give our hero the power of the grammatically flawed bon mot. Before opening fire on a bunch of skull faces in a bank, Piper's character, named Nada, proclaims, "I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass; and I'm all out of bubble-gum." Taking his statement literally, in the absence of bubble-gum, there should have been no ass kicking. Nitpicky, yes, but this is a movie about finding the truth. Nada is a bit of a rash man; I understand the urge to immediately begin shooting assholes in business suits the second it seems justifiable, but acting on that urge, even if you have proof they're part of an invading extra-terrestrial species, is psychotic. To his credit, John Carpenter recognizes the immaturity of his knee-jerk hatred of any and all authority in the entertaining feature commentary he gives with the jovial Piper, and he has the defence of working within the sci-fi action genre to excuse broad gestures and violent solutions. The famously excessive fight scene between Piper and Keith David (Requiem for a Dream), as Nada desperately tries to get his buddy to put the glasses on, is one of those moments where that defence wears thin. Even if Carpenter feels that it's an immense struggle to get anyone to embrace, or try, a different point of view, that exhaustive brawl drags down the narrative momentum. With all he's trying to say, it would have helped the story more to spend some of that time developing narrative discards, like the addictive nature of the reality glasses. For this reissue, there's a new interview with John Carpenter that's quite revealing of the director's attitudes on a few subjects. He's so distrustful of any authority that's not his that he thinks depictions of extra-terrestrial life as anything other than malevolent entities is just plain wrong. There are also interviews with cast members Meg Foster and Keith David (you can probably guess who has a richer cinematic history to draw anecdotes from), a production feature on the effects, stunts and music, the original "Making of," previously unseen fake commercials created for the film and a collection of original trailers that show just how great a job was done on the restoration. (Shout! Factory)