The late, great Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrowdy Roddy Piper takes the lead as day-labourer John Nada, who susses out that there’s a lot of weird stuff going down in the church when he chances upon some sunglasses which – wouldn’tchaknowit – prove that society has been infiltrated by aliens.
He puts the glasses on, and sees a billboard go forom a computer advert to a white background with “Obey” in black lettering. Another says “Marry and Reproduce”, while a shop sign says “No independent thought”, and there’s much more where that came from. My favourite is “Do not question authority”, which explains all the drones who soak up the “man-made global warming” nonsense.
However, there’s also the iconic line spoken by Piper, “I come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, but i’m all out of bubble gum”, which I’d only heard of before when spoken by Duke Nukem in Duke Nukem 3D, where he switches it slightly, to, “It’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and i’m all out of bubble gum”, and I actually think it works better that way.
Roddy is there just as all hell starts breaking loose and the riot police are out and about, although everyone’s afraid of the cops as they do a ‘Rodney King’ on the black, blind preacher, even before Mr King was violently beaten by the police.
Once it starts to get going, it’s fun to watch, despite sometimes relying on jump scares, but it’s just over 30 minutes before he actually finds the sunglasses. Beyond that, there’s a ridiculous punch-up and why does Meg Foster always wear weird contact lenses>
While I’m not into WWE wrestling, Piper does make for a decent, cheesy ’80s-style action hero, but never seemed to make it into the mainstream, and if the Fast and Furious franchise had been around when he was big, no doubt he would’ve been in the cast.
If you’re looking to buy this, I would question why the sound is ever so slightly out of sync with the picture? Unless that’s how the master is, since look at the remastered Highlander Blu-ray, and about the first 20 minutes…
It’d be difficult to see this get made today in precisely the same way, since John thinks nothing of blowing people away on the street with semi-automatic weapons, and in the way the world is now, John Carpenter would be slated for making a film which was seen to be glorifying violence, even though he’s only capping the aliens. Then again, how he manages to be so accurate is anyone’s guess, as he fires off with gay abandon as the scared public rush about in front of him, and if you’ve ever played Virtua Cop, you know just how irritating it can be when people start getting in your way.
The film is presented in the theatrical 2:35:1 widescreen aspect ratio and in 1080p high definition, and there’s a little bit of an effect on the image that detracts slightly, but I expect this is down to the source and not any remastering relating to this release. It’s something that most people won’t even notice, however.
The sound is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and there’s some occasional use of split-surround sound audio, but the plus of that is detracted by the sync issues, and I don’t know whether that’s always been there in this film. If anyone knows, please let me know.
The stack of extras are as follows. Not *quite* as many as The Fog, but if I’m comparing this to the average Blu-ray, there’s a ton more than those. Note that I can only rate the extras based on the discs I receive, but if you buy the 4K boxset (see pic below), you get some very lovely additional treats:
- Subversion; Exposing John Carpenter’s They Live (47:00): Here’s this release’s brand new piece, which is a retrospective documentary featuring interviews with Associate producer Sandy King, cinematographer Gary Kibbe, actor Peter Jason, actor Robert Grasmere, composer Alan Howarth, stunt coordinator/Ghoul Jeff Imada, author Jonathan Letham, music historian Daniel Schweiger, Blumhouse editor Rebekah McKendry, and visual effects historian Justin Humphreys.
This isn’t chaptered, surprisingly.
- Original EPK: The Making of They Live (8:02): Made back in the day, and presented in 4:3, this mixes chat from John Carpenter with on-set footage. This is certainly worth a watch for the retro value.
- John Carpenter profile (2:47): A short piece about Mr Carpenter with chat mixed in with some clips. Some of this was part of the above EPK.
- Meg Foster profile (2:24): Chat from Ms Foster set against clips from the film, with additions from John Carpenter and Roddy Piper, again sometimes borrowing from the EPK.
- Roddy Piper profile (2:11): You know what to expect, here.
- Fake commercials in the film (2:34): Using the original reels found a few years ago, this is the footage set to some backing music.
- TV spots (1:56): 4 brief trailers for TV, all in 4:3 but still slightly stretched. Quality control in the ’80s wasn’t like how it is today.
- Photo gallery (2:17): A number of on-set pics changing approx every five seconds. You can’t skip through them as they’re not chaptered.
- Independent Thoughts with John Carpenter (10:07): A 2012 interview with Mr Carpenter mixed in with film clips. This has some neat opening credits where Roddy sees the titles through his sunglasses, rather than the film’s intended posters.
- Woman of Mystery (5:20): Meg Foster gives her thoughts on the film.
- Man vs Aliens (11:12): And now it’s Keith David’s turn.
- Audio commentary: with writer/director John Carpenter and thge late, great Roddy Piper, so that is going to make this an essential purchase for many, alone.
The menu mixes clips from the film with some static cast/zombie images, but after they’ve made their presence felt… And again, it’s silent! Why? Chapters are a bog-standard 12 and subtitles are in English, French and German.
1*CD Soundtrack), a poster, 5 artcards and a 48-page book.
Running time: 96 minutes
Released: October 29th 2018
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1 HD-MA
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (35mm, Panavision)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: John Carpenter
Producer: Larry Franco
Screenplay: John Carpenter (as Frank Armitage)
Short story: Ray Nelson (“Eight O’Clock in the Morning”)
Music: John Carpenter and Alan Howarth
John Nada: Roddy Piper
Frank: Keith David
Holly: Meg Foster
Drifter: George ‘Buck’ Flower
Gilbert: Peter Jason
Street Preacher: Raymond St. Jacques
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.