Combustible Celluloid
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With: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, George 'Buck' Flower, Peter Jason, Susan Barnes, Sy Richardson, Susan Blanchard, Norman Alden
Written by: John Carpenter, based on a short story by Ray Nelson
Directed by: John Carpenter
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 93
Date: 11/03/1988

They Live (1988)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The Glasses Key

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

From one of the most underrated of all American filmmakers comes one of the most underrated of all films, John Carpenter's They Live (1988). This was one of the few movies to tackle paranoia and brain-washing in the Reagan era, while Reagan was still in office. A drifter called "Nada" (pro wrestler Roddy Piper) arrives in town, gets a job on a construction site, and finds a pair of glasses. When he puts them on, he sees things as they "really" are. Aliens are in power and disguised as humans, and they are controlling the rest of us with subliminal advertising and media messages ("obey" and "conform"). Of course, it's up to Roddy -- along with co-stars David Keith and Meg Foster -- to save the world. ("I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubblegum.") With Carpenter's clear, widescreen direction and his skill and enthusiasm at their highest peak, this is a masterpiece. It's based on a short story called "Eight O'Clock in the Morning," by Ray Nelson. Carpenter wrote the screenplay and composed the score (with Alan Howarth). In 2010, author Jonathan Lethem published an entire book devoted to this movie.

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