Plot: What’s it about?
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper stars in this thriller, as a loner who falls into a much larger scheme of world dominance by alien forces. Piper gets a construction job, lives in a make-shift village, and finds out some of the other people in this village are part of an underground movement against the aliens. Piper finds a box of sun-glasses in a dumpster, puts them on, and the world changes! Piper can now see the aliens, who look like normal people unless you are wearing the glasses. Piper can also see the messages hidden within signs, magazines, and hell, everything! Subliminal messaging gets whole new meaning after this one!
Needless to say, Piper fights back, and tries to shut down the alien empire. But will one great Scotsman triumph? Watch for yourself. Don’t dismiss this movie just because a former pro wrestler has the lead. Piper is perfect for the role, even if his acting is lean, because the role seems to fit his real personality like a glove. This flick is nothing but action and witty catch-phrases, just like all your favorite muscle bound hero vehicles. But this one has a decent story, and very cathing visuals.
The scenes after Piper discovers the glasses are very moving, sometimes nearly disturbing. The phrases hidden under the alien’s guise are startling, and conspiracy buffs will love the whole theme. “Obey”, “Watch TV”, and my favorite, seen on money, “This Is Your God.” These are great, and the movie is very entertaining. Carpenter may be better known for other movies, but this is a sometimes over-looked gem. If you want suspense, action, and humor rolled into one movie, this is it. But, this is not a deep film, so what you see is what you get. But what you get is a fun movie, so give it a chance.
Video: How does it look?
Admittedly it’s been a decade or so since I’ve seen this movie, so it was with eager anticipation that I popped the Blu-ray in the player. Hey…this isn’t bad! The included 2.35:1 AVC HD image certainly looks better than it did on DVD. The main thing that really struck me was the detail. Very sharp. But not too sharp. It’s really amazing how sharper focus and a more detailed image can really bring a movie from looking average to looking stellar. Granted this wasn’t the biggest budget movie back in the late 80’s. Colors are bolder and stronger as well. While this isn’t a perfect transfer, there’s still some grain in a few scenes, it is a much more lively (pardon the pun) image and one that’s finally suited for a film with this much of a following.
Audio: How does it sound?
We get a couple options when listening to this movie. We get a 2.0 stereo mix as well as a 5.1 mix. Surprisingly the 2.0 mix is the one that I preferred. Granted, the film was originally made with this stereo mix, so it does sound a bit more “natural” while the 5.1 mix does have a few moments where it sounds a bit fabricated. Dialogue is relatively clear and free of distortion as well. Though we don’t get any action out of the surrounds with the stereo mix, it’s of little consequence. I never thought I’d hear myself saying this, but forego the 5.1 mix and listen to the movie the way it was made to be heard!
Supplements: What are the extras?
The previous DVD contained exactly zero supplements. Shout! Factory has fixed this and has given fans what they want – extras! Let’s dive in, shall we? First up is an audio commentary with director John Carpenter and lead actor Roddy Piper. The two play off one another and I have to admit that Carpenter gives some of the better commentary tracks out there. There’s plenty of detail in his explanation and he keeps it interesting to boot. “Independent Thoughts” is a newer interview with Carpenter discussing the origin of the story and he shares some insight on the making of the film as well. “Woman of Mystery” is an interview with star Meg Foster about her character. “Watch, Look, Listen: The Sights & Sounds” is a ten minute look at the film, the fight sequences and some interviews with the crew, notably choreographer Gary Kibble. “Man vs. Aliens” is a conversation with star Keith David as he waxes about his role in the film and working with director John Carpenter. “The Making of They Live” is just that, a vintage featurette that mainly gives us plenty of behind the scenes footage. Three minutes of never before seen footage is essentially a collection of the commercials seen from the film that can be viewed as a whole. There’s also a gallery of still pictures and some trailers for some of Carpenter’s other films.