They Live (1988)

Only since writing reviews has this reviewer noticed how many films he’s seen in the past have been edited, sometimes suspiciously. Suspiciously, in the sense that certain subtleties, obviously intended by the makers, were either down-played or even entirely ignored. So it is with John Carpenter’s They Live. Although made in 1988, the movie is even more relevant today than it was then. Chillingly so, enough to verge on being almost prophetic in retrospect.

Were one in fact to remove an alien presence out of the picture, and to instead employ that of a purely human elite (bent on total subjugation of all the rest of mankind) this film would be absolutely prophetic. But then one must see the Netflix DVD version to be certain you’re getting the same benefit. Even if that “benefit” is a discomforting wake-up call.

The gifted Mr. Carpenter has both directed and adapted to the screen the Ray Nelson short story. The superb cast includes Roddy Piper, Keith David and the lovely Meg Foster. Although Mr. Piper’s performance is but convincing, those of Keith David and Meg Foster are exceptional…as is to be expected. Special effects for an obviously budgeted film are very good, and the professional supporting cast extensive. George Fowler’s performance is especially notable.

One scene has nudity inappropriate for the little ones and the language is a bit more than colorful. However, They Live, as both futurist and good science fiction is extraordinary.  And if one might “justify” editing out the film’s more astute social ramifications, they might certainly do the same for a few graphic expressions and upper body nudity.

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