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John Carpenters’ “They Live” (1988). Sort of a Sci-Fi Film but Definitely a Cult Classic.

Well JPFmovie fans here is a blast from the past that’s been under the radar for most of the population: John Carpenters’ They Live (1988).  Despite its age, this film was recently in the news because neo-Nazis and anti-semites took to claiming on various white power websites that Carpenter’s paranoid sci-fi action flick was an allegory for “Jewish control of the world.” When we here at JPFmovies read this nonsense, we had the same reaction as director Carpenter who said in a tweet ““THEY LIVE is about yuppies and unrestrained capitalism.  It has nothing to do with Jewish control of the world, which is slander and a lie.” The morons who believe the film was created for some white power fools are possibly the stupidest people alive.

That said, They Live reached cult classic status more than a decade ago because that is exactly what it is—a cult classic.  The film stars the recently deceased Roddy Piper (1954-2015) (the former WWF professional wrestler) as a no-name wonderer who is down on his luck living on the street while looking for any kind of work.  As the wanderer arrives in Los Angeles (arriving from Colorado) he is initially rebuffed by an employment agency but his luck changes a little when he stumbles onto a construction site and after a little groveling is given a job.  After a hard day’s work, the wanderer is approached by another laborer who directs Piper to a shanty town located in some vacant lot.  During his stay in the shanty town, the T.V. shows are hacked by some bizarre person talking about the masses staying asleep and the population is being breed as “livestock.”

 

The wanderer realizes that the man on television is in a local church where he discovers that the church it is actually the headquarters of an underground organization.  The shanty town is subject to a violent police shakedown and Piper starts to believe that something is rotten in the state of Denmark so to speak.  To learn more, he re-enters the church and finds a box full of sunglasses that allows his to see the world as it is. Though sunglasses found by Piper appear to be worthless, they actually provide him with the greatest gift of all: The Truth and the truth is shocking.  After discovering the truth, Piper gets really pissed off and grabs a shotgun and starts shooting aliens.

After the aliens realize that the wanderer can see through their disguise, they immediately alert the authorities saying “I’ve got one that can see.” Being able to “see” is obviously frowned upon by the aliens – they do not like to be exposed.  Piper says the profound and timeless words: “I don’t like this ooooooooone bit.”

 

Upon learning the shocking truth about the world, the wanderer needs to get others to see the truth as well and shares this vital information with his friend Frank Armitage.  However some people do not want to hear about it.  When Piper asks Frank to put on his sunglasses so he can see what he sees, Frank firmly refuses and calls him a “crazy motha…”  But Piper replies with another classic line “Either you put these sunglasses on or start eating that trash can.” What comes next is arguably the longest one-on-one fight scene consisting of eight minutes of punching and kicking, which is dragged out for so long that it becomes comical.

 

After convincing his friend that the world is not what it seems to be, a shooting spree ensues.  While at a bank, Piper says the famous line “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum” and then starts shooting every alien he sees.  During his shooting spree, he meets Holly Thomspon, a Cable 54 network executive that always somehow brings trouble.  During a resistance meeting she poses as a sympathizer and claiming that where she works–Cable 54–“was clean” and not the source of aliens’ signal, which was false and misleading.  The wanderer and his friend Frank however attack Cable 54 anyways where Holly appears again, claiming that she wants to help him. However, she is simply trying to kill him before the mission is accomplished.  She is simply another human that sold out to the aliens being used to disrupt non-corrupted humans attempting to liberate themselves and others.  Despite the odds against him Piper manages to take down the aliens’ transmitter and saves humanity.  His heroics get him killed, however, as a policeman inside a helicopter shoots him dead, but while dying, the wanderer gives the alien/cops the proverbial finger!

What a film!  Aliens, statements about America’s consumer culture, shotguns classic one-liners and flipping the police the bird before dying—frankly it doesn’t get much better than this.  This is a JPFmovies must see film that will hopefully make you part of its “cult.”

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Another Break from Musashi–Dirk Benedict as M. Harry Smilac in “Body Slam” (1986). Lurking if you are out there this one is for you.

Lurking if you are out there this one is for you–I had to dig deep into my bag of tricks to pull out this one.

M. Harry Smilac (Dirk Benedict), once a successful music promoter, is losing talent and having a hard time booking gigs for his sole client, the rock band “Kicks.” Behind on his Ferrari payments  and owing $67,000.00 to a Korean savings and loan that, despite losing in court, is insistent on recovering, he reluctantly accepts a job finding musical acts for a fundraiser of an unlikeable politician.  While waiting to meet the manager of the venue Smilac stumbles across negotiations involving Roddy Piper as “Quick Rick Roberts” and thinking that they are discussing a musical act instead of a pro-wrestling jumps in on behalf Piper and cuts him a great deal.  Word quickly spreads throughout the wrestling business that Smilac is the manager to have.  Smilac’s success takes business away from existing managers Captain Lou Albano (playing Captain Lou Murano) and midget Billy Bartley who naturally become upset and try to muscle Smilac out of the business.

A day after the disastrous fundraiser featuring Smilac’s rock band, Murano and his tag team champions “The Cannibals” (Sione Vailahi and Tom Cassett) injure Smilac and his wrestlers in a nationally televised bout, before blacklisting them from every major venue in the country.  Smilac adapts though and takes his wrestlers and his band on a cross country road tour of small arenas.  Initially he promotes separate wrestling and rock shows, but a scheduling mix-up at a venue causes him to promote a single event featuring both his musicians and wresters.  The show is a hit and Smilac schedules an entire tour using the same “Rock n’ Wrestling” format.  Their tour is a huge success and inspires Harry, Roberts and Tonga to win a hard fought rematch against Murano’s Cannibals.

Naturally Smilac finds a love interest in Candace Vandervagen (Tanya Roberts), the daughter of the politician’s wealthy campaign booster.  Who (of course) is initially resistant to any relationship until the Korean’s try to collect their “small consumer loan” as Smilac characterizes it and destroy her mother’s Rolls Royce in the process.  Everyone in the film does fine job except for the lifeless Roberts.  Though she is the love interest, there’s no spark or energy coming from her at all—just boredom.  Actors shouldn’t take it out on the audience when they don’t really want to be in a movie they’re already in ironically they need to take it out on their managers.

In an interview with Canadian Online Explorer, Dirk Benedict recounts positive experiences working on the film. However, both he and director Hal Needham (Director of Smokey and the Bandit & Cannonball Run) clashed with the two lawyers credited with writing and producing the film over changes to the script and Needham’s creative choices.  At one point, Benedict had a physical altercation with one of the writer/producers.  These conflicts lead to lawsuits being filed, which caused the film to miss the entire summer movie season.  Later, the film was slated to be released by Hemdale Film Corporation in November 1986.  However, the film never saw wide theatrical release and was instead released directly to VHS.  Too bad I wonder how it would have done at the box office.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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