I don’t know if John Carpenter, one of my favorite directors of all time, will ever again make a movie as good as the genre classics he used to blast out back in the golden days before old school directors like him would be forced to slog away in the salt mines of direct-to-video filmmaking. But during that wonderful near-two decade period when he was without equal in the ranks of America’s finest and most prolific directors, Carpenter made many classics that would endear him forever to fans of science-fiction, horror, and action cinema, and his 1988 film They Live was possibly the last truly great feature he would ever sit behind the camera on.
Held over the weekend in Dallas, TX and co-sponsored by Rue Morgue Magazine, the horror convention Texas Frightmare Weekend hosted a panel discussion with the three stars of They Live – former WWF (now WWE) superstar Roddy Piper, Keith David (who also co-starred in another Carpenter classic – 1982’s The Thing), and 1980’s genre mainstay Meg Foster (Blind Fury, Welcome to Arrow Beach). Rue Morgue’s managing editor Dave Alexander moderated the hour-long panel.
You can watch a 16-minute compilation of highlights from the spirited discussion here below.
Fans of They Live will love this video and watching the trio of terrific actors Carpenter assembled for his low-budget sci-fi adventure reminiscence about their experience working on the movie nearly a quarter of a century after its painfully brief theatrical release. All that was missing was the presence of the director himself, no stranger to visiting horror conventions. It’s easy to forget that this was Piper’s first leading role in a feature given that his performance is full of his usual disarming working-class charisma and surprisingly honest dramatic depth. Professional wrestlers taking a shot at cinematic stardom is less of a joke these days with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin finding great success in action movies and comedies (Johnson is the most versatile actor of all former wrestlers), but back in the day when They Live was released only Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant had any luck getting movie roles. Andre the Giant only had one major acting role, but it was as the lovable Fezzik in Rob Reiner’s satirical fairy tale cult classic The Princess Bride.
If you’ve never seen They Live before, I will refrain from discussing the plot in great detail and instead recommend highly that you check the movie out immediately. On the surface, Carpenter’s film may look like another mildly diverting bit of 80’s sci-fi foolishness, but much like the original Robocop, They Live has extra layers of meaning, a wicked irreverence, and an underlying message that remains timely to this day.
What I wouldn’t give for Piper, David, and Foster to team up for a Blu-ray commentary track. Are you listening Universal? Next year marks They Live‘s 25th anniversary. You should either give us a new Blu-ray of They Live on par with the great Collector’s Edition laserdiscs you used to put out back in the day or just license the sucker out to the Criterion Collection and get the hell out of the way. The fans demand it.