The Advertising Scam (They Live, 1988)

they-live-posterI have only one thing to say.  Fifteen minute fight between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David.   ‘Nuff said.

 

 

 

Oh, you expect me so say a bit more?  Fine.

Beloved Wrestler Roddy Piper is Nada, a wandering Construction worker looking for work.  When he discovers a group of resistance fighters hiding among the city’s homeless, he finds himself stuck in a battle against humanity and aliens bent on human enslavement.

 

When Nada discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see the aliens, he tries to figure out what to do.  He enlists help from fellow construction worker Frank and TV Executive Holly.  What follows is an insane ride.

The film is packed with action and humor.  One of the most memorable moments is Roddy walking into a bank wearing the magic sunglasses and holding a shotgun declares, “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass.  And I am all out of bubblegum.”

The other big moment is a nearly fifteen minute fist fight between Roddy Piper and Keith David.  It is amazing.  Asked recently if he ever considered shortening the fight, Carpenter indignantly declared “F**k no!”

This is a good cast who make a rather ham-fisted film work.   Keith David is always good and Meg Foster is mysterious and uncertain in her motives.  And those eyes.

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I mentioned ham-fisted…the plot is a huge screed against the 80’s consumerism and Reaganomics.  When Piper puts on the glasses, he sees in black and white…

But he does not just see the aliens.

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He also sees how they are taking over….advertising.

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It is hard to ignore, and while it may be a valid criticism, it is done in a way that feels almost comedic.  The aliens reward people willing to cash in.  A guy goes from being a bum to a member of the 1%.  In a way I am surprised nobody has remade this one yet since 2008.

In spite of this, the film is effectively fun and has some real twists.  It is a well loved Carpenter film for a reason, and it is not for the politics.  It is a goofy action film, a cross between the grim and serious Escape From New York and the boisterous Big Trouble in Little China.

Try, Try Again (The Stepfather 2: Make Room For Daddy, 1989)

stepfather_2_poster_bTerry O’Quinn returns in this sequel that finds a healed Jerry in a high security mental institution.    He eventually breaks out and assumes the role of psychologist Gene Clifford (which will turn out to be a poor choice later in the film for a pretty obvious reason).  While leading a therapy group for divorced women, he finds Carol Grayland (Meg Foster) and her son Todd (the late Jonathan Brandis).  He starts building a relationship with them while her friend Matty (genre veteran Caroline Williams) starts to look into Gene’s background.

While Todd seems to like Gene, Carol is more prone to question things.  Though she is good at pushing those concerns aside, even when Matty is pressing buttons.

Like the first film, the primary focus is the state of mind of the Stepfather.  It is simple mistakes that interfere with his family, and his attempts to fix it only make it worse.  Carol trusts him less and less, and the moment when she realizes that Gene is a killer is very well done.  It involves the running theme of the films where the Stepfather whistles Camptown Ladies.

Director Jeff Burr had the film chopped up against his desire.  The Weinstein Brothers felt that it tested poorly and needed more blood.  The re-shoots were done without Burr or O’Quinn as both refused to participate.  In spite of this, Stepfather 2 is still a pretty fine follow-up focused overall less on bloodiness and more the characters.  It is a decent follow up to the original and still an enjoyable thriller.

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea Part 2 (Leviathan, 1989)

Leviathan_PosterAlso in 1989, we were treated to Leviathan. This was set at a deep sea mining facility.  Getting close to rotating out, they discover a sunken ship called the Leviathan.  In hopes of claiming riches, they brink back a safe.  But the safe just contains video tapes and a bottle of vodka.

The next morning, one of the crew is struck ill and dies.  But this is only the beginning, as the mysterious disease that killed the man seems to be actively altering his body.  Soon, a another crew member dies.  After the Doctor (Richard Crenna) confirms no other crew have symptoms, he and Crew Boss Beck (Peter Weller) decide to get rid of the  bodies.  But before they can, it fights back.  While trying to get rid of it, part of the body is sliced off and continues to grow while the crew is unaware.

The film is basically Alien underwater.  The crew uses flame throwers to move around and fight it through labyrinthine hallways.  They monster knocks off the various crew members until only a few remain.

This is a great cast.  Weller was fresh off Robocop, you had Ghostbuster’s Ernie Hudson, Amanda Pays , Richard Crenna and Daniel Stern in pivotal roles.  Then there are the effects.  It is obvious this was made on a tight budget and a tight time frame.    The Creature Effects were overseen by the Stan Winston Studio.  This team included Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis who now run Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc.They manage to create a fearsome looking creature, in spite of not being given a specific design to work with.  The director wanted a kitchen sink approach which results in the monster being somewhat of a mess, but it still work quite well most of the time.

If the only two movies that came out in 1989 about undersea crews fighting a monster were Leviathan and Deepstar Six?  Leviathan is flat out the better film, in part due to it sticking so closely to the Alien Formula.  But 1989 saw one other film which broke new special effects ground and left these two films in the dust.

The director George P. Cosmatos followed this film up with Tombstone.  Really.

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