Transmission date: Oct. 16 2014
Welcome back to the Satellite heroes! Put on your sunglasses as we are about to revisit a Cult classic very popular all the way up here in Space. Ill let you figure it out. Read On! In 1987-88 I was the biggest Wrestling fan you could imagine. I did not miss a show..or a magazine on the rack. I taped everything I could with my handy RCA VCR. Saying all that I was a fan of Rowdy Roddy Piper. The Kilt wearing loud mouthed heel who in 1987 had recently turned into a good guy. He really appealed to me and I wore my Hot Rod T-shirt to school with great pride despite the constant cat Calls..I was a wrestling fan and really in 1987 , so was everyone else. Hogan vs Andre was at the top of all the conversations in grade 7 in my class anyways. The build to WrestleMania 3 was the center of my universe and the buildup to it was all I could focus on. The Rowdy Scott was about to wrestle in his last match before moving into a different world…Hollywood.
Roddy Piper had wrestled his supposed last match in March 27 1987 at the Pontiac SilverDome in Detroit. Piper who spent years on the wrestling circuit as a heel headlining two previous Wrestlemanias, had been shuffled to the Mid Card on the biggest wrestling card of them all..the legendary Wrestlemania 3. Piper and The World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as it was known at the time, had been not seeing eye to eye as Piper wanted to capitalize on his wrestling fame and try his hand at acting. The WWF sought to own and capitalize on the fortunes of their performers but Roddy was a free spirit . Piper had banked a tremendous amount of money from his wrestling career to that point and the lure of Hollywood projects offer much more of a pull than the squared circle could give him. For once it was Piper who was in control. It was at this cross roads that Rowdy Roddy Piper would go on to wrestle on the Mid card of WrestleMania 3 in what would be his farewell retirement match against his longtime antagonist Adorable Adrian Adonis. My anticipation for this match was so high it may as well have been the main event. Roddy Piper was my favorite WWF Super-Star at this time and I could not fathom the idea that Piper would lose to Adonis and retire. Of course Piper would be victorious in his match and I watched my hero ride off into the sunset..and on to the silver screen.
The story goes that at WrestleMania 3 Roddy Piper had met horror film director John Carpenter and was instantly kept in mind for a project that Carpenter had been crafting called They Live that was inspired by a short story called “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” by author Ray Nelson. Carpenter was well-known on the film scene as he was most famous for such classics as The THING and this classic…Halloween!
As a wrestling fan I had read in wrestling magazines and on the very few entertainment shows on TV, that Piper had been selected for the lead role in this new John Carpenter film called “They Live”. In the era where the term Internet meant nothing it was up to you to find out what you could on foot and not through any new wave computer terminal. With Roddy in the front as the lead Carpenter weaved his tale based on his dislike for the commercialization of society. The 80s in particular was heavily focused on TV ad time. Commercials for Soft drinks, Movies, and anything else you could endorse was being sold in a way never seen by society. Those wishing to capitalize on the commercial market were plugging everything that could turn a dime and celebrities were out in full force cash in. Carpenters vision was to exploit this alarming commercialization of society by tacking a Sci-Fi narrative to the issue. With the aid of special sunglasses our heroes in the film can see the sad truth of society.
We have been overtaken by Aliens who use a Satellite Signal to that project a special broadcast that alters human perception and camouflaged the aliens to resemble everyday human beings. With this signal the aliens control the media specifically advertising, and television to subliminally take control over our minds and thoughts. All the while under the guise of mind control The Aliens ulterior motive is to strip the Earth of the resources and eventually kill us off with Global warming before moving on to another planet to pillage! They have one problem..one man named John Nada (Roddy Piper!) Nada looks at the world a little differently and slips onto the Aliens evil plot where a stranger trys to warn him that the world is not what it seems and gives him a special pair of Sunglasses!
When looking through the lenses of the glasses the satellite signal used by the aliens is blocked and the wearer can see the world as it is…including the Aliens true form!! A bit of context here. Looking through the glasses the images are all in black and white this was essentially a direct shot by Carpenter to well-known billionaire Ted Turner who at the time in the 80s ran a multimedia conglomerate and had a very unreasonable share in the Television industry. One of Turners notorious Faux Pas was his colorization of classic movies originally created in Black and White. The coloring however looked so unrealistic and sterile that it was met with worldwide disdain. Hence the glasses and the movie itself was an intentional attack on moguls like Turner who Carpenter thought was the REAL alien!
Nada quickly tries to convince others about what he has discovered but many do not believe him. In one of the most hilarious scenes in the film Piper tries to convince co-star Keith David (Frank Armitage) to simply look through the glasses to expose the aliens. Frank thinks John is out of his mind and refuses leading to one of the most hilarious fights ever seen in a movie. Pipers wrestling background comes to play as the two men basically wrestle a no hold barred falls count anywhere match in an alley complete with a backdrop and all so John Nada (Piper) can convince his friend Frank to just peer through the damn glasses.
Piper is successful and finally Nada has a friend to help him combat the secret invaders. Teaming up with other resistance fighters John, and Frank wage a war against the aliens which includes the most iconic line since Arnold yelled “ill be back” Piper belts the phrase..“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass..and I am all out of Bubblegum.”
So this is the part where I spoil the ending…okay you were warned. In the days of the Hollywood Action film formula, movies usually ended with the good guys finally getting the upper hand on the bad guys and riding off into the sunset victorious and everyone lives happily ever after.
They Live dared to break that mold.While Pipers character finally exposed the Aliens to the world..John Nada actually dies at the end crushing the Satellite system the aliens used to camouflage themselves from humans. This left many movie goers shocked and confused…even the Aliens themselves were not defeated as such but Nada had exposed them for what they were now Earth was prepared to fight back..thats where we left off! That takes a set of balls!!
So why did I like They Live so much? Number one without a doubt..it starred Roddy Piper. He was big..brazen and just magic on-screen. Great actor? Nope..horrible at times but Piper owned this film and I was locked in for the full movie! This was the Roddy Piper show! It also had a unique concept. The sunglasses..the grand illusion of the aliens..it was just fun!
They Live was filmed on just slightly over a 3 Million dollar budget that would not pay for most credits in movies today and they nailed it!! The movie originally scheduled to open late October was pushed back to a November 4 1988 as it would have been in direct competition with another Carpenter created franchise Halloween which was launching its 4th installment at the end of October to a very strong audience!
The movie was considered a Box Office disappointment ringing in slightly over 13, 000, 000. It did however open at number one at the box office. I was convinced as I watched Entertainment Tonight the week of its release that Roddy Piper was the next big Hollywood Star. Sadly that did not happen but there will always be They Live!