DVD review: 'They Live' has legs

After his 1978 breakthrough film “Halloween” — which had (and still may have) the highest earning/cost ratio of all time — John Carpenter spent a decade making mostly higher budgeted films like “The Thing,” “Starman” and “Big Trouble in Little China.” As the '80s drew to a close, he went back to his roots with the low-budget “They Live” (1988), which for some of us remains his best film of the decade.

“They Live” is proudly a B movie. It stars “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, a professional wrestler who had minimal acting experience. Probably the best known person in the cast was Meg Foster; and the whole thing has a deliberately grungy feel. Piper plays Nada, an honest, out-of-work, homeless guy who lands in L.A.'s skid row, where he joins an underground resistance movement that has discovered that humans are all being duped; the world is being run by hideous aliens who send out a radio beam that makes us see them as normal people.

It was intended as a satire of the Reagan years; amazingly it seems even more applicable now. One of the extras on the disc is the original “making of” film: Carpenter's remarks about the film's social point of view could be lifted verbatim today and you'd assume they were just recorded.

Scream Factory has assembled a nice group of extras, all of which are new, except the old “making of” film and the Carpenter/Piper commentary. We get 35 minutes of interviews with Carpenter, Foster, costar Keith David (currently in “Cloud Atlas”) and some of the other key creative personnel, as well as a reconstruction of the fake commercials that are seen in bits and pieces throughout the feature. The Blu-ray looks and sounds good; and Scream Factory's menus are genuinely witty.

"They Live: Collector's Edition" (Scream Factory, Blu-ray, $29.93; DVD, $19.93)

ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).

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