John Carpenter’s They Live has been a favorite since I first saw it, and remains a pulp science fiction classic. My friend Tony Peyser told me it was based on a short story by Ray Nelson called “Eight O’Clock in the Morning,” which was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1966, long out of print. He also invented the propeller beanie hat, if you remember those.
The story is very thin but of course, a very memorable premise of mind control and aliens among us. Carpenter filled it out a lot with Reagan-era class warfare from the yuppie class enslaving working people, and fed into the hatred of the soulless consumerists who inspired American Psycho. If you haven’t seen They Live, it’s a deserving classic for many reasons, and embraces its kitschy pulp roots, very much like the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The DVD is available on NetFlix.
You can read “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” here. In 1986 there was a comic adaptation by Bill Wray in Alien Encounters, which Carpenter saw and drew from. That’s where the infamous and silly final shot comes from. Instead of a girlfriend, Nada, played by Roddy Piper the pro wrestler, gets Keith David, one of my favorite actors, best known for playing Childs in Carpenter’s The Thing. When Nada wants him to “wear the glasses” that will awaken him from alien domination, they have a throwdown alley fight for at least five minutes, to play to Roddy’s wrestling strengths. It’s a lot of fun, and silly, and after so many mass shootings, Nada’s shotgun solution to the aliens in the infamous bank scene is a little creepy, but it’s as pure an action hero story as there ever was.
If you want to read the comic that inspired Carpenter, you can read it here. This is a snip: