Retro fear and loathing in 'Wake in Fright' and 'They Live'
Wake in Fright's return to theaters (and first-ever uncut appearance on US screens) after 41 years is the result of a negative-saved-at-the-last-minute miracle — the sort of tale that makes cinephiles both happy and nervous, wondering about all those films that didn't get rescued before they went into the shredder. Anyway, be glad Wake in Fright is still with us; it competed at Cannes in 1971, and played there again in 2009 as a "Cannes Classic." If you didn't catch it at the 2010 San Francisco International Film Festival, here's your chance to be freaked out by this newly-available classic.
ALL OUT OF BUBBLEGUM
Horror fans will recognize the name of Wake in Fright star Donald Pleasence from John Carpenter's 1978 Halloween — 'tis the season, after all, and that film happens to be screening at the Balboa Theatre Oct. 30-31. But the Carpenter movie du jour is 1988's dystopian-future drama/true story They Live, which comes out on Blu-ray Nov. 6 — never before has Rowdy Piper's mullet looked so crisply feathered, nor Meg Foster's eyes so eerily seafoam, nor the black-and-white matte paintings depicting Los Angeles' subliminally-enhanced landscape ("MARRY AND REPRODUCE") so stark and startling.
There are some recycled extras, including Carpenter and Piper's audio commentary, trailers, and a vintage press-kit reel featuring wrestling superstar Piper reflecting on his leading-man debut ("Ain't a lot of difference between John Nada and Roddy Piper"). But there's new stuff, too: separate interviews with Foster, Carpenter (who scoffs when he's asked if he was tempted to edit down the film's epic, legendary fight scene: "Fuck no!"), and co-star Keith David, who hilariously reminisces how he had to un-learn stage diction when he was hired for his first Carpenter film, 1982's The Thing — and devotees of that film will want to rewind multiple times, just to hear David jokingly enunciate "You believe any of this voodoo bullshit, Blair?" in near-Shakespearean tones.
For behind-the-scenes junkies, there's a featurette on the film's "sights and sounds," highlighted by an interview with veteran stunt coordinator Jeff Imada, who breaks down that iconic fight scene and reveals he played most of the aliens in the film (including the "What's wrong, baby?" guy at the end). Just about the only thing missing from this Blu-ray package (kudos for the ridiculous cover art, Shout! Factory)? A pair of sunglasses.