By: John M Jerva
Welcome to FOOT FIST FRIDAYS! A weekly dose of fight action where the Action-Flix.com experts share their thoughts on some of the greatest scenes of fisticuffs in action cinema history!
This week’e edition of Foot Fist Fridays strips it down to the most bare knucle bones as the late, great Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David engage in one of the longest and most iconic back alley brawls in the sci-fi action classic They Live from genre master John Carpenter. There’s nothing pretty about this bout but it sure does kick a lot of ass and tests the endurance of both men.
“Momma don’t like tattletales!” Oh yeah, this week, we are geting serious with the iconic sci-fi action film They Live which hails from legendary filmmaker John Carpenter who has given us some of the most influential films in horror, sci-fi and action with such great films as Halloween, Escape From New York and, of course, the one we are talking about today which is They Live. During the 80’s and 90’s Roddy Piper was the man in pro wrestling and he earned the nickname Rowdy more times than anyone can count while in the ring and delivering his off stage antics. Piper was larger than life and it was said to see him pass away back in 2015 after battling cancer but we will always have his memorable wrestling videos and movies to remember the man by and he will live on forever in our hearts.
Starting in the late 80’s Piper started acting in film as well and he became quite the action star especially in the 90’s with such epic B movie goodness like Back In Action, Tough and Deadly, Jungleground and more. It was in 1988, however, that the man would make his most memorable film with Carpenter in They Live which co-stared the great Keith David who is still going strong to this day.
In the film, Piper plays Nada, a drifter who has relocated to L.A. and is looking for work. We know next to nothing about him except for the fact that he has hit hard times and he is trying to survive the best way he can. By fate, he meets Frank (David) while working at a construction site and the two hit it off to a point with Frank invites him to a homeless community where he can rest and regroup.
We all know what happens next as Nada discovers a major conspiracy going on and eventually puts on the faithful sunglasses which allows him to see that aliens have taken over the Earth and worst yet, they are the ruling class and feeding the lower classes with subliminal messaging. The glasses allow Nada and anyone that wears them to see who’s human and who’s not and he tries to get Frank involved.
This is where our epic scene comes into play as Frank wants nothing to do with the glasses but Nada won’t let it go and the two strong willed men engage in one of the longest and most brutal back alley fights ever captured on film. I remember when I saw this film in the theaters and I was thinking to myself, “Just put the damn glasses on Frank!”
The fight is ugly to say the least and it is just sheer brute force displayed by both men. It was said that the fight was only supposed to last 20 seconds! We all know that that didn’t happen as the scrape lasts five minutes and twenty seconds. It gets ridiculous to a point as just when you think that it will end, it just keeps going and going and going. It’s like watching two Energizer bunnies going at it.
Here’s some fun facts that you might not know. The fight is pretty much real as both men really hit each other. All shots made contact unless it was to the head or groin and you can tell that they are literally beating the crap out of each other. They rehersed the fight for three weeks and when Carpenter saw the finished product, he left it all in tact and we are all better off for it as this is one of the most memorable fights in screen history. It’s nasty, vicious and ugly and pure unarmed barbaric beauty all at the same time and you have to wonder how these two didn’t seriously get injured while filming the scene.
Finally, Frank succumbs to Nada only because he is exhausted and Nada is able to put the glasses on awakening Frank to the new world that he didn’t know existed. Both men team up with other resistance fighters and plan a suicide mission to expose the aliens and end their reign. The rest is pure cinema bliss.
Now in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Destroyer, “Enough Talk!” It’s time to watch Piper and David beat the ever loving shit out of each other in the classic bruiser scene from They Live! And remember, “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble gum.”