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John Carpenter Explains The Classic Sci-Fi Moment

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The alley fight in “They Live” is almost 6 minutes long, where the two men exchange jabs and insults while beating each other up in the most elaborate, outlandish ways. Carpenter describes this confrontation as an epic “battle of wills”:

“The fight becomes a battle of wills between the two men. It reminds me of the ending of ‘The Quiet Man’, where John Wayne is fighting Victor McLaglen. They’re fighting over something relatively insignificant, but there are broad thematic undercurrents. We shot the scene in an alley over a period of four days. By using the Panaglide and some of the power moves that Roddy knows from wrestling, we tried to break from the stereotypical action formulas. We rehearsed the fight for weeks, and every move was scripted. There is real contact, and they’re beating the hell out of each other, but the fight has some ballet-¬≠like qualities. I haven’t seen anything like it in recent film.”

The best part about this fight is that it feels natural from start to finish, similar to brawls between friends who mean well but things end up escalating due to heightened emotions. However, the fate of the world is at stake here, and Frank quickly understands this after Nada forces him to wear the sunglasses after their mad dance, and shouts “Look!” as two aliens pass by.¬†

Once this happens, the conflict of wills is resolved, making the resolution feel more cathartic as Nada now has a loyal ally in Frank, who is equally geared to fight the good fight against good old consumerism powered by an alien invasion.



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