The Thing (1982) (Blu-ray film review)

November 21, 2017 | By | Reply More

Of the films from 1982, John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ is up there for one of the scariest films to watch on a cold winter night even if its original release was in the middle of the summer amid a lot of now other famous films that year, including ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘E.T.’. Being released amongst so many outstanding films that summer was a serious miscalculation by Universal Studios and had a terrible impact on Carpenter’s career.

However, back to our film, right from the start you get in the feeling of being in the Antarctic. All of this helped by being release in a special blu-ray edition as the temperature now drops at night. You can almost imagine that its one of the films the people who live in the icy south watch when they’re cut off for the long winter and wonder who’s trying to open the door handle from outside.

Of course, what raises the film’s standing even today is also the remarkable physical special effects from a then 22 year-old Rob Bottin that gave a level of believability to everything. Then again, the original ‘The Thing From Another World’ (1951) was a hard act to follow in the first place and no one at the time expected it to exceed it in so many ways.

Watching it objectively now, ‘The Thing’ is still one of scariest SF/horror films, easily on par with ‘Alien’, using the same MO albeit with one significant change, namely a discovered alien has infiltrated an Antarctic survey team and you can’t trust who anyone is simply because you don’t know who and when they are taken over. This Thing is also intelligent, having two plans. If infiltration fails, to build another spacecraft and/or go back into frozen hibernation until some more people find and thaw it out again. Unfortunately, you can’t guarantee blowing up a base and know you’ve won.

How much more do you need to know without the film becoming spoiler? Practically everything is spoiler because you simply don’t know who to trust and how they have to work out who is really who because there are no giveaways until there is a reveal and then all hell breaks loose. This thing doesn’t want to be caught anymore.

I do have to ponder on the conclusion and think that McReady has it wrong as he’s just giving in to this Thing’s plan unless he’s planning a final pot roast. There is also no indication of how many alien matter has to be left for it to regrow in another host.

The one thing (sic) that always puzzled me is the opening scene with the husky being chased by the Norwegian helicopter is why was it fleeing? Considering how the alien later wipes out the members of the American base, why didn’t it complete the deed at the Norwegian base first before fleeing? I should point out that I haven’t watched the retroactive 2011 film yet but is now on my list. Likewise, how did it know where to go? The Antarctic hardly has a map showing the nearest life-forms.

You do have to wonder why the Norwegian marksman thought shooting the husky would stop the creature or even throwing a bomb at it. After all, it would scatter its body matter. Likewise, it wouldn’t have known about the American base so why didn’t it just freeze back into the snow?

We never see which of the group the husky thing licks in the opening scene but you would have to think that was the first one it infected than one of the scenes inside the base.

There are a lot of extras. A new 87 minute feature, ‘Who Goes There? In Search Of The Thing’, exploring the source of ‘The Thing’ from the short story ‘Who Goes There?’, written by John W. Campbell Jr. as John Stuart to the Howard Hughes produced film ‘The Thing From Another World’ (1951) to Carpenter’s version. With the latter there is a lot of insight into the special effects and about the only person not interviewed is Rob Bottin itself. Also there is a strong reminder of product placement and when ‘The Thing’ was released, the competition from three Spielberg films made it a flop released and really burnt Carpenter. These days, product placement would have been more sensible and released it in the winter. Of course, the video release later made people appreciate it and even the critics changed their minds.

‘1982: One Amazing Summer’ shows the films of that year and, objectively, any film getting its head above the water would have been doing well at the time.

The 84 minute ‘John Carpenter’s The Thing: Terror Takes Shape’ has interviews from the production, including Rob Bottin this time, and cast has to be from an earlier time because actor Charlie Hallahan, writer Bill Lancaster and matt artist Albert Whitlock are long gone. The biggest bonus here is we get the inside information on how some of the more crucial effects were created, not to mention some of the more flammable chemicals used. When you consider flamethrowers were used, things got a little dicey. It’s also interesting to see where some of the film was made and thanks to the Whitlock you can’t see the joins with the downed spacecraft and wasn’t even in the snow long before CGI existed.

The 55 minute 2017 Texas Frightmare Weekend panel has director of photography Dean Cundey with actors Thomas G. Waites (Windows), Keith David (Childs) and Wilford Brimley (Blair) giving anecdotes about the filming of ‘The Thing’ and their drinking escapades, often led by Kurt Russell.

The last of the extras explores ‘Production’ with stacks of notes and photos. I’d forgotten that Windows was originally called Sanchez and then Simmons and avoiding an ethnic spread beyond the mix they already had. It’s a shame really that we don’t get to see inside with John Carpenter or Bill Lancaster’s heads as to how they chose the characters’ names other than making sure they didn’t have the same last initial. I was glad they included the deleted animated scene from Blair’s attack on MacReady.

As I’m only watching an advance disk, I have no idea whether the final disk will include an auto-flick across the Photo Gallery frames or you have to rely on your remote’s fast-forward button to move across them. Keep your finger near that button that, as it’s very easy to accidentally press the stop button below it and have to start from scratch.

Two audio commentaries. The first is with director John Carpenter and lead actor Kurt Russell. The discussion is between them as equals, hardly surprising as after so many films together they are also friends. Getting the knowledge of the pace and order of filming is interesting with all the interiors filmed first. The Norwegian base exteriors was a re-working of their base. If you didn’t understand the film before then you will after their conversation.

The second audio commentary is with Mike White, Patrick Bromley and El Goro, pod-casters who don’t think each other are real people. They’re also puppies as none of them saw it on its original release. Not sure if I agree with one of the comments that it was 100 degrees below outside (is that Fahrenheit or Centigrade?) because they wouldn’t have been wearing enough clothes on for that. The most interesting aspect is their youth showing that ‘The Thing’s still holds up for them today.

As again, the length of the review shows how much scrutiny I put this film under. If you’ve never seen this second version of ‘The Thing’, make sure it’s on your watch list and look carefully at the person sitting next to you afterwards. You know, just in case.

GF Willmetts

November 2017

(region B/2 blu-ray: pub: Arrow Video. 1 blu-ray disk 108 minute film with extras. Price: £17.99 (UK) – its cheaper to buy off them direct. ASIN: FCD1591)

cast: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan and Donald Moffat

check out website: https://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/shop/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=1024

Category: Films, Horror, Scifi

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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