John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982/HD-DVD)
B Sound: B Extras: B Film: B
It is not
easy to follow-up a hit like Halloween,
but John Carpenter kept doing so and the best of the rest of his Horror
Thrillers is his remarkable remake of the Howard Hawks-produced Christian
Nyby-directed The Thing From Another
World (1951) as the 1982 release simply entitled The Thing was very controversial for its time and is one of the
most enduring graphic alien attack films ever made.
more on John W. Campbell Jr.’s Who Goes
There? than the 1951 classic, Carpenter has more screen time to develop
suspense and bring the new generation of alien creepiness of that time first
suggested by Philip Kaufmann’s incredible 1978 Invasion Of The Body Snatchers remake and Ridley Scott’s 1979
classic Alien to a disturbing new
level of terror. At the time, between
the superior way Carpenter handled the directing and how graphic and visible
the various aspects of human anatomy (interiors in particular) were shown, this
was a highly controversial film for its time and is lucky its R-rating was not
Russell does some of the best work of his career here as the head of a
dozen-scientist expedition investigating what has gone wrong at a desolate
arctic laboratory. At first, there is no
normal explanation, then the group slowly discovers that the reasons are
anything but normal. Then in the Agatha
Christie And Then There Were None…/Ten
Little Indians tradition, they are knocked off one by one. The mystery angle of this film is often
neglected too, but Carpenter and the Bill Lancaster screenplay have a rare
synergy that delivers.
time, the film did not do well because it was not released ahead of feel-good
alien movie E.T., that some were
still not willing to take child actor Russell seriously as an adult actor who
could handle the action mantle and even those who thought it looked to much
like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers
and classic Alien for its own good
without even having seen it. Well, time
has been good to the film and it has had revisionist thinking and a growing
reputation as one of the best (and honestly few effective) dark mature
thrillers of the 1980s. Like Ridley
Scott’s Blade Runner the same year,
fans kept supporting it and more and more people have finally caught up with
the film over the years, but not as many have caught on to or up with it for
cinema’s own good, which is why it is one of the great early back titles to
arrive on HD-DVD and a brilliant move on Universal’s part so more get to see
how smart this film really is.
the film too is its supporting cast, including veterans like Donald Moffat,
Richard Dysart, Richard Masur, David Clennon, Peter Maloney and Wilford
Brimley, meshing well with newer actors T.K. Carter, Keith David, Thomas G.
Waites and Joel Polis. The cast works
well and this is one of those films where everything comes together. Carpenter actually took a break from the
genres represented here with his underrated Escape From New York (reviewed elsewhere on this site) the year
before, which might have helped him here.
If you have been as especially disappointed with the current cycle of
bad Horror films, see Carpenter’s The
Thing just to see what happens when one of these films are done right.
2.35 X 1 (miscredited on the case and disc as 1.85 X 1) digital High Definition
image is from the same print (and maybe transfer) Universal used on the DVD,
but this looks much better than that detail-challenged version. Though not perfect in presenting Dean
Cundey’s work, you get more impact out of this playback than all previous
editions. Cundey and carpenter shot this
to be a big screen film, from playing in large 35mm venues (it was shot in real
anamorphic Panavision) to the 70mm blow-up prints meant to look great. The larger the screen you see this on, the
better and when you see how good a film like this looks without digital
effects, you’ll be even more impressed.
Digital Plus 5.1 is also the same mix from the regular DVD, which has limited
surrounds, but is closer to the 70mm Dolby 4.1 magnetic mix which was the
film’s best theatrical release sound.
That explains why split surrounds are limited. The great Ennio Morricone delivered a music
score that more than enhanced the visuals and narrative, but stands out on its
own as an underrated work on his part.
The combination holds up very well approaching its 25th
include a terrific feature length audio commentary by Carpenter and actor Kurt
Russell, "John Carpenter's The
Thing: Terror Takes Shape" 80-minute documentary, Stop motion
animation cut from the film, Production Background Archives, Cast Production
Photographs, Production Art and Storyboards, Location Design, Production
Archives, The Saucer, The Blairmonster, Outtakes, Post Production, Production
Notes, Cast and Filmmakers and a solid original theatrical trailer. Those are the same extras as the Collector’s
Edition from a few years ago. Finally,
you can really experience how good the film is, though we hope a further image
upgrade and sound remix is in the cards in a few years.
- Nicholas Sheffo