Director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell had quite the partnership in the 1980’s. In 1981, the two teamed up for the dark action film “Escape from New York.” In 1986, they hit gold with the action/comedy, “Big Trouble in Little China.” Between those two movies, they created their most serious movie, “The Thing.”
Adapted from 1951’s “The Thing from Another World”, this gritty, tense thriller focuses on a group of U.S. scientists stationed in near-isolation on the South Pole. Their daily grind is interrupted by a pair of Norwegian researchers firing at a sled dog from a helicopter. The dog runs up to the U.S. scientists, who are fired upon by the Norwegians. Soon, the Norwegians are dead, the dog is taken in by the scientists, and a research team is sent to the Norwegian camp to discover what led to their crazed behavior.
The team’s pilot, R.J. “Mac” MacReady (Russell) is the strength of the team. The group also includes the unusual Palmer, straight-laced Dr. Blair (Brimley), roller-skating chef Nauls (T.K. Carter), steely Childs (Keith David), Jennings, Fuchs, Windows, and others. They discover an inhuman corpse in the Norwegian camp, and begin an autopsy. That night, the dog reveals itself to be something far less than man’s best friend, and the scientists realize that the horrific mystery that destroyed the Scandinavians may now be under their very roof.
Dr. Blair’s autopsy reveals a remarkable discovery. The thing masquerading as a dog can take the shape of a host body it contacts. The team turns back to the Norwegian research and confirms that the Norwegians discovered a buried alien vessel larger than a football field. Upon return to camp, their worst fears come true. The alien is still alive and able to infect and imitate humans.
Knowing that exposing the alien to civilization would mean the end of mankind, Blair destroys the helicopter and the radio equipment. Now the team truly is isolated. The remaining team members are left in isolation, thousands of miles from anyone else…except for the murderous alien. Survival becomes the team’s only concern, as the group erodes into an untrusting, panicked mess.
“The Thing” features a great combination of personalities. David (Pitch Black, Armaggedon) is the hard-nosed pessimist. Donald Moffet (Clear and Present Danger, The Right Stuff) is a solid military man. Brimley (Coccoon, “Our House”) chooses science over recognition. Each man has his own strengths and weaknesses, and Bill Lancaster’s screenplay positions them against each other well.
The careful establishment of each character sets up relationships and changes. Viewers come to expect certain behavior from each, and when those characters devolve, the question arises: is this from fear, or from possession? What drives them to turn on one another, and who will survive?
Carpenter uses darkness and color gels very effectively to build tension between the outright visuals of the alien. The visceral alien effects (by FX pioneer Rob Bottin) and makeup were incredibly gruesome for 1982, and Carpenter tops it all off with post-production sound effects to make the alien something far beyond human understanding. Russel’s steely, blue-eyed Alpha male pilots the picture through the waters of science, terror, action and the ultimate test of survival. The scene with the Petri dishes is a brilliant recipe for a tension cocktail.
Scream Factory brings The Thing to Blu-ray in an exceptional new transfer culled from a 2K restoration overseen by cinematographer Dean Cundey. The image is crisp and vibrant, teeming with lush detail, and is a marked improvement over the previous Universal offering. Dark scenes (of which there are many) are bathed in cool blues against a canvas of rich, deep blacks, while the daylight sequences in the barren, snow covered landscape showcase the exceptional contrast. This is easily the best The Thing has ever looked, and, most likely, will look for quite some time. The audio has received some much appreciated love, as well, with a robust lossless mix.
Bonus features abound, here, scattered over this 2-Blu-ray collection, and include the following (taken right from Scream Factory’s press release!):
NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive Supervised And Approved By Director Of Photography Dean Cundey
NEW 4.1 Audio Mix Created From The Original 70MM Six Track Dolby Stereo Soundtrack (5.1 Audio Mix Also Included)
NEW Audio Commentary With Director Of Photography Dean Cundey
NEW Audio Commentary With Co-producer Stuart Cohen
Audio Commentary By Director John Carpenter And Actor Kurt Russell
Teaser Trailer (1 minute)
Theatrical Trailers (U.S. And German) (5 minutes)
TV Spots (1 minute)
Radio Spots (2 minutes)
Still Gallery (Behind-The-Scenes Photos, Posters And Lobby Cards) (15 minutes)
NEW Requiem For A Shape Shifter – An Interview With Director John Carpenter In Conversation With Filmmaker Mick Garris (28 minutes)
NEW The Men Of Outpost 31 – Interviews With Keith David, Wilford Brimley, David Clennon, Thomas Waites, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur And Joel Polis (51 minutes)
NEW Assembling And Assimilation – An Interview With Editor Todd Ramsay (11 minutes)
NEW Behind The Chameleon: The Sights Of THE THING – Interviews With Visual Effects Artists Peter Kuran And Susan Turner, Special Make-up Effects Artist Rob Burman, Brian Wade And Stop Motion Animators Randall William Cook And Jim Aupperle (25 minutes)
NEW Sounds From The Cold – Interviews With Supervising Sound Editor David Lewis Yewdall And Special Sound Effects Designer Alan Howarth (15 minutes)
NEW Between The Lines – An Interview With Novelization Author Alan Dean Foster (16 minutes)
NEW Back Into The Cold: A Return To The Shooting Locations Of THE THING – An Animated Photo Gallery Narrated By Todd Cameron Of Outpost31.com
NEW The Art Of Mike Ploog Gallery (12 minutes)
John Carpenter's The Thing: Terror Takes Shape – A Documentary On The Making Of THE THING Featuring Interviews With John Carpenter, Kurt Russell, Special Effects Make-up Designer Rob Bottin, Legendary Matte Artist Albert Whitlock Plus Members Of The Cast And Crew (80 minutes – SD)
Network TV Broadcast Version Of THE THING (92 minutes – SD)
Outtakes (5 minutes – SD)
Vintage Featurettes From The Electronic Press Kit Featuring Interviews With John Carpenter, Kurt Russell And Rob Bottin (13 minutes – SD)
Vintage Featurettes – The Making Of A Chilling Tale And The Making Of THE THING (14 minutes – SD)
Vintage Product Reel – Contains A Condensed Version Of The Film With Additional Footage Not In The Film (19 minutes – SD)
Vintage Behind-The-Scenes Footage (2 minutes – SD)
Annotated Production Archive – Production Art And Storyboards, Location Scouting, Special Make-up Effects, Post Production (54 minutes – SD)
I’ll be honest. There’s SO much bonus stuff here, I haven’t even scratched the surface, but take my word for it; this is an exhaustive collection of goodies that rounds up nearly every “Thing” related piece of media one could imagine. Pair this with the excellent new transfer, and you’ve got yourself THE definitive release of Carpenter’s classic, and a set that gets our highest possible recommendation!