John Carpenter's "The Thing" wasn't so much a remake as a reinterpretation of John Campbell's classic short story. Closer in spirit to Campbell's conception of the Thing, Carpenter's film was both critically lauded because of the suspenseful storytelling and critically attacked for the excessive gore. While the gore is at times quite excessive it fits in with the audience expectations after films like "Dawn of the Dead" (the origianl 1979 movie)and other films of the era.
What's amazing is how audiences are drawn into the story despite the fact that there are no characters we really, really like. We admire many of these men and their resolve but we don't like them. They're the product of their harsh environment and isolation. Mac (Kurt Rusell)is the helicopter pilot for an Antarctic science station. Their dull routine is interrupted by a team of seemingly crazy Norwegians pursuing a dog. The Norwegians are killed and the Americans are left without any idea as to what might have driven the Norwegians over the edge.
Blair (Wilford Brimley)pours over the Norwegian journal brought back by Mac and Cooper (Richard Dysart)and discovers that the Norewegian team discovered an alien spacecraft with an occupant that was very much alive. More importantly, it can change into any shape and take over anybody. Mac, Childs (Keith David) and the rest of the crew must destroy the alien before it can spread to the rest of the civilized world.
Previously released as a "Special Edition" in 1998, "The Thing" has been remastered for this edition.The anamorphic widescreen presentation is, I believe, the first time this has been transferred in the anamorphic format. The previous widescreen edition looked exceptionally good and comparisons between the two transfers reveal minimal differences except for the fact that the new edition is presented in anamorphic (i.e. with a higher resolution) picture. There are some minor digital blemishes that occasionally crop up as on the previous edition (which makes me suspect the previous master was digitally remastered vs. creating a new master). The 5.1 Surround Sound mix has tremendous presence and is exceptionally good with crystal clear dialogue. Ennio Morricone's marvelous music sounds particularly rich and detailed. There's no isolated music track which is a pity.
The special features are exactly the same as the 1998 edition of the movie. "Terror Takes Shape" is an 80 minute documentary on the movie that includes both new interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot. Carpenter, Kurt Russell, the other members of the cast,the optical effects and make up crew and screenwriter Bill Lancaster on all phases from conception to post-production. It's an excellent and informative documentary divided into the various phases of production.
We also see outtakes including the deleted stop-motion animation that Phil Tibbert did for the movie. Carpenter cut almost all of it out in favor of the physical effects because they didn't quite mesh as well as they could have. There's substanial behind-the-scenes footage, photos and the work-in-progress visual effects for the film. Essentially, this indepth approach makes "The Thing" as close to a film school as you'll likely find on DVD.
We also get the original theatrical trailer, storyboards and conception art. The "Visual Effects-in-Progress" featurette t gives you a clue as to how the visuals and effects changed during shooting. There's also an annotated production background archive with an essay on the production illustrated with excerpts from the screenplay with photos and production drawings. There's also a brief essay on the casting in text format along with production photos from the film.
The commentary track is the original one from the 1998 release featuring John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. As with the "Escape from New York" commentary track, "The Thing" commentary track is exceptional with interesting and amusing stories related to the production of the movie as well as behind-the-scenes tidbits that fans will find valuable. Both clearly enjoy each other's company more twenty years after their first collaboration.
The packaging has been redesigned. While it is pretty cool, it's not going to be really durable. The exterior plastic cover like that for "Stir of Echoes" looks really cool and wraps around the carbord and plastic inner case. The inner case has photos and images from the movie. The inside, curiously, looks like it was designed for a chapter sheet or booklet but there's nothing inside.
on August 8, 2008
Though The Thing shocked with its new level of gore when it came out in 1982, popular taste has pretty well caught up to the gore factor. Now fans will be able to see it all in Blu-ray high-def.
The Thing takes its title from the influential 1951 sci-fi classic The Thing from Another World, a film it otherwise resembles only in similarity of location and a few plot points. (If you're interested in a less scary, more campy, funnier black-and-white version, with women in it, check out the older one.) The location is an isolated antarctic research station, cut off from radio contact with the outside world, where Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David and several other men unknowingly take in an alien creature that can adopt the form of members of the crew as it destroys them. They quickly find themselves in a desperate and paranoia-inducing situation, each not knowing who among the others might be an alien waiting to kill him. Internal organs are spread into view in various creative ways, while violence and tension build.
Director John Carpenter specializes in gritty, intense, violent suspense, and he doesn't disappoint here. Though it didn't do very well when it came out, maybe because it was up against the much cheerier alien E.T., it has become a favorite since.
The movie has already been released in HD at the same 1080p resolution the Blu-ray will have, so the transfer should be of similar quality. The HD transfer is very good, with strong color and good detail and sharpness, definitely improved over the standard DVD. The sound will be English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, with French DTS 5.1. There will be English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles. *Update* 19 September: The early reviews verify that the transfer is high quality, as expected, with excellent picture and good sound (not much surround in a movie this old).
*Update* Universal has said in its promotional material that this release will include the extra material from the current DVD, but according to the early reviews, that isn't true. First, here are the special features announced in the main press release:
-- audio commentary with star Kurt Russell and director John Carpenter
-- U Control Picture in Picture
-- U Control tutorial
In addition, most of the 84-minute making-of documentary from the older DVD has been incorporated into the Picture in Picture (PIP) feature, meaning that you watch it in pieces in a window along with the movie. The rest of the special features from the older DVD aren't included. Just as a reminder of what those old features are, missing here:
-- deleted stop-motion animation
-- work-in-progress visual effects footage
-- behind-the-scenes location footage
-- behind-the-scenes photos
-- storyboard and conceptual art
-- annotated production archive
-- original theatrical trailer
Again, those are old features that Universal has *not* included on the Blu-ray.
I'm not into gore, but the suspense is well done here, and Kurt Russell is in his element. Fine video transfer and good commentary make for a good package, but the missing features from the older DVD mean you may want to keep the old one too.
on January 3, 2000
Maybe someone said so in the DVD's documentary: 1982 was the right time for this movie. Nothing like it would be made today, or even a few years after its release. Even if a thematically similar film were made, it's almost a guarantee that it would use digital effects. This movie boasts the most incredible prosthetic effects ever seen, and I know in my gut that if it were made with computer graphics it wouldn't be nearly as good.
Okay, enough about that. I probably don't need to describe the movie itself, at least not from a plot perspective. Let me briefly cover technique: this movie is built for suspense. From the marvelous low-key Ennio Morricone score to the gold-standard cinematography of Dean Cundey, from the scene construction (I love the scene where the dog enters a crew room, and the scene fades out after we see the man's shadow turning - no sting, no shock, just a fade out) to the realistic paranoia and fear building in the eyes of the men. I admit that paranoia movies are a personal favorite genre, but there are very few films that I can say made me sweat from suspense, and this is one of them.
One of the film's greatest strengths is the ensemble cast - mostly familiar faces, but not TOO familiar, so you feel a kinship and empathy but you're not saying "oh, that's Richard Masur" the same way you would if it were Bruce Willis, for example. Sure, there's Kurt Russell, but he plays his role so perfectly that he just fits right in with everyone else. Then of course there's the ending, something John Carpenter excels at (the ending of his ESCAPE FROM L.A. made the whole movie for me) especially when in the dystopian mode... so here again we can make up our own stories over "what happened next."
The DVD presentation is packed with so many goodies it's hard to know where to start. An excellent documentary, enjoyable commentary, isolated score (selectable during the documentary), even some cut scenes...and so much more. The picture is fantastic, with such wonderful smooth blue hues so prevalent in the movie. For many years laserdisc owners were tantalised by rumours of a special edition with tons of extras, and when we finally got it (on both laserdisc and DVD) we weren't disappointed at all, and it was well worth the years of anticipation.
The movie is absolutely not for everyone, as its level of gore is quite high. Many people say they're distracted too much by the gore, but I seem to immerse myself in the film's atmosphere and it's never taken me out of the experience. An engrossing and extremely well-crafted film, and the same goes for this special edition presentation.
on March 7, 2000
Long after its debut, THE THING is finally getting the respect it deserves. I'm glad John Carpenter is young enough to be around to see it. This film was unfairly shunned when it came out because E.T. came out at the same time. Nobody wanted to see E.T. killing people, hence no one went to see THE THING.
Along with THE HIDDEN, this is one of the greatest horror/action movies to come out of the 80s. It should be on any serious horror fan's top ten list (it's number two on mine) and it is perhaps Carpenter's greatest film to date. Yes, I think it is even better than HALLOWEEN. This movie sticks closer to the original story ("Who Goes There") that both this and the older movie THE THING FROM OUTER SPACE were based on. The latter was more of a monster movie, whereas Carpenter's version is more of a psychological action film with a great dollop of paranoia. Kurt Russell and John Carpenter work so well together, and Russell does a great job here (along with the underrated Keith David). I hope they make more films together. Wilford Brimley, better known as the Quaker Oats man, is terrific as well. Actually the whole cast puts in amazing performances. On the DVD commentary J.C. says they all were really into their parts, and it shows. The "blood test" scene is a great example of how well they all worked together.
The special effects in this movie still look good. I honestly don't think they look dated at all. I imagine that if they did this today we would be inflicted with some dumb-looking CGI monster that would ruin the film and seem silly in a few years' time.
If you like this one, get the DVD. It has tons of extras and is worth the money just for the commentary by Russell and Carpenter. 10/10
on December 18, 2008
The movie itself is 5 stars no question. The picture quality on this Blu Ray is amazing. Contrast is consistent and blacks are deep throughout the film with very good detail. Colors are rich and the various hues of blue in the night scenes are pleasing. Greens, yellows and oranges, as well as the important reds (got to have have proper reds in a horror/sci~fi film) are all rendered properly, in this Blu Ray offering. Film grain is not distracting, and chroma noise is not an issue. Unfortunately I have serious issue with Universal for removing features on the Blu Ray that were present on the DVD for US customers, while keeping them in the UK version of the Blu Ray release. The lower stars rating is for this review is for this particular release of it.
I love John Carpenters "The Thing", but Universal Studios should be ashamed of themselves for releasing a Blu Ray version of the film with almost ALL of the extras REMOVED.
It's a shame Universal chose to do this, since this Blu Ray's picture quality and sound are both great. Purchase the Uk Blu Ray release instead. It includes the many extras not found in this US version. Does Universal Studios value their UK customers more than their US customers for some reason?
on September 5, 2006
I first saw this film on video around 1983/4 when I was about 7 years old and the scene of head falling off and spider-like legs coming out has remained with me ever since. Now this film sits comfortably in my top 5 modern horror films of all time along with Tobe Hooper's `The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (1974), John Carpenter's `Halloween' (1974), Ridley Scott's `Alien' (1979) and Lucio Fulci's `The Beyond' (1981).
The Thing is loosely a remake of the Howard Hawks / Christian Nyby original 1951 sci-fi film `The Thing From Another World' although it tends to adhere more faithfully to the original John W Campbell Jr. short story `Who Goes There?' The short story had stronger elements of paranoia that was missing in the original film but is restored superbly here. Each character has a distinct and well-developed personality all of their own which is unique in sci-fi / horror films where each character is picked off one by one. The ending appears to be have been left open for a sequel which never appeared although I believe now in hindsight that adds to the strength of the film in that we're still don't know if the remaining characters are infected. Credit has to be given to Bill Lancaster who adapted the short story into the screenplay.
Along with `Alien' this film led to the resurgent interest in Sci-Fi /Action films in the eighties most notably for the developments in special make-up effects that were delivered here by Rob Bottin (The Fog, The Howling, Robocop, Seven, Fight Club) with some help from animatronic expert Stan Winston (Terminator, Aliens, T2, Jurassic Park). They were allowed to go crazy with their ideas and in the end they produced some memorable gory scenes. Palmer's (a character) response at seeing the spider-head, sounds like it could have come directly from John Carpenter at seeing Bottin's ideas. Cinematography was by Dean Condey who shot Carpenter's `Halloween' (1974) and would later go on to shoot other popular Sci-Fi films of the period like Zemeckis' `Back To The Future' and Speilberg's `Jurassic Park'.
The score was created by probably the most famous film scorer in history, Ennio Morricone, who has literally hundreds of film credits to his name. His most famous work has been for Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly; Once Upon a Time in the West). The gentle thumping on the score kind of portrays the heartbeat of an unseen enemy reminiscent of some industrial ambient drone music of the period.
`The Thing' was not a failure at the box office although it did struggle against Spielbergs child-friendly `E.T.' which was released two weeks earlier. It would go on to create a massive cult following upon it's release on video which was when I first saw it, although I never did see E.T. until many years later. In a period now when just about every film is remake of some past classic and particularly with the current interest in horror it's great to see just how well this holds up not only against the original but even now, 23 years later. Cinema hasn't really moved on since the 1970s and as a result this film still feels remarkably fresh. So buy this and if you haven't seen the original it's worth checking out also, it's an excellent example of a 1950s Sci-Fi B-film. It's definitely worth replacing that old video with the DVD.
This movie had the terrible fortune of being released the same summer as "E.T -- The Extra Terrestrial." Audiences had their choice of going with Steven Spielberg's take on aliens -- adorable creatures that eat Reese's Pieces and befriend little boys -- or John Carpenter's version, in which the aliens eat people and befriend nobody. We all know which movie was the hit, and that is too damn bad, because "The Thing" is simply one of the ten best sci-fi horror movies ever made.
Forget labels, however. This film simply works. "E.T." twanged at your heartstrings: "The Thing" aims to rip them out alltogether, and it does a terrific job. Anyone who has read any of my reviews (I know there must be one of you out there somewhere....hi, Mom) knows that I'm a huge fan of "atmosphere" and this film cranks up some of the creepiest atmosphere around. Imagine this:
You and about ten other guys are snowbound on an Antarctic research station, several thousand miles from civilization, completely isolated. A shape-shifting alien that can imitate any form of life it comes into contact with -- dogs, people -- is unearthed from the ice after a 100,000 year sleep and wakes up in an awful mood. One by one, it picks off your buddies in unbelievably gruesome ways. Problem is, you aren't sure which of your buddies is human and which might be, well, "the Thing." Trapped in the remote station with no radios and no way of getting help, you are stuck fighting a monster that can not only imitate anything it wants, and perfectly, but which can form a whole new monster from any chunk of itself you happen to shoot, stab, or blow off. Now start to realize that if the thing wins, it will inflitrate the rescue team that will inevitably arrive, and from there, go on to wipe out the entire planet posthaste.
How do you tell who your friends are? How do you survive? Are you even sure you should? Ladies and Gentlemen, you've just gotten through about half an hour of "The Thing." And yes, matters get worse.
Carpenter is one of the biggest hit-and-miss directors around. When he misses, he usually misses big -- did you see "Prince of Darkness?" -- but when he hits, as he did on "Halloween" and yes, "The Thing" -- he sends that expletive-deleted ball flying right out of the park and bouncing into traffic. Everything about this movie -- the special effects, the dialogue, the acting -- especially by Kurt Russel, Wilford Brimley, and Keith David, but really the entire cast with no exceptions -- hits with magnum impact. If you're not creeped out, you're grossed out, and if you're not wondering who the hell the Thing is, you're finding out in a really unpleasant way. Rob Bottin did once-and-a-lifetime work on the SPFX and gore for this film, and while critics dissed it mercilessly for just that reason -- too much of the red stuff -- there is nothing in this film that happens for cheap shock value. Some have accused Carpenter of catering to those who slow down for car wrecks, but they miss the point -- what comes first in this film is the interplay between the characters. This movie is as much about paranoia as it is about blood, and if it exploits anything, it exploits just that -- our fear. Of the dark. Of the cold. Of ourselves and what might happen to us when the lights go out.
Isn't that what a horror movie is supposed to do?
on November 1, 2006
yes, this 1982 movie looks THAT good in HD. The transfer done last year by Universal looks absolutely terrific...no complaints. When you can see actual snowflakes against a snow-white background, you know that real care went into the video transfer. And for a movie nearly 25 years old, the 5.1 sound still packs a punch, although the center channel lacks some of today's aural presence. The standard special edition DVD looked great, but this one blows it out of the water!
on January 10, 2007
I've always loved Carpenters rendition of The Thing (a remake from The Thing from Another World). He took a great short story and weaved a tale of desperate isolation. Each of the characters were vivid and all had strong personalities- from very likable to downright bad. The effects in the film were great for the time, some of them seem hokey, but all in all they still look good. The other-wordly metamorphosis that The Thing goes through never gets old. The Dog absorbing the others in the kennel is disturbing and the Defribulator scene is probably the most classic in all of horror movie history. Plenty of gore to satisfy even the most cynical of gorehounds. Yet, Carpenter keeps a decent amount of levity in the film to keep the viewer's emotions a bit off kilter. It all works.
This version of the film on HD-DVD is a fantastic copy. The film, almost 20 years old now, looks absolutely beautiful. The transfer is pristine, hardly any artifacts are viewable, the effects still pack the punch they did back in 82. The soundtrack is equally impressive. The extra features are the same found on the last release of The Thing on DVD, so nothing new, but nothing missing. Just everything looks and sounds better than what you would expect.
I am still amazed how good this movie looks considering its age. This movie, one of my favorites from John Carpenter, and King Kong has sold me on HD-DVD. IF this is what I can expect from hi-definition transfers, then I will be re-purchasing a lot of films. I would not hesitate to recommend this film to anyone, especially those who love horror, but I would absolutely urge anyone who has an HD-DVD and are true horror fans to get this version of the film. You will not be disappointed.
on May 28, 1999
Having read the official amazon.com review of "The Thing," I have to post a slightly different opinion. Yes, the special effects are eye-opening and graphic, but it's not just gore fans who like this film. I should know. My favorite movies ("Local Hero," "Bagdad Cafe") are totally devoid of blood and guts, yet "The Thing" remains high on my list as well.
I saw "The Thing" when it first came out in the early '80s and was shocked at the critical lambasting it took. Critics of that day were hung up on the earlier '50s version of the story, which starred James Arness in a carrot suit. Gimme a break. This one is superior in every way to the original film version, starring Kurt Russell as a real anti-hero (kind-of a hung-over Antarctic version of Snake Pliskin). Also good supporting work from a fine cast of character actors whose faces you'll recognize but names, maybe not. And the music, by Ennio Morricone (best known for Italian westerns like "The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly") is his usual excellent work; while most movie music shouldn't be noticeable, he manages to make his music part of the atmosphere in a more intrusive way that somehow weaves itself into the film perfectly.
It is a gory film, make no mistake about that. But it's not the gore that'll make you jump. It's The Thing. Did they get him? Are the survivors human? Were the victims really imitations of life? Good questions for a film with a small cast and atmospherics that aptly depict the isolation, claustrophobia, and paranoia among the characters. Still can't figure why critics bashed this flick when it came out, and still seem less than impressed.