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Movie Talk: ‘The Thing’ Collector’s Edition DVD Review


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Written by: Wayne C. Rogers

I picked up a fairly new copy of the DVD for John Carpenter’s, The Thing: Collector’s Edition, which was released in 2004, last week for a couple of bucks.  The movie itself came out on June 25th, 1982.  That was the summer filled with blockbusters, or at least great movies: Blade Runner, E.T., Poltergeist, and John Carpenter’s The Thing.

I’d already read John W. Campbell’s short story, Who Goes There, several years before the Carpenter movie came out and had also seen the original 1951 film, The Thing From Another World, that was directed by Howard Hawks and starred James Arness as the creature.

John Carpenter’s The Thing, however, blew me out of my seat.

The special effects for the creature were awesome, and the actors had me believing I was right there with them at the Antarctic research station, trapped in a snow blizzard with the Thing coming after my sorry ass.

Anyway, when I purchased the DVD I hadn’t seen the movie since it had been out in the VHS format, which was at least fifteen years.  I also saw that this particular edition of the film had an 80-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, and I wanted to see it.  That’s what caused me to buy it on DVD.

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For those of you who don’t know the movie, it’s about a group of American  scientists and a helicopter pilot who find themselves stranded at an Antarctic research station during a snow storm.  What creates the tension for this movie is that a very aggressive alien is also at the station with them.  The alien and its space craft were discovered by a Norwegian station several miles away.  The alien wiped out everybody there, except for two men who chased it in the form of a dog across the snow to the American station.  The two Norwegians die, and then the Americans take the animal in, not knowing a pissed-off alien is inside of it.

I mean the alien was frozen in the snow for like 70,000 years, so it was a little cranky when the Norwegians thawed it out.

The alien is a shape changer and can take any form it desires.  So, it doesn’t take long before the scientists realize the alien is amongst them.  They just don’t know who’s real or who’s an alien.  In other words, they don’t know whom to trust.  The film is therefore filled with a strong sense of claustrophobia and distrust, not to mention violence when the alien rags on someone.  To add to the utter sense of isolation is a great musical score by Ennio Morricone that’s both haunting in nature and adds to the sense of loneliness at the research station.

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Besides Kurt Russell who plays the helicopter pilot, MacReady, John Carpenter was able to assemble a strong cast of secondary actors who brought their superb skills to the set and delivered really excellent performances.  You have Wilford Brimley (before he grew his white mustache) as Blair, Keith David (Platoon, Marked For Death, Pitch Black) as Childs, Donald Moffat as Garry, Richard Masur as Clark, and Charles Hallahan as Norris, whose head rips off during the movie, falls to the floor, develops crab-like legs, and then scuttles hurryingly out of the room, hoping to escape the flame thrower.

The great Stan Winston did the creature/dog special effects as a favor to Robb Bottin (The Howling, The Fog and Robocop), who was busy doing the special effects for the rest of the movie.  In many ways, this was Robb’s picture because without his special effects, it would’ve been just a good horror film, instead of a great one.  His creatures (remember, this was pre-CGI) took special effects to the next level with their awe-inspiring believability and astounding gruesomeness.

Though a lot of the movie was filmed on sound stages with the temperature turned down, much was filmed in Stewart, British Columbia because of the snow there.  Though it was a grueling shoot, the actors loved it and felt it made their character’s reactions more real to the audience.

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The Thing was John Carpenter’s first big studio project, and everyone was expecting great things (no pun intended) from it at the Box Office.  When it didn’t happen, it was a letdown for all involved as they tried to figure out what went wrong.  Of course, the movie has since become a classic and has sold a ton of DVDs to its legion of fans.

I need to point out that the screenplay was written by Bill Lancaster, who is the son of the late Burt Lancaster, and who had written The Bad News Bears.  He gave the film its foundation, and then it was up to the cast and crew to bring the movie to life.

The Collector’s Edition of this DVD has a great documentary that’s nearly an hour-and-a-half long and tells you everything you need to know about the making of the movie and about its after affects.  There’s also a look at the production design, some other special effects, and trailers.

This is truly a great horror movie that still holds up well after thirty years with special effects that will knock you right out of your little white cotton bobby socks.  It’s good that the movie has finally found its audience and the deserved recognition for such fine directing, acting and mind-blowing special effects.  The Thing is a classic in every sense of the word and a fantastic movie to watch, especially during the winter when it’s cold outside.  Watch out for those stray dogs!

Rating: 5/5

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

20 Comments on Movie Talk: ‘The Thing’ Collector’s Edition DVD Review

  1. I have literally lost count of the amount of times I have watched this movie..it really is a brilliant piece of film making and story telling. And the special effects still stand up to the films of the current day. One of my favorite parts of this film is where some of crew are strapped to the sofa. It’s both frightening and funny…

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  2. Dave Watkins // January 4, 2014 at 11:26 pm // Reply

    You have got to be fucking kidding me.

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  3. This is asolid write up and whiel I agree for the most aprt, there are osme poitns on which I disagree.

    Where I agree is in the film being considered a classic that’s drenched in atmosphere. No argument there. More on that further below

    But I have a different take on the characters. The actors did well respectively – there are no bad performances in the film- but I’ve always felt the writing for the characters in The Thing was a weak link in the picture. The characters are sketched as archetypes we never get to know on any real level. They’re quickly introduced as personality types, not actual personalities, and then thrown headlong into the action when the Norwegians show up. It’s the one facet of The Thing that has always bothered me: We never really get to know anything about who these guys are. For example, why is Macready such a relatively antisocial loner? When we meet him, he’s sitting by himself at a computer , getting pissed over a chess game and tossing a drink into the CPU (an admitedly funny scene) and for the rest of the film he’s “the tough loner”. Why? Why does the company pilot- who probably has to work with everyone more closely than anyone else, since he’s responsible for safely getting them from place to place- spend the movie growling at others, even before the terror begins? I’m sorry to say, I think the answer is that it’s Kurt Russel – the man who portrayed Snake Plissken – in the role, so it was easier to just copy that character then actually flesh out a new one. I could also ask why Keith David’s character seems to actively dislike Macready already when the film begins. They never explain the animosty, choosing instead to introduce with no backstory and just let it grow as the story unfolds so Macready can have a human foil. In that respect, I prefer the 1950’s version The Thing From Another World, which had characters we could really care about who actually behaved like guys who’ve known each other a long time putting in service together in such an otherwise inhosptiable environment.

    Now, having adressed that, I think John Carpenter is the real star of this flick right along side the creature effects.I may have thought the characters were stock figures at best , but Carpenter more than makes up for it behind the camera by successfully cutlivating an amost unbearable atmosphere of relentlessly increasing dread and isolation. This film is flat out, balls to the wall terrifying . Add the eye popping practical effects (only Chris Walas’s extraordinary work on Cronenberg’s The Fly equalled or surpassed the creature work featured in The Thing , in my opinion) and Ennio Morricone’s haunting score and you have a modern masterpiece.

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    • Ugh, the typos. I gotta stop writing these posts when my eyes are tired.

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    • interestingly enough, what you view as one of the film’s weak links, is what I view as one of the greatest things the pic has going for it. The one thing – in my mind – that could have buried this film, would have been a slowed pace. I’ve always felt that if they’d gotten deeper into character development, it would have TOTALLY brought the momentum to a screeching halt – and this one, for me, is all about 3 things: practical effects, Kurt Russell and a balls to the wall pace. For some reason, this is one of those movies that I didn’t WANT the character development in because I never felt it was needed. I’ve always thought, the character in danger was mankind in general, which helped me roll right along with the speedy introductions. It was like, hey, I’m not worried about knowing these guys’ complete backgrounds and personality traits, because they’re just step one. The rest of the world is the real potential victim here.

      Interesting to read your take, my friend!

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  4. Wayne C. Rogers // January 5, 2014 at 12:58 am // Reply

    D.S. You’ve made some valid observations that I totally agree with. Not having seen the original screenplay that Lancaster wrote, I don’t know how many times it was actually changed to accomodate the studios, the director, and the actors. There may have been more character development in the original script. I suspect the reason there isn’t in the theatrical version of the film is because of time. The majority of films shown at theaters each year are usually kept to a running time of 90-to-110 minutes (with some shorter and some longer in length) so that more viewings of the movie can take place each night. The more viewings per day, the more money the theaters and studios make. What does this have to do with character development? On a picture like this, character developement is probably the first thing that would be cut to save on time. The studios wouldn’t cut the time spent on viewing the special effects because the special effects are really the movie as is John Carpenter’s name. You’ve got to get to the story fast and then keep the audience on the edge of their seats still the last frame is showed. Of course, maybe there wasn’t any character development in the original script and the studio and director were more interested in getting right to the action, allowing the audience to think whatever they wanted with regards to the characters. It’s always difficult to say. That might have been the main reason the movie didn’t do any real business when it was up against E.T., Blade Runner and Poltergiest. The characters were more fleshed out in those films, which enabled the audience to identify with them. Hell, I cried when I saw E.T. Another thing is our movie didn’t have a happy ending. The other films had resolutions at the end. Our film just had Russell and Davis sitting in the snow, drinking whiskey, and waiting for the other to turn into the alien. That wasn’t a bad ending. It just wasnt a happy one.

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  5. I adore this movie! It’s my third favorite of all time (behind “Jaws” and “Aliens”). You’re right about the FX and the acting. Both were top grade and made the movie unforgettable.

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  6. Vitina Molgaard // January 5, 2014 at 7:17 am // Reply

    Quietly I am slipping in here tonight to say…”HEY ,I just got to watch The Thing from another Planet ‘ this afternoon….still enjoyed it…now you may any and all go back to discussing this post…oh and Nice job Wayne….just me…vitina

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  7. Wayne C. Rogers // January 5, 2014 at 6:21 pm // Reply

    Jaws, Alien, Aliens, Poltergeist and The Predator are all top of the line horror films from the seventies and eighties. Though the shark effects from Jaws are a bit outdated, I still won’t go back into the ocean. I also love the opening sequence at night with the female swimmer and Robert Shaw’s monologue about the U.S.S. Indianapolis. Great movies that leave you wanting more. Unfortunately, most of the sequels left a lot to be desired.

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    • Dave Watkins // January 5, 2014 at 6:51 pm // Reply

      Robert Shaw wrote that monologue, I believe. Out of the films mentioned in this list, I would go Aliens, The Thing, Jaws in that order.

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    • I liked Aliens alot..but I’m still a die-hard fan of Alien. Possibly my #1 film of all time.

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      • poppy33usa // January 5, 2014 at 7:12 pm //

        ok on seconds thoughts perhaps “…of all time” is pushing it a little..but its still my #1 sci-fi/horror…too much caffeine tend to make me exaggerate

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  8. The best remake, possibly, of all time. I saw it in the theater when it came out and have been watching it every year since.

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    • As much as I admire and apprecite The Thing, I have to disagree with this. There’s another remake that I think deserves to hold that title. While most people might name David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly as the best ever made right about here (and I do think that’s one of the all time best ), my vote for THE best remake has to go to Phillip Kaufman’s incredible 1978 vision of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. There was a film that managed to retain every quality that made the original a classic, but improved upon it on every possible level in all other regards.

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  9. Wayne C. Rogers // January 8, 2014 at 1:58 pm // Reply

    Hunter,
    This is what remake should be…better than the first film, but Hollywood doesn’t understand that.

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  10. Wayne C. Rogers // January 9, 2014 at 1:04 am // Reply

    I saw The Invasion of the Body Snatchers when it originally came out at the theater, I thought it was good, but I’ve never purchased it on DVD. Where as John Carpenter’s The Thing I have on DVD and love it. The Fly, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and John Carpenter’s The Thing–which one is your favorite remake?

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