Friday, 4 May 2012

Horror Review: The Thing (1982)



Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people that it kills.


There's no doubting John Carpenters talent, it's there for all to see, especially in his remake of Howard Hawks-Christian Nyby 50's b-movie, "The Thing From Another World", often quoted by Carpenter himself as one of his all time favourites.



Here we have another film teaming up John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. It's not only the return of the team of Carpenter and Russell, we also see Keith David's first film for Carpenter. They're great additions to the cast, also rest of the cast are great and make for a great film full of paranoia, mystery and tension.

I can't talk about this film without discussing the amazing practical effects. This film is often used as an example as to why you practical effects are better than C.G.I, I have to agree, if you've seen it then you'll know why. It just goes to show you that, if done right, then practical effects are a better use than the computerised images that are often used in today's films.





We also see that it's not always bad idea to remake a film, as-long as you have respect for your predecessor then it's hard to go wrong, this is a prime example of that. This is one of those rare films that still holds up many years after it's release, when you watch it, it's hard to believe that this year is it's 20th anniversary.

With the fan base this film has today it's hard to believe that this film was such a flop up-on it's release. Just two weeks before Steven Spielberg's "E.T." had opened and was on its historic box office rampage. Personally I think it was just a case of bad scheduling, had this film been released before who knows what impact it would have had. 




It was reported yesterday that Carpenter, now 64, had been rushed into hospital for emergency surgery. Raz's Midnight Macabre would like to wish him a speedy recovery.

To see the trailer for "The Thing" click here

Miscellaneous facts about the film:
  • The film was originally banned when released in Finland. 
  • The original movie, The Thing from Another World, took place at the North Pole. This version takes place at the South Pole. 
  • Donald Pleasence was the original choice for the character of Blair. Pleasence was unable to perform the role due to a scheduling conflict. 
  • At the beginning of the film the Norwegian with the rifle is the second unit director and associate producer as well as Kurt Russell's (then) brother-in-law, Larry J. Franco. According to John Carpenter, on the commentary track, Franco is not speaking Norwegian but making up the dialog. "Schmergsdorf" as Carpenter puts it. The subtitles, however, give the impression he is speaking Norwegian. The words spoken are actually understandable for Norwegians. Albeit broken Norwegian, the line goes: "Se til helvete og kom dere vekk. Det er ikke en bikkje, det er en slags ting! Det imiterer en bikkje, det er ikke virkelig! KOM DERE VEKK IDIOTER!!" This translates to: "Get the hell outta there. That's not a dog, it's some sort of thing! It's imitating a dog, it isn't real! GET AWAY YOU IDIOTS!!" 
  • To give the illusion of icy Antarctic conditions, interior sets on the Los Angeles sound stages were refrigerated down to 40 F while it was well over 100 F outside. 
  • The opening title exactly duplicates the original Howard Hawks film. To create the effect of the title, an animation cell with "The Thing" written on it was placed behind a fish tank filled with smoke that was covered with a plastic garbage bag. The garbage bag was ignited, creating the effect of the title burning onto the screen. 
  • This film is considered a benchmark in the field of special make-up effects. These effects were created by Rob Bottin, who was only 22 when he started the project. 
  • The flesh-flower that attacks Childs is actually an incredibly detailed effect. Its petals are 12 dog tongues complete with rows of canine teeth. Effects designer Rob Bottin dubbed it the "pissed-off cabbage". 
  • The female voice on MacReady's computer was performed (uncredited) by the then-wife of director John Carpenter, actress Adrienne Barbeau. 
  • While discussing the character of MacReady, director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell discussed having MacReady be a former Vietnam chopper pilot who had felt displaced by his service in Vietnam. This ultimately did not make it into the finished film.
  • In August 2003 a couple of hard-core fans, Todd Cameron and Steve Crawford, ventured to the remote filming location in Stewart, British Columbia and, after 21 years, found remains of Outpost #31 and the Norwegian helicopter. The rotor blade from the chopper now belongs to Todd and rests in his collection of memorabilia from the film. 
  • John Carpenter and Kurt Russell both admit that after all of these years they still do not know who has been replaced by the creature and when. 
  • John Carpenter comments that one of the bush pilots used on the film offered to crash one of the helicopters for money. The scene when MacReady and Dr. Copper go to visit the Norwegian camp via helicopter, the bush pilot actually turned the controls over to Kurt Russell once the chopper was off the ground. If you watch the shot you see the 'copter actually wobble, that's Russell taking the controls. 
  • There are no female characters in the film. The only female presence in the movie is in the voice of MacReady's chess computer and the contestants seen on the game show that Palmer watches. A scene containing a blow-up doll was filmed and then left on the cutting room floor. According to John Carpenter, only one crew member was female but she was pregnant and this forced her to leave the shoot; she was replaced by a male. 
  • This is the first of John Carpenter's films which he did not score himself. The film's original choice of composer was Jerry Goldsmith, but he passed and Ennio Morricone composed a very low-key Carpenter-like score filled with brooding, menacing bass chords.
  • Much of the creature work in the scene inside the dog cage was done by Stan Winston and his crew as Rob Bottin was suffering from exhaustion at the time due to his immensely heavy workload. 
  • There is a character name "Mac" and another named "Windows"; since the film was made in 1982, this is purely coincidental. 
  • One of the few Universal films that does not begin with the Universal logo. 
  • The Thing came out in the early days of home video with stereo sound. It also came during the time videophiles began to learn how to decode the matrixed surround track encoded on Dolby Stereo films by use of a left minus right decoder with delay applied. The Thing was one of the main films that were recommended to test out the setups due to the aggressively directional surround stereo mix, especially in the opening helicopter chase. The Thing was among the first movies to advertise that it had a "matrixed surround track" on its packaging for the stereo soundtrack versions. 
  • According to John Carpenter in an interview, that he takes all of his failure movies pretty hard. However, he said that out of all those movies, this movie he took the hardest. Not only because the movie was a failure upon release but because both critics and the audience (to Carpenter's shock) panned the movie for its gory violence and bleak content. 
  • Nick Nolte turned down the role of MacReady, as did Jeff Bridges. 
  • John Carpenter has stated that of all his films, this is his personal favorite. 
  • In the DVD commentary, John Carpenter said Wilford Brimley was the only cast member not initially grossed out by the autopsy scene where they used real animal organs. Brimley had been a real-life cowboy, and gutting animals and removing organs was a normal experience for him. 
  • This movie has become part of the culture in Antarctica. It is a long standing tradition in all British Antarctic research stations to watch The Thing as part of their Midwinter feast and celebration held every June 21. 
  • At the beginning of the movie when the Norwegians land at the American base, the one with the gun says "Se til helvete å komme dere vekk! det er ikke en bikkje det er en slags ting!" Witch translates to "get the hell out of there! it's not a dog it's some kind of thing!", giving Norwegian viewers an early spoiler. 
  • Bernie Casey, 'Issac Hayes', Geoffrey Holder, Ernie Hudson, and Carl Weathers were all considered for the role of Childs. Hudson almost landed the role, but lost it to 'Keith David'. 
  • Lee Van Cleef was considered for the role of Garry. Van Cleef and 'Issac Hayes' were initial considerations since John Carpenter had just worked with them on "Escape From New York".
  • John Carpenter considers this to be the first of his Apocalypse Trilogy. "Prince of Darkness" and "In the Mouth of Madness" comprise the other two parts of the trilogy. 
  • John Carpenter's first foray into major studio film-making. 
  • Opened on the same day as Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. The similarities don't end there; both movies met with unfavorable reactions at the premiere, but became widely loved sci-fi classics in the years to come. 
  • The Sci-Fi Channel planned to make a four hour mini-series sequel to The Thing in 2003 but nothing ever came of it. 
  • The Dog-Thing was created by Stan Winston who declined screen credit as he didn't want to take away from Rob Bottin's work. Stan Winston receives a special thank you in the closing credits. 
  • The X-Files episode "Ice" is a direct homage to this film. 
  • The film's budget - $10 million - was substantially bigger than the average horror film at the time. Friday the 13th had cost a mere $700,000 while John Carpenter's original Halloween had only been $375,000. 
  • When the film first aired on US network television, Universal executive Sid Sheinberg provided a completely different cut of the movie which included early scenes introducing each character. Naturally disowned by John Carpenter, this version no longer exists. 
  • The British Columbia town of Stewart was chosen as the main location as it is the snowfall capital of North America. The camp was built in July 1981 in anticipation of filming commencing in December. The temperature ranged between 0 F and -15 F during the shoot. It cost the production $75,000 alone just to keep cast and crew warm in winter gear. 
  • Producers Lawrence Turman and David Foster's first choice of director was John Carpenter. This however was rejected by Universal as they had Tobe Hooper under contract. Hooper submitted two screenplay drafts, neither of which were liked by the powers that be. In the meantime, Ridley Scott's Alien and John Carpenter's Halloween had both come out and been monster hits so Universal reconsidered and hired Carpenter.
  • Keith David wears gloves throughout most of the film. This is because he had broken one of his hands in a car accident and needed to cover up his cast. 
  • As the film moved into post-production, Rob Bottin found himself virtually living at the studio. He was forced to break from this when he was diagnosed with exhaustion and admitted to hospital. 
  • Clint Eastwood was on the possibles list for MacReady. 
  • In addition to Lee Van Cleef, Jerry Orbach, Kevin Conway, Richard Mulligan and Powers Boothe were all considered for the role of Garry before Donald Moffat was selected. Mulligan's agent submitted his name directly about the role, as he had gotten a copy of the script and was eager to play it, feeling it was a major departure from his prior work. Boothe was a consideration when they were toying with Garry's age being comparable to MacReady's. Mulligan was also considered for Palmer. 
  • William Daniels and Brian Dennehy were considered for the role of Copper. Dennehy was almost cast, but John Carpenter instead cast Richard Dysart at the last minute.

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