Blu-ray Review: John Carpenter’s The Thing (Collector’s Edition)

Why does Hollywood keep remaking films that you thought what were done right the first time around? Lately it’s because studios are run by marketing experts who want to keep milking established “brands.” They want to be able to renew interest and create a new line of toys. They also like remaking their old films because it prevents every scriptwriter in Hollywood from suing them for stealing their genius. Sometimes a classic film is remade for a proper reason: modern technology and an R rating can properly amp up the fear factor. This is why John Carpenter was able to properly tackle 1952’s The Thing from Another World. Carpenter was able to make the alien invasion extremely graphic and grotesque to explore what will happen if the alien can fake being us. His remake is closer to John W. Campbell, Jr.’s Who Goes There? novel than the classic film.

Deep in the Antarctic sits an American research station Outpost 31 that’s getting batten down for the upcoming wicked winter season. The all male crew of dozen seem ready to hunker down for fierce winds, snow and cold. But their plans get interrupted when a helicopter chasing a sled dog flies over them. The chopper is firing down at the dog. Things get messy when the chopper lands and a guy with a rifle keeps coming for the dog as the American crew is near him. Before anything can be solved, the shooter is dead and his helicopter has exploded. The men of Outpost 31 aren’t sure what has happened to their Norwegian neighbors. They keep an eye on the dog while R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and others fly over to see what happened at the Norwegian camp. The place is wreckage with frozen corpses from people who killed themselves. They also discover a mutated corpse with two faces. They bring it back to Outpost 31. Blair (A. Wilford Brimley) does an autopsy on the oddity. It might be alien. They lock up the runaway sled dog with their dogs. This proves to be a bad thing since the dog turns into alien creature and does horrible things to the other dogs. The men do their best to combat the creature, but it escapes. What puts the fear into the men is this is a monster that can assume identities. Ultimately they have no idea who is the enemy so they’re not sure if suggestions on how to fight it aren’t really suicide tips.

The Thing goes beyond The Thing From Another Planet as the paranoia gets pumped up. In the original movie, the monster (played by Gunsmoke‘s James Arness) never turned into the rest of the cast. Everybody knew who the alien was. It wasn’t them. John Carpenter’s Antarctic crew might already be an alien in their flesh. The cast really knows how to pump up the fear, mistrust and anger. Kurt Russell is at his finest as he roams the frozen wasteland assured that he’s human. While he’s still got attitude, this is a completely different character from Snake Plissken in Carpenter’s Escape From New York. He even pulls of a huge sombrero look. This is my favorite Wilford Brimley role in cinema since you have no idea if he’s human or alien. The alien special effects remain amazing and gross after over 30 years. There’s still wincing when the dog sheds its fur and exposes tentacles and other squirming organs. The spider head can inspire a deep gasp no matter how many times you’ve seen it. The film wasn’t a massive hit when it was released since America was still packing the theater for E.T. They didn’t want to imagine their cute candy loving alien that just wanted a phone as being a devious humanity destroyer. John Carpenter, cast and crew brought a lot to this movie than just remake the original. As winter approaches, The Thing: The Collector’s Edition is the perfect way to spend a long snowy night.

The videos is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the details on the snowy locations and the gross alien transformation scenes. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD MA that brings out the noises of the camp living in fear. There’s also a English: DTS-HD Master Audio 4.1 made from the 70mm sound mix from the original release. Finally there’s a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 based on the 35mm release prints. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentaries are plentiful. The first has cinematographer Dean Cundey discussing what it took to shoot a film in freezing conditions. He supervised the transfer so this is how he wanted the movie to look. A second commentary features co-producer Stuart Cohen. He lets us know what it took to get this production through the studio. Finally there’s a reunion of John Carpenter And Kurt Russell. The two guys recount their times and sound like they need to make one more picture together.

Teaser Trailer (1:22) deals with a model set of snow and ice. It has the early title design.

Theatrical Trailers includes U.S. (3:27) and German (1:47) cuts. In German the film was called Das Ding.

TV Spots (1:35) has the freed monster destroying the base.

Radio Spots (2:27) has a little fun with the way the show was sold on the radio. They leak the promo into the opening of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”

Still Gallery covers Behind-The-Scenes Photos, Posters And Lobby Cards.

Requiem For A Shape Shifter (28:39) has John Carpenter sit down with filmmaker Mick Garris. Carpenter admits that he had no plans to remake The Thing From Another Planet when he had it on a TV in Halloween. It was film he always loved.

The Men Of Outpost 31 (51:14) reunites the old crew including Keith David, Wilford Brimley, David Clennon, Thomas Waites, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur And Joel Polis.

Assembling And Assimilation (11:09) slices around with editor Todd Ramsay. He feels he was in sync with working with Carpenter on the cuts. They had also worked on Escape From New York.

Behind The Chameleon: The Sights Of THE THING (25:26) chats 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. They break down the spaceships and alien creations.

Sounds From The Cold (14:53) gives voice to Supervising Sound Editor David Lewis Yewdall And Special Sound Effects Designer Alan Howarth. Yewdall explains the key to capturing wind sounds. I’ve taken sound designing classes with Yewdall. One of the coolest things he has done over the years in his various movies is use sound effects that were created by Vic Morrow (The Bad News Bears). They were from him falling down stairs and taking hits on Twilight Zone: The Movie. So the ghost of Vic Morrow has been appearing in movies for decades after his death.

Between The Lines (15:58) introduces us to Novelization Author Alan Dean Foster. Very nice to see the guy who had to turn the script into a paperback book get his due. They used to this all the time since we didn’t have home video. He also gives background on John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella Who Goes There?. Campbell bought Foster’s first story.

Back Into The Cold: A Return To The Shooting Locations Of THE THING 11:16) is an slide show narrated By Todd Cameron Of They visited the snow covered location during the summer so it wasn’t so risky. Since original buildings were taken away, it’s all about the terrain. There is a shrine to the movie at the town nearby.

The Art Of Mike Ploog Gallery (12:21) is the artist’s storyboards that are extremely well detailed.

John Carpenter’s The Thing: Terror Takes Shape (84:03) is an extensive documentary the interviews John Carpenter, Kurt Russell, Special Effects Make-up Designer Rob Bottin, Legendary Matte Artist Albert Whitlock and other cast and crew members. Carpenter talks loving the original film, but reading the book and wanting to bring the shapeshifting monster from the novel to the screen.

Network TV Broadcast Version Of THE THING (94 minutes) is taken from an old master tape in standard definition. It’s rather fuzzy, but fun to see how things were watered down for network. You’ll appreciate the new 1080p transfer.

The Making of a Chilling Tale (5:14) is the original EPK. They show the hour and a half bus ride to the remote location in Alaska.

The Making of The Thing (9:20) gives the history of the movie and lets us know John Carpenter is making a new movie.

Outtakes (5:19) includes finding dog tags on the Norwegian, more autopsy footage and a few other scenes.

Vintage Featurettes (13:20) has Carpenter calling his version of The Thing as refashioning the movie and not merely remaking it.

Vintage Product Reel (19:38) condenses the film for exhibitors. There’s footage that didn’t make the final cut.

Vintage Behind-The-Scenes Footage (2:02) shows off the base camp and camera crew.

Annotated Production Archive (54:12) includes Production Art And Storyboards, Location Scouting, Special Make-up Effects, Post Production.

Scream Factory presents The Thing: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: John Carpenter. Screenplay by: Bill Lancaster. Starring: Kurt Russell, A. Wilford Brimley, T. K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David & Richard Dysart. Running Time: 109 minutes. Rated: R. Released: October 11, 2016.

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