filmhead2.jpg (3932 bytes)

The Thing(SE)/B+,B-

Universal/1982/109m/WS 2.35

      John Carpenter is unafraid when it comes to remaking Hollywood horror classics. The Thing is an excellent rewrite of the spare and stark black and white horror/scifi film made in 1951. The new look is quite excellent, taking the best elements of the original and successfully adding layers of characterization for a fuller experience.
     The setting is a bleak Arctic observation station. A madman arrives at the camp attacking members of a research team for no apparent reason and is killed. An investigation reveals the man had been working at another bleak ice covered site where a huge crater was discovered in the ice. The ramifications of the visit continue to build as one by one the scientists at the station are attacked and killed. What or who is the killer becomes the shifting focus of the group. Suspicion shifts with each new incident. Finally, all eyes turn on MacReady, the tough-minded helicopter pilot. The operative factor here is don’t turn your back on anyone.
thething.JPG (15329 bytes)

Kurt Russell as MacReady, another fine role from Carpenter ŠUniversal

     Carpenter assembled an excellent team to make The Thing. Dean Cundey’s blue-tone photography creates a chilling atmosphere and his camera movement adds to the chills. The Ennio Morricone score compliments the stalking images to perfection. And the creature effects, while they may have borrowed heavily from an Alien inspiration, are slimy and add the right amount of disgust. Bill Lancaster’s (yes, Burt’s son) adaptation from the short story is outstanding. And Carpenter is at his best directing The Thing. The pacing is perfect, the cuts magnify and maintain suspense. The actors stay within their characters.
     Kurt Russell gets another terrific role from John Carpenter as MacReady. In another life this MacReady could have been Snake Plisken, another plum Russell role created by Carpenter. Russell keeps a strong center of gravity in the central role. The supporting actors seem to be having a pretty good time in this tough location shoot. Wilfred Brimley does a nice mad scientist bit and Donald Moffat maintains an aloof presence as Garry.
     The elements have been peaked too much in this transfer causing edge artifacts, especially in scenes depicting solitary figures against the Arctic landscape. Shadow detail is somewhat obscured by a less than robust contrast ratio. The peaking may have been the result of a choice between extracting sharper or cleaner images from the given elements. Cundey’s ice-blue tones are maintained nicely in the color. The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround sound contains robust bass information and involving surround effects.
     The Thing is delivered by Universal in a nice special edition DVD. Running audio commentary by John Carpenter and Kurt Russell is consistently enjoyable providing insights into the production challenges. Commentaries are often best when there is more than one principal and they communicate effortlessly. This is the case on The Thing. A documentary created for the special edition runs almost eighty minutes providing additional details about the production. This special edition is chock full of goodies including outtakes, storyboards and a photo album.