THE THING (1982)
John Carpenter’s The Thing is both a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 film of the same name and a re-adaptation of the John W. Campbell Jr. story “Who Goes There?” on which it was based. Carpenter’s film is more faithful to Campbell’s story than Hawks’ version and also substantially more reliant on special effects, provided in abundance by a team of over 40 technicians, including veteran creature-effects artists Rob Bottin and Stan Winston. Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people that it kills. The film was originally banned when released in Finland. 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. Based on the classic short story “Who Goes There?” by pioneering science fiction editor John W. Campbell Jr., he is not credited in the DVD version until the end credits. This film is considered a benchmark in the field of special makeup 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 wife of director John Carpenter, actress Adrienne Barbeau. 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. 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. 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 version. Nick Nolte turned down the role of MacReady, as did Jeff Bridges. 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. The X-Files episode “Ice” is a direct homage to this film. Like I said critics did not like the movie neither that the audience at that time but I became a cult film later on adore by many fans across the globe.