“The Thing” (1982) Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray Review
Blu-Ray Review: The Thing (Collector’s Edition)
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: October 11th 2016
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio, 4.1, 5.1, and 2.0 DTS HD Master Audio
Runtime: 109 Minutes
I find it rather funny that the memory I associate with the most when I think about John Carpenter’s The Thing is how incredibly terrified my sister was at one particular scene of the movie when we first watched it many years ago. My sister is an ardent animal lover, always has been, and the scene in the film in which the Thing violently combusts and transforms from within an Alaskan Malamute chilled her to the bone. The spider legs emerging with bone-breaking menace, mutated limbs writhing in slimy agony, the other dogs scared enough to chew through the chain link fence for just a chance at escape….this scene, among many others, is a testament to the incredible special effects work of both Stan Winston and Rob Bottin, and admittedly, just one aspect of a film that works on so many levels. John Carpenter’s assured direction combined with Ennio Morricone’s iconic score (recently reused by Quentin Tarantino for The Hateful Eight), great performances from Kurt Russell and the rest of the cast, and an eerily claustrophobic and paranoid mood make for one of the very finest science fiction horror hybrids ever committed to celluloid. I have proudly called The Thing one of my personal Top Ten films since I first saw it, and it hasn’t budged on that list in all these years.
Though it’s often referred to as a remake, John Carpenter’s film is based much more on the source material novella Who Goes There? than 1951’s The Thing from Another World. The film begins with Norwegian researchers chasing down the aforementioned Alaskan Malamute dog via helicopter through the stark but gorgeous Antarctica landscape. They’re shooting at it, but why? Upon arriving at the American science research station, the seemingly “crazy” Norwegians meet their demise, but the dog takes refuge with the 12-man American crew. Pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell), among others, decide to venture out to the Norwegian station to search for clues. The Norwegian crew, along with their station, is burned to a crisp…except for a strange two-headed humanoid found in the ice outside the station and a buried crashed spacecraft that dates back 100,000 years. When a shape-shifting alien begins to assimilate the crew one by one, it’s an fight for survival between men who can’t trust each other in the world’s most isolating terrain. I hesitate to say too much more about the plot for those who haven’t seen the film, as I would hate to spoil too much of a good thing.
I honestly believe The Thing to be a perfect film. It has everything I could ever want in a science fiction or Horror movie, with all of the right elements in place, rounded out by a stellar cast that truly sells their terrified, paranoid claustrophobia. These actors form a unique ragtag group of characters that play off of each other so very well. Their connections and friendships seem real, as does their dwindling trust as The Thing begins to slowly assimilate. The practical special effects work from Rob Bottin and Stan Winston remains truly disgusting and unique, rivaling most, if not all, grotesque effects seen in cinema to this very day. And finally, the eerie score from Ennio Morricone in conjunction with the breathtaking cinematography and sure-handed direction from the master of Horror, John Carpenter, make for a memorable modern classic that you won’t soon forget.
Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray edition comes with a brand new 2K scan of the interpositive, which was personally supervised by DP Dean Cundey. I can say, without a doubt, that this is the best The Thing has ever looked on home video. Black levels are inky and solid, the natural grain structure is intact, and colors look authentic to the original theatrical presentation. It’s all about the little things here on this 2K scan…the detail in the crewmember’s clothing and individual threads are noticeable, the grotesque transformation sequences are slimy and seemingly tangible for the viewer (making the nasty effects ultra effective), and the white, snowy landscapes of the Antarctic look genuinely bright and clear as well. This is a beautiful presentation!
There are three separate audio options for this Collector’s Edition release including a newly minted 4.1 mix created from the original 70mm Dolby stereo soundtrack, a 5.1 DTS HD Master audio track, and a 2.0 DTS HD Master audio track. It’s important to note that Scream Factory has delayed this release until October because of sync issues with the audio on the 4.1 track. Fans of the film will surely be able to spot a few scenes where the mix errors occur, and it downright ruins a couple of surprises. Case in point, when MacReady shoots Clark, there is an extra gun shot effect before the actual shot, and most notably, during the famous blood test scene, an extra screeching sound effect takes place just before MacReady pokes the infected blood with the hot wire, making the actual “jump scare” moment ineffective.
With that being said, I’m excited for Scream Factory to fix these issues because other than the errors, the 4.1 track crafted from the 70mm presentation sounds utterly amazing! Dialogue comes through crisp and clear, Ennio Morricone’s score sounds incredible and dynamic, and the gory sound effects are near revolting in this surround mix! The company has already announced in both personal e-mails to their customers as well as their Facebook page that this release will be delayed until October 11th to fix the audio issues, which will certainly result in a splendid presentation.
Scream Factory has given The Thing a deluxe collector’s edition treatment with tons of new bonus material as well as special features that have been carried over from previous home video releases. I cannot personally imagine a more definitive edition will ever grace fans of the film. The new interviews and commentaries are well produced and informative, and the old bonus content, particularly the fascinating and often hilarious commentary from John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, are very welcome additions as well. If I have a small gripe, and it’s truly a wee one, it’s that select portions of the Russell/Carpenter commentary have been removed. As far as I can recollect, this was the case on the previous Blu-Ray edition from Universal as well. I’m guessing, but I have no confirmation at this point, that these select conversation snippets were removed by Universal (or possibly at the behest of cast or crew) because some would deem them as politically incorrect in our day and age. Other than that folks, this is one A-M-A-Z-I-N-G package that will certainly please fans! Here’s a list of what’s included:
- Audio Commentaries (3): There are no less than three (!) audio commentaries to enjoy on this release including a brand new one with Dean Cundey, one featuring Co-Producer Stuart Cohen, and what is hands-down one of the best audio commentaries ever to grace a home video release; the classic John Carpenter & Kurt Russell track from the original laserdisc release. This is the very commentary that made me want to listen to more commentary tracks and truly appreciate when filmmakers and/or talent would contribute one to a home video release. Carpenter & Russell clearly enjoy each other’s company, and offer up plenty of fun stories, laughs, and interest behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the making of the film.
- Theatrical and Teaser Trailers- Several trailers and short teasers made during the theatrical campaign for the film.
- TV Spots- Several short television commercials from 1982 advertising the film.
- Radio Spots- Radio advertisements from 1982. These were plenty of fun! I miss the days when movies would get some great voice-over love on the dial.
- Still Galleries- A playable reel of production stills, behind-the-scenes photos, and other making-of photography associated with the film.
- Requiem for a Shape Shifter- This nearly 29 minute interview with John Carpenter featuring Mick Garris from Red Shirt Pictures is one of the absolute highlights of this release. Seeing two Horror directors talk film together is priceless, and these two have plenty of fascinating behind-the-scenes stories to share. Some of these we have heard before, but there are plenty of new tidbits that I wouldn’t dare spoil for those looking forward to the set. Inspiration behind the film (and John’s love for The Thing from another World), budgetary and studio stories, the special effects, and the famous “blood test” scene that sold John on the script are all discussed here.
- The Men of Outpost 31- This documentary from Red Shirt Pictures runs over 51 minutes and features various cast members including Keith David (“Childs”), Wilford Brimley (“Blair”), David Clennon (“Palmer”), Joel Polis (“Fuchs”), Thomas G. Waites (“Windows”), Peter Maloney (“Bennings”), Richard Masur (“Clark”), and more. We get to hear about how each of the actors came to be in the film, some of their backstories, production anecdotes, and we even get to see Wilford Brimley’s cat and dog fight in his lap! This is a very well done documentary/interview assembly and another highlight of this release.
- Assembling and Assimilation- An 11-minute interview with editor Todd Ramsay from Red Shirt Pictures. Todd discusses the editing process from postproduction work on the film, his working relationship with John Carpenter, and how he came to work with Carpenter during Escape from New York and beyond.
- Behind the Chameleon-This 25-minute featurette is split into two parts and features the visual effects artists who worked on the film.
- Sounds from the Cold- Yet another featurette from Red Shirt Pictures has Alan Howarth discussing the special sound effects and music for the film when he was brought in to work on the final music cues.
- Between the Lines- Red Shirt Pictures is at it again here with an extended interview with author Alan Dean Foster, who wrote the novelization for the film based on the screenplay. Alan has worked on numerous screenplay-to-novelizations, and it’s fascinating to listen to his process. Yet another highlight on this disc, and a very unique idea for a bonus feature!
- Network TV Broadcast version of The Thing- Now this is truly A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Here, included in its entirety, is the network TV broadcast of The Thing complete with whole scenes and shots removed due to graphic content. The 94-minute movie is in very rough shape, delivered in a full frame aspect ratio, and looks to be from a VHS copy, but it doesn’t matter in the slightest. There are ridiculous but fascinating introductions by a narrator for several of the characters and title shots throughout. This is absolutely one of the greatest inclusions on a home video release ever! Hats off Scream Factory!
- John Carpenter’s The Thing: Terror Takes Shape- Much like the aforementioned Russell/Carpenter commentary, this is simply one of the best making-of documentaries out there, and was released previously on DVD editions of the film. Clocking in at nearly 1 ½ hours, this feature covers all the bases and provides fans with endless insight into the production process, special effects, stories from the cast and crew, and much more. This is a welcome carry-over to this new edition!
- The Making of a Chilling Tale- A short and quite dated 5-minute featurette on the film.
- The Making of The Thing- This one runs nearly 10 minutes, and is similar in style to the previous feature, detailing the basic premise of the film and highlighting Carpenter’s career and insight into the making of the film. Literally some of the same shots and interviews are used here but with different narration.
- Featurettes: There are a total of 7 featurettes on disc two including: The Art of Mike Ploog, Back into the Cold, Outtakes, Vintage Featurettes, Vintage Product Reel, Vintage Behind-the-Scenes Footage, & Annotated Production Archive
This Collector’s Edition release arrives on the Blu-Ray format with utterly perfect slipcover art from the talented Paul Shipper. Russell’s MacReady is the centerpiece, bathed in an orange glow from the flamethrower, and the supporting cast surrounds him in arctic blue. I would personally love to have this framed on my wall! The back of the slipcover includes a detailed plot synopsis, a list of bonus features, and technical specifications. The case artwork itself is reversible, so fans have the option of showcasing the original Drew Struzan art as an option too. Even the discs on the inside of the case have unique alternative art on each; the first disc being the feature film and the second disc containing the aforementioned bonus content and broadcast TV cut. This is one beautiful looking set!
If you only buy one film on Blu-Ray in 2016, let it be Scream Factory’s absolutely stellar Collector’s Edition release of John Carpenter’s The Thing. This is, hands down, one of the best home video releases to ever grace the market, and will certainly be on my Top Ten releases list at year’s end. If the stellar 2K video presentation and equally as impressive audio tracks weren’t enough, the special features are truly outstanding. Red Shirt Pictures delivers the goods with several documentaries and interviews worth your time, and the ported over “classic” extras are an added bonus. One of the true highlights of this release is the included Network TV Broadcast version of the film as well, with bizarre narration and several scenes cut for content, it’s absolutely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the film. Paul Shipper’s beautifully rendered artwork is just another reason to pick this release up! My only complaint is the audio issues with the 4.1 track, which have already been addressed by Scream Factory, resulting in slight delay for this release until October. Nevertheless, this is THE Blu-Ray of 2016, and comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.