Thursday, November 3, 2016

JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING (1982) 2-Disc Collector's Edition (Blu-ray Review)

JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING (1982) 
2-Disc Collector's Edition 
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 109 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 4.1, DTS-HD MA 2.0, DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, Keith David, Kurt Russell, Peter Maloney, Charles Hallahan, David Clennon, Richard Dysart, Richard Masur, T.K. Carter, Thomas Waites, Wilford Brimley

John Carpenter's The Thing opens in the winter of 1982 the remote Outpost 31, an Antarctic research station where helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell, Escape from New York) is losing at a game of computer chess. The computer's sweet voice (that of The Fog's Adrienne Barbeau) does little to soften the loss as he fries the hard drive by pouring a glass of whiskey into it, drying it. His forced victory against the PC is short-lived as the twelve-man research team comes under attack from a pair of armed Norwegians who arrive by helicopter. They're shooting the place up while trying to kill a runaway Alaskan sled dog which has made its way into the camp, for reasons unknown. One of the Norwegians manages to blow himself and the helicopter up when he drops a thermite charge into the snow and loses it. The surviving Norwegian walks deeper into the base while continuing to shoot at the dog, wounding one of the US crew in the leg before base commander Garry (Donald Moffat) shoots him dead with his service revolver right through the eye.

Looking for answers both MacReady and the camp surgeon Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) fly to the nearby Norwegian camp. What they find is a smoldering base left in ruins. Inside they find a corpse with it's throat and wrists slit, plus the burned and twisted carcass of a humanoid looking creature, a horrific looking thing that looks melted and has two faces. After a little more investigation they find that the Norwegians discovered an alien craft that had been buried in the snow for over 100,000 years along with a frozen alien corpse. Turns out the dog that wandered into the base camp was the shape-shifting alien, which unfortunately no one figures out until the form-changing alien begins to wreak havoc, trying to assimilate the humans and make it to civilization which will spell certain doom for humanity. The twelve men have little choice but to stop it at all costs, but some among them have already been assimilated by the parasitic alien.

The Thing is simply one of the most paranoia inducing sci-fi horror films ever made, EVER! A genius re imagining of the John W. Campbell, Jr. novella Who Goes There? written for the screen by Bill Lancaster, tautly directed by Carpenter with horrific imagery from the demented mind of Special Effects Make-up Designer Rob Bottin (The Howling). His work here is so far ahead of it's time and it holds up still to this day, I would put it up against anything we've seen in the last twenty-years, this is the stuff of Lovecraftian nightmares.

I clearly remember watching it for the first time on cable TV in the 80s, up alone late at night and scared to death. What I was seeing was terrifying, this was the first movie that really made me think about the desperate isolation of a situation. Trapped in a frozen wasteland where there's no one coming to help you, and you cannot trust anyone around you, what do you do? It was truly terrifying, the story is absolutely drenched in isolation, paranoia and the terror of the unknown. Then backing that up you have John Carpenter's taught direction, the movie is wound tight, threatening to snap at any moment. Add to that the out of this word special effects work, the things you saw in this movie were so beyond the norm, this was like watching Alien on a bad acid trip.

They just don't make them like this anymore, though they certainly try, they even made a prequel o sorts which while not awful doesn't even come close to matching the intensity and ingenuity of this 80s classic. This is a prime slice of sci-fi terror that brings it all together in one tight and terrifying package, the story, the direction, a stellar ensemble cast, horrific special effects and a score from the legendary composer Ennio Morricone. 

Audio/Video: Scream Factory have always gone all out for their John Carpenter Collector's Editions and their 2-disc Blu-ray of The Thing is no different. They've gone back to the interpositive for a new 2K scan to create a brand new HD transfer, which was supervised and approved by cinematographer Dean Cundey. The image is brighter with more detail, those special effects looks outstanding in the close-ups! Skin tones look more natural and there is a new color-grading that has a more blue, colder hur than the previous Blu-ray from Universal, which is appropriate. Sometimes with new transfers you get a minor difference in quality and tone, but this one is a significant improvement in every respect.

The disc comes with three audio options, we have the standard English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English SDH Subtitles, plus a new a new DTS-HD MA 4.1 Audio Mix created from the original 70MM Six Track Dolby Stereo Soundtrack, which sounded great to my ears. The Thing has some wonderful sound design layered throughout with atmospheric use of the surrounds right from the start beginning with the arriving of the alien craft on Earth along with Ennio Morricone score and the sound of the saucer whooshing across the screen. The scene of the Swedes chasing after the dog in their helicopter, the gunfire snapping from the surrounds, this is a crystalline presentation with the nice depth to it. The Morricone score is a real highlight, too, along with some droney contributions from John Carpenter and composer Alan Howarth. 

A massive amounts of extras are spread out across the 2-disc set, for anyone looking to delve into all the extras this is an all-day experience. Scream Factory right a serious wrong by carrying over all the extras from the Collector's Edition DVD which were absent from the previous Universal Blu-ray. This includes the legendary commentary by John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, plus the original 80-min making of doc John Carpenter's The Thing: Terror Takes Shape with vintage interviews from Carpenter, Russell, Special Effects Make-up Designer Rob Bottin, Matte Artist Albert Whitlock among others. Scream Factory have also gone and included about 13-mins of vintage EPK interviews with Carpenter, Russell and Bottin, The Making Of A Chilling Tale and The Making Of The Thing (14 mins) featurettes, a Product Reel which is actually a condensed 19-min version of the movie with a few additional scenes not in the theatrical cut, some behind-the-scenes footage (2 mins) of the cast and crew on-location, an annotated production archive with production art and storyboards, location scouting, special make-up effects, post production (54 mins), outtakes (5 mins), trailers (5 mins), three TV Spots (1 mins), and four radio spots (2 min) or the film. 

Keep in mind that this is just the vintage stuff for the movie, Scream Factory have also added their own stamp to this Collector's Edition with loads of new stuff produced in association with Red Shirt Pictures. The new stuff begins with a brand new audio commentary with Director Of Photography Dean Cundey moderated by Rob Galluzo of Blumhouse.com, a great commentary from the legendary cinematographer. I loved hearing Cundey speak about his time working with Carpenter, adding bits of information that could be key in identifying who may or may not be an alien at the end of the movie. There's also a new commentary with producer Stuart Cohen moderated by Michael Felsher. The producer speaks about the origins of the project at Universal, which included director Tobe Hooper having a pass at it before Carpenter, about how the success of the movie Alien is what got Universal excited about the project.
Additionally we have a new half-hour interview with John Carpenter by Mick Garris who actually did some promotional work on the film for Universal back in the day. A great conversation speaking about Carpenter's career leading up to the The Thing, what it was like working on his first studio picture after the runaway success of Halloween, how it came together through producer Stuart Cohen and Carpenter's initial reticence to remake a movie he loved. It also touches on the box office failure of the movie and Carpenter's new found glory as a musician these past few years. Funnily at one point while discussing the box office failure of the movie which was released the week after Steven Spielberg's E.T., Garrison remarks that no even remembers E.T. anymore, which seemed odd, I have to wonder if he was being sarcastic, because A LOT of people remember E.T..

The nearly hour long The Men Of Outpost 31 featurette has new interviews with the surviving main cast with the exception of Kurt Russell. We have input from Keith David, Wilford Brimley, David Clennon, Thomas Waites, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur and Joel Polis who recount their experience making the movie. A few of the New York actors recount their existential discussions about the ramifications of being replicated by an alien, except for Wilford Brimley and David Clennon who couldn't have cared less about that stuff. Masur speaks about the extensive animal training with "Chad", the dog in the movie and possibly missing out on a role in Spielberg's E.T. to make this movie. Bad-ass Keith David speaks about injuring his hand, calling attention to the fact that you never see his left hand for a good portion of the movie. There's a funny anecdote about Masur and Waites being caught on a hot mic bitching about Carpenter and some discussion of alternate death scenes shot but not used in the movie. 

Editor Tom Ramsey shows up for an 11-min interview, he began his Hollywood career in the mail room before working his way up to Star Trek and then coming to work for Carpenter on Escape from New York. There's a new 25-min featurette Behind The Chameleon: The Sights of The Thing with new interviews with Visual Effects Artists Peter Kuran and Susan Turner, Special Make-up Effects Artist Rob Burman, Brian Wade, Stop Motion Animators Randall William Cook and Jim Aupperle. This is a great extra, touching on the creation of the cool opening titles, the miniature spacecraft created by Susan Turner who also created the miniature set for the subterranean finale. Stop Motion Animators Cook and Aupperle speak a bit about the largely unused stop-motion Blair Monster which is seen only fleetingly in the final film.

The 15-min Sounds From The Cold has interviews with Supervising Sound Editor David Lewis Yewdall and Special Sound Effects Designer Alan Howarth. Longtime Carpenter collaborator Howarth speaks about creating some additional droney music cues for the movie to accompany the Morricone score, while Yewdall speaks a bit about creating the sound design for the movie, including recording the sound of wind from inside a dumpster.

Novelization Author Alan Dean Foster shows up for a 16-min interview in which he touches
on his own process of creating a novelization based on a movie, usually working from the screenplay, sometimes with the aid of original artwork, sometimes not, which was the case with The Thing. The author speaks about his love for original short story and his connection to the original author who published his early works. Foster also speaks about the ability getting inside the head of a character for the novelization which goes beyond the movie, and the original ending from Bill Lancaster's screenplay which is not in the finished film.

There's an 11-min image gallery narrated by Todd Cameron Of Outpost31.com who
ventured to the set of the British Columbia location back in 2003, plus a 12-min gallery The Art Of Mike Ploog with loads of storyboards and artwork for the film. One of my favorite extras is an edited TV version of the movie, full frame and VHS quality which has been edited for content with much of the gore removed with the addition of a few deleted scenes sewn back into the running time. The rough looking TV edit is most notable for the weird narration which introduces each characters at the start of the movie and gives them some back story. It feels like something from the original 50's version of the story, but I love that Scream Factory have included it here. This Thing is jam-packed with extras, if you were gonna sit down and watch all the extras including the three commentary tracks you're looking at well over twelve hours of bonus content!

Special Features
Disc One:
- NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive Supervised And Approved By Director Of Photography Dean Cundey
- NEW 4.1 Audio Mix Created From The Original 70MM Six Track Dolby Stereo Soundtrack (5.1 Audio Mix Also Included)
- NEW Audio Commentary With Director Of Photography Dean Cundey moderated by Rob Galluzo of Blumhouse.com
- NEW Audio Commentary With Co-producer Stuart Cohen moderated by Micheal Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures
- Audio Commentary By Director John Carpenter And Actor Kurt Russell
- Teaser Trailer (1 mins)
- US Theatrical Trailers (3 mins)
- German Theatrical Trailer (2 mins)
- 3 TV Spots (1 mins)
- 4 Radio Spots (2 mins)
- Still Gallery: Behind-The-Scenes Photos (52 images), Posters (24 images), Lobby Cards (52 images), Programs (21 images), Storyboards (32 images), Production Artwork (17 images) (15 mins)

Disc Two:
- NEW Requiem For A Shape Shifter - An Interview With Director John Carpenter In Conversation With Filmmaker Mick Garris (29 mins)
- NEW The Men Of Outpost 31 - Interviews With Keith David, Wilford Brimley, David Clennon, Thomas Waites, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur And Joel Polis (51 mins)
- NEW Assembling And Assimilation – An Interview With Editor Todd Ramsay (11 mins)
- NEW Behind The Chameleon: The Sights Of The Things – Interviews 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 (25 mins)
- NEW Sounds From The Cold - Interviews With Supervising Sound Editor David Lewis Yewdall and Special Sound Effects Designer Alan Howarth (15 mins)
- NEW Between The Lines: An Interview with Novelization Author Alan Dean Foster (16 mins)
- NEW Back Into The Cold: A Return To The Shooting Locations Of The Thing - An Animated Photo Gallery Narrated By Todd Cameron Of Outpost31.com (11 mins)
- NEW The Art Of Mike Ploog Gallery (12 mins)
- John Carpenter's The Thing: Terror Takes Shape - A Documentary On The Making Of THE THING Featuring Interviews With John Carpenter, Kurt Russell, Special Effects Make-up Designer Rob Bottin, Legendary Matte Artist Albert Whitlock Plus Members Of The Cast And Crew (80 mins)
- Network TV Broadcast Version Of The Thing (91 mins)
- Outtakes (5 Mins)
- Vintage Featurettes From The Electronic Press Kit Featuring Interviews With John Carpenter, Kurt Russell And Rob Bottin (13 mins)
- Vintage Featurettes: The Making of a Chilling Tale and The Making of The Thing (14 mins)
- Vintage Product Reel - Contains A Condensed Version Of The Film With Additional Footage Not In The Film (19 mins)
- Vintage Behind-The-Scenes Footage (2 mins)
- Annotated Production Archive - Production Art and Storyboards, Location Scouting, Special Make-up Effects, Post Production (54 mins)

John Carpenter's The Thing is a tension filled slice of paranoid sci-fi horror, a movie that has aged like a gory fine wine. While it tanked in the box office back in 1982 it has survived to live a long life as a bonafide cult-classic on home video where it has since garnered a proper following and is rightfully remembered as one of the greatest science fiction horror movies of all time. This is my personal favorite John Carpenter movie, very pleased to see it get the Blu-ray that is deserves packed with hours of extras, this is a definitive version of the film with superior A/V and a wealth of extras. This is a no-brainer, crank up the A/C and throw this on the Blu-ray player, enjoy it for the classic that it is, it has never looked better on home video.

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