John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing was rejected by the mainstream in its original release. However, time was on its side and video played a key role in rehabilitating it, first with the fans and later with critics. It got a special edition with some nice extras during the DVD era, most notably a feature-length documentary, and a later blu-ray kept this documentary and a commentary but dropped a lot of the other extras. Scream Factory just revisited this title and the results exceed expectations, offering a fresh transfer, all the old extras and an extensive batch of new bonus features that take you ever deeper into this cult favorite.
The transfer utilized here is a new 2K scan from the interpositive, supervised by the film’s cinematographer, Dean Cundey. It looks gorgeous, with a nice level of fine detail and rich colors. Lossless 5.1 and 2.0 stereo mixes are included here as well as a new 4.1 mix that represents the soundtrack of the original 70mm theatrical presentation. The 4.1 mix was used for this review and it’s an excellent, punchy surround presentation of this skillfully-mixed film.
Best of all, the fans get a five-star bonanza of bonus features here. Without further ado, this is what you can expect from this set…
Commentary 1: this pairs Cundey with moderator Rob Galluzzo as they discuss what was Cundey’s first major studio gig. The soft-spoken cinematographer doesn’t get into a heavy amount of personal stories beyond his working relationship with Carpenter but he does explain the challenges of shooting special effects, working in extreme cold, etc. Later on, he gets into how this job opened the doors to his later studio-driven career.
Commentary 2: producer Stuart Cohen appears here with Michael Felsher moderating. It offers a fantastic “bird’s eye” view of the film from the producer’s standpoint, covering the project’s lengthy development, how he ran interference with the studio to make the film’s makeup effects possible, how Morricone ended up doing the score and how the film was restructured and partially rewritten in midstream. A must-listen for fans.
Commentary 3: this is the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell track that originated with the special edition DVD. It’s a fan favorite and with good reason: the two participants have a great time revisiting the film and their good cheer is contagious. Carpenter has scene-specific stories throughout the track, including everything from the challenge of directing a big ensemble to how different FX were done. Russell matches him with plenty of details on his castmates and the physical challenges of different scenes. Both supply an interesting analysis of the story and character dynamics. Great fun for the film’s fanbase.
Additional Disc 1 Extras: 2 theatrical trailers, a German trailer, 3 freaky t.v. spots, 2:27 of radio spots that use a clever gimmick of a radio transmission cutting into a song and six different photo galleries – behind the scenes, lobby cards/stills, programs, posters, storyboards and production artwork.
This disc is all extras and begins with six excellent new interview pieces produced by Heather Buckley and Michael Felsher…
Requiem For A Shape Shifter (28:39): this has Carpenter being interviewed by Mick Garris, who had also covered the film’s shoot back in 1981. It’s an expansive chat that covers special effects, praise for Cundey and Russell, his take on collaborating with Morricone and more. Interestingly, he admits the bleakness of the film hurt its commercial prospects but it was the film he wanted to see.
The Men Of Outpost 31 (51:14): a rousing compendium of chats with the supporting cast that includes Keith David, David Clennon, Wilford Brimley, Richard Masur and more. They talk about how they were theater actors who loved the “boy’s club” feel of the production, getting into how the rehearsal process shaped their work, tensions over restructuring the film as well as anecdotes about casting, the location, boozing it up and injuries. Everyone is excited to be included here and there are lots of fun tales to savor.
Assembling And Assimilation (11:09): a quick but informative chat with editor Todd Ramsay. It starts with how developed a relationship with Carpenter and then delves into how his questions to the director influenced the film’s restructuring, praise for Carpenter’s ability to rework things on the fly and how tensions over the ending hurt the film’s chances with the studio.
Behind The Chameleon (25:26): you could consider this a supplemental piece to the information on the special effects seen in Terror Takes Shape. Peter Kuran, Susan Turner, Randall W. Cook and Brian Wade are amongst the effects artists who pop up here as you get copious details on the spaceship sequence that opens the film, the ill-fated stop motion effects scene and what it was like to work with Rob Bottin in the makeup effects lab.
Sounds From The Cold (14:53): Alan Howarth and D.L. Yewdall appear here to discuss various aspects of sound design and scoring. Yewdall gets into the challenges of creating quality wind sound effects while Howarth gets into some fascinating details about how Morricone’s score was conceived, delivered and ultimately supplemented by Carpenter and himself.
Between The Lines (15:58): a nifty chat with Alan Dean Foster, who was for many years the go-to author for film novelizations. He surprises the listener by revealing he had a working relationship with John W. Campbell, whose short story inspired the film, and then details the nature and challenges of doing novelizations. He has interesting things to say about developing inner lives for characters and the differences between the script’s ending and the film’s ending.
The next sections of extras is called “More Of The Thing” and includes the following:
Network T.V. Broadcast Version (1:33:45): a full-frame video transfer of the t.v. re-edit of the film that was done by the studio without input from Carpenter. It edits down the film substantially, adding periodic bits of voiceover to explain things and also includes some alternate footage, different edits of scenes and an altered ending. The redubbing for profanity is amusing.
Terror Takes Shape (1:24:03): this is the well-liked documentary that originated with the DVD special edition. It includes input from Rob Bottin, Bill Lancaster a few other cast and crew people who don’t appear elsewhere on this set alongside the other key personnel. It covers the film from conception to release, with lots of great info on how the monster concepts were devised and tons of details on different setpieces, including a killer account of the “chest monster” effect. Bottin is the MVP here, totally charming as he recounts his once-in-a-lifetime gig.
The Making Of A Chilling Tale (5:14): an EPK made from the same pool of footage used for the vintage featurettes seen elsewhere on the set. It includes some soundbites you don’t hear in those, however.
The Making Of The Thing (9:20): a different vintage EPK produced by Mick Garris that makes good use of eloquent interview clips with Carpenter and Russell. There’s also a fun snippet of the actors partying in their downtime.
The third and final section of disc 2 features is called “Featurettes.” This is what it includes:
The Art Of Mike Ploog (11:21): animated gallery of storyboards and concept art from the famed comic book artist. The images are all detailed and atmospheric, just like a good horror comic.
Back Into The Cold (11:16): a slideshow of visit to the film’s British Columbia location, narrated by superfan Todd Cameron. It includes some nice views of these stunning locations in the summer with considerably less snow.
Outtakes (6:19): presented in full-frame format, these mostly consist of scene extensions and a few unused bits of exposition
Vintage Featurettes (13:20): a series of prepackaged video featurettes done in a t.v. news story style. Carpenter and Russell appear in each via soundbites and each segment focuses on different elements like locations, special effects, etc.
Vintage Product Reel (19:38): a condensed version of the film with some tantalizing glimpses of effects that was used to promote the film with distributors.
Vintage Behind The Scenes Footage (2:02): some quick footage of Carpenter and crew on location in British Columbia
Annotated Production Archive (54:12): an exhaustive animated gallery that offers tons of photos, sketches, etc. intercut with title cards that provide info on different stages of the production. It also includes the stop motion footage that was ultimately not used in the film itself.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of The Thing (1982), click here.