Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - John Carpenter's THE THING Collector's Edition on Blu-ray ""

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Scream Factory - John Carpenter's THE THING Collector's Edition on Blu-ray

THE THING (1982; John Carpenter)
I realize that it's become something of a cliche to call out John Carpenter's THE THING as your favorite movie, but for me personally - it is the absolute truth. I've owned it in just about every format - VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray and digital. It was a staple of my "staff picks" shelf back in my video store days and I remember my distinct excitement when it came out as a "widescreen" edition tape. I remember liking it a whole lot the first time I saw it, but it has grown in my estimation with each viewing. I have come back to the movie repeatedly over the years and it has only gotten better. I slowly came to realize that it is - for me - the embodiment of a perfect film. I'm sure others can punch holes in it somehow or have some hang ups about it, but I find it to be fantastic from it's mysterious opening to its equally mysterious ending. It is just one of those movies that makes you remember why you love cinema in general. And it's not an upbeat movie really so the fact that I keep coming back is a testament to it's amazingness. It is just this remarkable alchemy of  equal parts male isolation drama, thriller and straight up balls-to-the-wall horror. It has a ridiculous ensemble cast (many of whom I've not really seen in too many other films, but all are great here). It has some of the most disgusting and outstanding practical monster effects of the decade (and for that matter - basically of all-time). On top of that, it also has Kurt Russell. Kurt Russell in the 80s is like Elliott Gould in the 70s - there's just nothing cooler. He and Carpenter were a match made in heaven - a proverbial perfect fit for each other and both did their best work when they did it together. I love old Hollywood filmmaking of the 40s and 50s and how you would see certain actors and directors gravitating towards one another. John Wayne and Howard Hawks, Cary Grant and Hawks, Grant and Hitchcock -  the list goes on and on. Carpenter and Russell's films together represents the direct continuation of said classic Hollywood pairings. It's quite a unique and wonderful phenomenon to observe when it happens. When a director and actor develop a shorthand and are able to align themselves on many interesting projects, it's a delightful winning scenario for we the audience. It just makes for great movies. THE THING is one of the best movies produced by a studio and I would argue that many filmmakers are still trying to emulate and top it - though that would be nearly impossible.
Above and beyond Carpenter and Russell, THE THING has so much going for it. The ensemble cast - including Keith David, Wilford Brimely,  T.K. Carter, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, and Richard Dysart (among others) - is superb and all the men elevate and heighten the atmosphere of tension and mystery with their performances. I've always loved movies that deal with isolated groups of people and the paranoia and tautness that it brings to those stories. The immediate sense of "we're trapped here" that the film conveys is at once claustrophobic and chilling. And speaking of chilling, let's talk about Rob Bottin for a second. An obvious prodigy, Bottin was hired by the great Rick Baker in the mid-1970s and then began to strike out on his own by 1980 or so when Carpenter brought him on board his film THE FOG to work on effects for it (though he had also worked with Joe Dante on PIRANHA in 1978). Working together on that film along with his amazing werewolf FX work on Dante's THE HOWLING led to THE THING which seemed to really cement Bottin as the incredible talent that he was. I still believe that THE THING exemplifies Bottin's best work to date and is a huge contributing factor the the staying power that the movie has had over time. Rarely has an evil alien life form been depicted so menacingly and so memorably as it is in THE THING. There's also some nice matte work by the venerable veteran Albert Whitlock in the mix too and that doesn't get mentioned as much.
What continues to make me slightly sad about THE THING is that is was not well-received when it was released. It was both a critical and commercial failure in the wake of Spielberg's monster hit E.T. Basically, it was just a case of "wrong place/wrong time". So although the movie has been re-evaluated since it came out and is now much more properly hailed as the masterpiece that it is, it didn't do Carpenter's career much good at the time and probably served as more than a little discouraging to a brilliant filmmaker who would struggle with commercial success for the rest of the decade. This will always sadden me as Carpenter will always be one of my very favorite filmmakers and a person that I feel was more deserving of recognition at the height of his career as a director. That he is getting much love now is something of a consolation, but it still disappoints me that audiences failed to connect with a lot of his most outstanding efforts. Thankfully, the films themselves live on and continue to thrill new generations of genre fans to this very day (whereas many contemporary successful films will be forgotten moments after theater-goers exit the auditoriums).

Special Features:
Though THE THING has gotten the special edition treatment before, I feel like Scream Factory has done it again (as they did with RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) in putting together a Collector's Edition to end all Collector's Editions. Check out the smorgasboard of goodies:

-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
-NEW Audio Commentary With Co-producer Stuart Cohen
-Audio Commentary By Director John Carpenter And Actor Kurt Russell
-Teaser Trailer (1 minute)
-Theatrical Trailers (U.S. And German) (5 minutes)
-TV Spots (1 minute)
-Radio Spots (2 minutes)
-Still Gallery (Behind-The-Scenes Photos, Posters And Lobby Cards) (15 minutes)

-NEW Requiem For A Shape Shifter – An Interview With Director John Carpenter In Conversation With Filmmaker Mick Garris (28 minutes)
-NEW The Men Of Outpost 31 – Interviews With Keith David, Wilford Brimley, David Clennon, Thomas Waites, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur And Joel Polis (51 minutes)
-NEW Assembling And Assimilation – An Interview With Editor Todd Ramsay (11 minutes)
-NEW Behind The Chameleon: The Sights Of THE THING – 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 minutes)
-NEW Sounds From The Cold – Interviews With Supervising Sound Editor David Lewis Yewdall And Special Sound Effects Designer Alan Howarth (15 minutes)
-NEW Between The Lines – An Interview With Novelization Author Alan Dean Foster (16 minutes)
-NEW Back Into The Cold: A Return To The Shooting Locations Of THE THING – An Animated Photo Gallery Narrated By Todd Cameron Of
-NEW The Art Of Mike Ploog Gallery (12 minutes)
-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 minutes – SD)
-Network TV Broadcast Version Of THE THING (92 minutes – SD)
-Outtakes (5 minutes – SD)
-Vintage Featurettes From The Electronic Press Kit Featuring Interviews With John Carpenter, Kurt Russell And Rob Bottin (13 minutes – SD)
-Vintage Featurettes – The Making Of A Chilling Tale And The Making Of THE THING (14 minutes – SD)
-Vintage Product Reel – Contains A Condensed Version Of The Film With Additional Footage Not In The Film (19 minutes – SD)
-Vintage Behind-The-Scenes Footage (2 minutes – SD)
-Annotated Production Archive – Production Art And Storyboards, Location Scouting, Special Make-up Effects, Post Production (54 minutes – SD)

You can purchase this Blu-ray here (and you should):
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1 comment:

Greg Wilcox said...

Yep. This one's a no-brainer buy (my Xmas list is getting mostly movies I'm buying for myself). It's my second favorite SF film (blame ALIEN for that), but 1st on the "guy flick" list in my head.

I had an older DVD is a player here for about three months playing nearly every day as background while I was working (it replaced 2001: A Space Odyssey) and yes, I saw it in a movie theater during its initial release in '82 when people were absolutely freaking the hell out because save for the stop-motion stuff at the end, it looked as real as can be.