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Although now a fan favorite, John Carpenter’s THE THING ($30) was not a successful film when it was released theatrically. The critics panned it and audience reaction was only lukewarm. Many vehemently condemned the film for its graphically horrific and violent special effects. Only when THE THING came to home video, did the film really find a real audience. In the years since its release, THE THING has gained a great deal of popularity, and has become regarded as a science fiction classic in its own right. John Carpenter's THE THING is not a remake of the Howard Hawks classic from the 1950's. Instead, Carpenter goes back to the original story, "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell Jr., about a shape-shifting alien. Some of the imagery will be familiar to fans of the Hawks' classic, especially the image of men standing out on the ice in the circular outline of a space ship, and the image of something having been thawed out of the block of ice.

Unlike the Hawks' version, John Carpenter's THE THING is not a genteel science fiction film; Carpenter has instead created a visceral gross out classic that comes in the form of a horrifying paranoid nightmare. Even after twenty-five years, THE THING remains a genuinely disturbing, stomach-churning champion, thanks to Rob Bottin's imaginative, and still highly impressive special effects makeup. Set at an Antarctic scientific research station, the film follows the inhabitants of the station as an alien organism slowly infiltrates their group… one by one. As the members of the research team quickly learn, The Thing is capable of assuming any form- including human. Paranoia amongst the survivors of The Thing’s onslaught reaches a fevered pitch, since no one can be sure of which members of the team are still human, and who has become The Thing. For THE THING director John Carpenter has assembled an excellent ensemble cast, which includes his favorite leading man Kurt Russell, plus Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Donald Moffat, Richard Masur and Thomas Waites.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made THE THING available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is wonderful; this is the absolute best that I have ever seen THE THING look in the home venue. Obviously, high definition delivers the goods one again, with the Blu-ray leaving the SD DVD by the wayside. Sharpness and detail are excellent, so much of what was obscured in previous releases is easily discernible here. I found myself appreciating Carpenter’s wide screen composition and Dean Cundey’s cinematography more than I had in the past, because of the extra clarity and fine image detail. Colors are nicely rendered, demonstrating terrific saturation, which contrasts nicely with the stark whites of the snowy landscapes. Additionally, the flesh tones coming across in a very appealing manner. Blacks are deep, whites are crisp, plus the picture produces smooth contrast and an impressive amount of shadow detail. The elements from which THE THING has been mastered do display some blemishes and other signs of age, but not a significant amount. Grain is present, but remains generally mild.

THE THING is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Let me start with a caveat, THE THING is more than a quarter of a century old, so the sound design is a product of its era, and therefore, lacks the level of active sound effects that one finds in newer films. The majority of the channel separations occur across the front, but the rears to activate for occasional effects ambient sounds and musical fill. Still, this remains a highly effective track, which benefits from some well-placed zingers, as well as Ennio Morricone’s insistent, minimalist and sometimes very John Carpenter-esque score. Fidelity is somewhat stronger than past incarnations, with the music receiving the biggest boost from the lossless encoding. Additionally, the deep bass allows the score to pulse nicely. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. A French DTS 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice supplements. Director John Carpenter and leading man Kurt Russell are on hand to provide a running Audio Commentary. Universal's U-Control interface is utilized for an interactive version of the movie that provides in context picture-in-picture, pop-up supplements (requires a Profile 1.1 player). The Terror Takes Shape: The Making Of The Thing documentary that was featured on the previous DVD release has been disassembled and re-purposed for the pop-up footage.

Although not well received upon its theatrical release, John Carpenter’s THE THING has achieved science fiction/horror classic status through twenty-five years of home video releases. The clarity and detail of the high definition Blu-ray shines a new light on this film, and is definitely the one to own. Recommended.



The Thing [Blu-ray] (1982)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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