The Thing Gets A Monster Of A Blu-ray Just In Time For Halloween
If there’s a recurring theme in the hours of bonus material on the new Blu-ray for John Carpenter’s The Thing, it’s that this modern horror classic was criminally overlooked at the time of its release. In his Movie & Video Guide, film critic Leonard Maltin gave it one and half stars, dismissing this nail-biting gem as “a freak show” that “drowns most of the suspense” in “repulsive special effects.” While that assessment is partly accurate—the effects are undeniably repulsive—Maltin’s puzzling inability to recognize the film’s strengths reflects the consensus of 1982. At that time, Americans were hungry for warm-hearted, feel-good alien movies like E.T. (which came out two weeks earlier), not savage visions of justified paranoia.
Fortunately, times have changed and horror fans have embraced The Thing as one of the best horror films of its time, making it possible for Scream Factory to unleash a brand new Blu-ray overflowing with worthwhile extras.
While we don’t have the space or endurance to list all the bonus material here, we can confirm that the extras from previous additions—including an 84-minute documentary (John Carpenter’s The Thing: Terror Takes Shape) and Carpenter’s memorable commentary with Kurt Russell—are on board, as are a pair of new commentaries, various vintage featurettes, image galleries, trailers, and more.
However, the main attraction is the over two hours of new material listed under “Interviews” on disc two. Guests include Carpenter, most of the cast (but not Russell, unfortunately), editor Todd Ramsay, several members of the effects team, and prolific novelization author Alan Dean Foster, who offers enlightening history about one of the most disreputable forms of literature.
Die-hard fans are likely to jump directly to Requiem for a Shapeshifter, the new 29-minute conversation between Carpenter and director Mick Garris (TV’s The Shining and The Stand), who was on set during production, producing some of the vintage featurettes found on this disc. Speaking to his old friend, Carpenter is in an uncharacteristically friendly mood, praising the film’s overlooked screenwriter, Bill Lancaster (son of Burt), and acknowledging The Thing as the greatest triumph of his own career.
While the Carpenter interview is undeniably compelling, this disc’s greatest asset is The Men of Outpost 31, a new 51-minute documentary featuring most of the key cast members. Their memories of hardship and camaraderie on the set are accompanied by endearing behind-the-scenes clips that seem to plunge us deeper into the drama of the film. Unfortunately, the story of the production concludes on tales of empty theatres and prolonged unemployment, but they’ve all reached the same conclusions as the horror-going public: The Thing is an enduring triumph that will survive far longer than any of its characters.