I am a huge fan of The Thing but like many, this film evaded my radar for a number of years. I think it was towards the end of high school where one of my Carpenter-loving friends (either Doug or Aaron) introduced me to this masterpiece. And I really do mean masterpiece. It’s one of those movies that I don’t think can really be improved upon. The story is well paced and well written. The acting is solid and John Carpenter’s directing is top notch. One could easily argue that this is the best film of Carpenter’s career.
At the time of its release, it was largely ignored, in part due to another alien that had come to visit the silver screen: E.T. To be fair, I can kind of understand that. The Thing is bleak and gory. Going from the hopeful world of E.T. to the dark snowy landscape of The Thing within two weeks is a pretty big tonal shift. Over the years, The Thing has garnered a really healthy following. In 1998, Universal released a great collector’s edition filled with extras and sporting great picture quality. The blu-rays that were to follow seemed to be always missing the extras or gave only a slightly better hi-def transfer of the film. I held out on upgrading my DVD copy for years, waiting for a solid blu-ray release, hoping I would get all the extras and a great transfer in one package.
Enter Shout Factory and their Scream Factory imprint to the rescue with a two-disc collector’s edition!
I have praised Shout Factory‘s releases in the past because they do great work. They’ve picked up where Anchor Bay left off, giving genre films the respect and love that they deserve for these collector’s releases. For The Thing, Shout/Scream Factory delivered in every way I could want.
First off, The Thing has never looked better. Sporting a new transfer supervised by cinematographer Dean Cundey, the image is sharp but not so much that it exposes the effects. The colours are perfect and it’s just a joy to watch.
Now, if you are a regular reader of this column, you know that I love extras. I love learning about the process of film making. So when I buy a blu-ray, I want commentaries, documentaries, deleted scenes, trailers, I want it all. In this respect, Shout/Scream has delivered in spades.
In terms of material, we have a new audio commentary from Dean Condey going through his work process and a few anecdotes from filming. It’s a little dry and technical in spots but it pairs well with the older commentary from Carpenter and Kurt Russell which is very much a more personal, fun view of the film. The first disc also includes a few trailers and even has the radio spots from The Thing‘s release.
Disc 2 has the meat of the extras. The Men of Outpost 31 is a great new documentary that features numerous actors talking about their experiences making the film. It complements The Thing Takes Shape, the documentary from the previous home video releases excellently. The Men of Outpost 31 showcases a number of actors who weren’t included in the previous doc so you get new stories and other versions of stories you previously heard. Also included on this disc is a new interview between filmmaker Mick Garris and John Carpenter, Assembling and Assimilation in which editor Todd Ramsay talks about his work on the film, another feature on the special effects and in a fun surprise, Between the Lines, a conversation with author Alan Dean Foster who wrote the novelization of The Thing as well as a ton of other novelizations for various sci-fi films. It’s a nice feature that delves into an area of genre film making we don’t really hear much about.
Disc 2 also contains pretty much every other extra from every home media release of The Thing over the years. In fact, as far as I can tell, there is only one thing missing from the previous Universal release where you able to watch the film with just the score which is kind of neat but really, I don’t think anyone (including me) is shedding a tear over that loss.
Now for the question that always comes up with these reviews, is Shout Factory/Scream Factory‘s blu-ray release of John Carpenter’s The Thing worth buying?
Hell to the yes!
I know I sound like a Shout Factory shill but they have yet to put out something that I’ve been disappointed by. And in the case of transparency, I have been purchasing these releases with my own money as Shout Factory hasn’t put me on their press list. They’ve gotten to the point where if I hear they are doing a collector’s edition of a movie I like, I will pre-order it on Amazon. The Thing is no different. Even without the extras, the blu-ray hi-def version of the film is worth the buy. The extras guarantee it.
Now, if Shout Factory happens to be reading this, please spare my wallet and send me the upcoming versions of Bubba Hotep, Dead Ringers and Fists of Fury. I’ll be your best friend!
Next week, the last of the Halloween themed columns where I cosplay for the first time!
And remember, if you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!