At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE THING: COLLECTOR’S EDITION Shout! Factory

By • Oct 26th, 2016 •

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One of the biggest pitfalls of remakes is simply doing the same film over again with little variation. Something like LET ME IN comes to mind, which is a perfectly competent film, but seems rather pointless, especially since it could have taken a different approach to its story, or mined the source material that inspired its predecessor. When John Carpenter decided to adapt John W. Campbell Jr.’s short story “Who Goes There?”, he took a lot of inspiration from the previous film version of the story, the Howard Hawks production THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, but knew to make something that stood on its own. Carpenter and screenwriter Bill Lancaster went back to the core ideas touched on in “Who Goes There?” that THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD left out and greatly expanded on them, while putting their own stamp on the proceedings.

This 1982 film takes place at a research station in Antarctica, where a team of twelve men are set against each other by an alien force that can perfectly imitate human and animal life. It’s a masterfully directed film, with great widescreen photography by Dean Cundey, a haunting score by Ennio Morricone, and a cast to die for, including the first prominent film role for Keith David. The make-up effects by Rob Bottin (and in one scene Stan Winston) are rightfully held up as the zenith of practical effects work.

THE THING was at first decried for its gore and misanthropic worldview, earning terrible reviews and grossing a paltry $19.6 million at the American box office (from a $15 million budget). Like another critical and commercial failure from the summer of 1982, BLADE RUNNER, its reputation improved greatly thanks to the rise of pay cable and home video. THE THING has had a long history on home video; it was one of Universal’s first widescreen LaserDisc titles back in 1990, got a deluxe DVD and LaserDisc release in 1998, and was one of Universal’s first HD-DVD releases in 2006. It was also in heavy rotation on the Sci-fi Channel (in letterbox even!) in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Scream Factory has once again delivered on all fronts, with a fantastic presentation of the film on the first disc. This is a new 2K scan of the interpositive, which looks fantastic and shows significant detail in regards to the film’s make-up effects. This is certainly better than other HD presentations of the film. Universal’s previous Blu-Ray release (now almost eight years old) had a component transfer, but it had some noise problems and a slightly skewed color palette, which are thankfully not present on this release.

Audio is also stellar, and there are several mixes included. Scream Factory has made an exclusive-to-this-release 4.1 DTS-HD mix from the film’s 70mm Dolby Stereo mix, in addition to the previously available DTS-HD 5.1 mix that was on Universal’s 2008 Blu-Ray release. There’s also a stereo DTS-HD mix included. Scream Factory actually delayed this release to fix an issue with one of the audio tracks.

Of course, the classic audio commentary with Kurt Russell and John Carpenter is included, as are two brand-new commentaries by director of photography Dean Cundey and co-producer Stuart Cohen respectively. The first disc closes out with the film’s theatrical, TV, and radio ad campaign, including the infamously rare ‘ice block’ teaser (previously only available as an Easter egg on the French DVD). The radio spots cleverly interrupt Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” with a mayday signal from Outpost 31. Also included are a couple of still galleries.

The second disc offers a plethora of extras, some new, some old. There’s nearly two-and-a-half hours of new video interviews that delve deep into the making of the film, including one with the film novelization’s author Alan Dean Foster! There’s also the network TV version, which is a real treat. Not only does it cut about 20 minutes from the film, it contains a totally unnecessary narration to introduce the characters, bits of alternate footage (some of which popped up under the ‘outtakes’ section of the old laser and DVD releases), and an extended and even bleaker ending!

The 80-minute TERROR TAKES SHAPE documentary, originally made for the 1998 LaserDisc and DVD release of the film, is still a stellar making-of, with a lot of fun anecdotes. Two featurettes from the time of the film’s release are also included.

There are also short featurettes on the storyboard work of Mike Ploog, fansite Outpost31’s efforts to find the film’s Alaska locations, and a couple of behind-the-scenes vignettes. One of the most intriguing new additions is the Vintage Product Reel, probably made for theater owners, which is essentially a condensed 18-minute version of the film. What makes it interesting is that it is cut down from an early, unfinished cut of the film with quite a few alternate takes and deleted pieces of dialogue, as well as a noticeable lack of special effects footage.

The Annotated Production Archive is the still-frame supplement from the 1998 LaserDisc and DVD, which includes a few pieces of video showing the process behind some of the matte painting and blue-screen visual effects shots.

Scream Factory has been able to put together some enticing special edition packages, and this is no exception. It’s an absolute must-own for fans of the film, as it is basically the last version you’ll ever need. There’s no shortage of intriguing bonus material, and the presentation of the film is second only to seeing it in a theater on film. Absolutely one of the best Blu-Rays of the year.

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