The Thing

Collector's Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Horror Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1982 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - John Carpenter (Director) & Kurt Russell (Actor)
Running Time 104:06 minutes Other Extras Menu Audio
Featurette-John Carpenter's The Thing: Terror Takes Shape (80:34)
Gallery-Production Background Archive
Photo Gallery-Cast Production Photographs
Gallery-Production Art & Storyboards
Gallery-Location Design
Gallery-Production Archives
Gallery-Post Production
Production Notes
Cast & Crew Biographies
Web Links
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (88:19)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director John Carpenter

Columbia Tristar
Starring Kurt Russell
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music  

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96Kb/s)
Polish (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    John Carpenter's The Thing did not exactly romp home at the box office when it was first released theatrically, but has gathered momentum over the years and is now considered a cult classic of the horror/science-fiction genre.

    Set in Antarctica in 1982, the story revolves around the discovery of an alien deeply buried in the Antarctic ice. This alien assimilates other species and can change form, mimicking these other species. This alien is nasty.

    Kurt Russell (MacReady) is a scientist at a US scientific outpost in the Antarctic who is forced to do battle with the shape-shifting alien, who could be any one of the twelve man crew of the outpost, including himself.

    This is a very good horror movie, with lots of genuine scares, and an incredibly tense atmosphere. The special effects are phenomenal, and made all the more remarkable when you realize that CGI effects had not yet become a reality in Hollywood at the time this movie was made. The model work, matte artistry, and other physical special effects work is second-to-none.

Transfer Quality


    I was very much looking forward to sitting down and watching this transfer so I could tell you all about how wonderful it is, and how Universal, who have given us such stellar transfers as Shakespeare In Love and Twister, have done it again and produced a magnificent transfer of this classic. Sadly, I cannot do this. This is a mediocre transfer at best, even taking into account the age of the source material. It would not surprise me at all to learn that this transfer, like Backdraft, is merely a recycled laserdisc transfer.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced. The great majority of the image problems with this disc can be blamed fairly and squarely on this fact. Indeed, the image problems exhibited by this disc are reminiscent of the image problems of both Backdraft and Titanic, both of which were also hampered by not being 16x9 enhanced.

    In a nutshell, the transfer lacked resolution. Fine background and middle ground details were simply lost because of the limited vertical resolution of the transfer. This is particularly problematic and evident in the opening helicopter sequences, where the helicopter loses resolution dramatically whenever it is distant to the camera.

    Shadow detail is poor, with little to no detail discernible in the darker scenes. I suspect that this is more a source issue with the type of film stocks available in 1982 rather than a specific transfer problem. Fortunately, low level noise was not a problem in the darker scenes.

    The colours were passably rendered, but certainly showed the vintage of the movie in their overall colour balance.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen.

    Film to video artefacts consisted of a great deal of moderate aliasing. Whilst not as bad as the aliasing in Backdraft, the aliasing in this transfer was actually considerably more distracting since it was present in almost every shot - many of the shots in this movie are slow-moving pans which shimmer and shake just enough to be very annoying. It comes as a relief when the camera stops moving and the aliasing stops momentarily. As with the lack of resolution in this transfer, the blame for this excessive artefacting can be laid fairly and squarely on the lack of 16x9 enhancement of this transfer. In addition to the excessive aliasing, there was considerable image wobble early on in the transfer, particularly during the opening credits. Whilst this may be inherent in the movie, it is quite distracting nonetheless.

    Film artefacts were far more prevalent than they should have been, even taking into consideration the age of the movie. They became quite distracting at times.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed during Chapter 33, at 88:19. The layer change is acceptably placed and only slightly intrusive.


    There are six audio tracks on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, Italian Dolby Digital 2.0, Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0,  Polish Dolby Digital 1.0 and an English Audio Commentary track in Dolby Digital 1.0. I listened to both the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and to the English Audio Commentary track.

    Dialogue was always clear and easy to understand.

    There were no audio sync problems with this disc.

    The music was sonorous and well-suited to the on-screen action without being particularly outstanding.

    The surround channels had limited use only. Dialogue was placed in the center speaker, and music was generally placed in the left and right channels. Occasionally, some of the music would wrap around slightly to the surround channels, and some special effects made their way into the surround channels, but this was rare. Some special effects were panned across the front soundstage, but these effects tended to be extreme and more distracting than anything else. Fundamentally, this is a mono mix with some stereo elements.

    The .1 channel had little use.


    There is a fantastic selection of extras on this disc, and I would rank this selection of extras as among the best that I have ever seen.


    Very appropriate audio underscores the menus, in Dolby Digital 2.1.

Featurette - John Carpenter's The Thing: Terror Takes Shape

    This is a superb 80 minute documentary featuring both present day and archival footage. It is well worth the time spent watching it.

Audio Commentary - John Carpenter (Director) & Kurt Russell (Actor)

    This is an excellent commentary and it is evident that both John Carpenter and Kurt Russell are enjoying themselves immensely talking and reminiscing about this film. There is a wealth of invaluable information providing during this commentary, and this is also well worth the time spent listening to it.

Production Background Archive

    This and the next 5 extras are all hybrid galleries combining images and text. All are worthwhile, though on the review DVD player that I was using (Pioneer DV-525), the text skipped forwards too quickly requiring some skilful backstepping to read it all.

Cast Production Photographs

Production Art & Storyboards

Location Design

Production Archives

Post Production


    This is a series of both still frame and full motion outtakes of variable quality

Production Notes

Cast & Crew Biographies

Theatrical Trailer

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on;     I had the opportunity to compare the image quality of the Region 1 version of this disc to the Region 4 version of this disc. Given the image problems exhibited by the Region 4 version, I was expecting that the Region 1 would be even worse, particularly with aliasing. I was stunned, therefore, to see that the Region 1 version of this disc has by far the better image quality, which leads me to question whether perhaps we have received a transfer that has been electronically converted from NTSC to PAL. The other possibilities for the discrepancy in image quality is that the Region 4 transfer may have been excessively edge-enhanced, or that there are compression issues related to the space required by the extra resolution of the Region 4 version.

    Much as I regret saying it, the Region 4 version of this disc is a dud and should be avoided. The Region 1 version of this disc is the version of choice because of the far better video quality it exhibits. As an extra bonus, you get even more extras on the Region 1 version.


    The Thing. Classic sci-fi horror.

    The video quality is extremely disappointing, and verges on the completely unacceptable.

    The audio quality is acceptable.

    The extras are excellent.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
12th November 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-525, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 4:3 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer