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 (Lead 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
A. Wilfred Brimley
T.K. Carter
David Clennon
Keith David
Richard Dysart
Charles Hallahan
Peter Maloney
Richard Masur
Donald Moffat
Joel Polis
Thomas Waites
Case Transparent
RRP $34.95 Music Ennio Morricone 
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
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 Miscellaneous
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 was released to a lukewarm reaction at the box office, and the commentary track sees Kurt Russell lamenting this but also implicitly thanking the film's fans for the strong cult following it has enjoyed (not to mention deserved) since. If there were any justice in the world, X-Files creator Chris Carter would have to begin every episode of his vastly overrated show with an apology to director John Carpenter. It's kind of sad that John Carpenter has contributed so much to the sci-fi/horror genre when all that modern writers these days seem to be able to do is to steal from him. Films revolving around humanity's fear of alien life forms and just the general unknown don't get any better than this.

    Set in the Arctic Circle in 1982, the story begins with the seemingly insane survivors of a Norwegian research team chasing what appears to be a dog through the snow. After firing a few shots at an American research team that occupies the compound in which most of the film is set, they are killed and the dog survives. After a day of leaving the dog to roam free, the trainer of the other canines within the American compound is ordered to said dog back in the kennels, where they soon discover that the Norwegians had a good reason for going so far to try and kill it...

    After the unfortunate team have discovered the truth about what they have let into their camp, helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) assumes control of the group after the leader, Garry (Donald Moffat), steps down. In a typical Kurt Russell role, he leads them on a mission to destroy the wonderfully-animated alien invader. Clark (Richard Masur) is the dog trainer who is obviously less than happy about what organism the invading creature chooses as its first victim. Childs (Keith David) is the completely sceptical and seemingly paranoid man who questions MacReady's every choice and decision. Blair (A. Wilfred Brimley) soon goes berserk after his computer informs him that if the alien manages to leave the Arctic Circle, the entire planet will be assimilated by it within 27,000 hours of first contact. Fuchs (Joel Polis) is the man who finds planted evidence that the Thing has somehow gotten to MacReady. Nauls (T.K. Carter) is the cook who soon becomes redundant after Fuchs tells MacReady that it would be wiser for everyone to prepare their own meals and eat out of cans if a single cell of the Thing is enough to assimilate a whole human. Bennings (Peter Maloney) is set afire as the alien is almost finished assimilating him, in one of the most harrowing sequences of this kind I have ever seen. Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) soon finds his arms being eaten off as Norris (Charles Hallahan) reveals his assimilation by the alien after having a heart attack and relieving the good doctor of his arms in one of the most surprising and genuinely frightening sequences of the film, which is saying a lot. Palmer (David Clennon) is the man who proves the validity of the crude blood test MacReady devises by revealing that he has already been assimilated, and then promptly eats "Windows" (Thomas Waites). A side note about the blood test sequence - if you cut yourself enough that you can bleed that much that quickly, you're going to need stitches, not just a ball of cotton. However, given the dreaded effectiveness of this sequence as a whole, I can let that one detail slide.

    This is a reference quality horror film in plot terms, loaded with genuinely frightening moments, a terrifying premise, and an atmosphere you could cut with a knife. The special effects are especially phenomenal, given that this film was made in an era where computers had yet to reach the level of being standard office equipment, a fact that is reflected in two sequences of the film that date the film whilst making it all the more impressive. The special effects used to portray the alien invader are a blueprint to a trillion inferior facsimiles, just what you'd expect from the likes of Rob Bottin (whose other credits include Robocop) and Stan Winston (who worked on both Terminator films).

Transfer Quality


    Months ago, when I originally wrote this review, I stated that after viewing this film many times on such formats as VHS and TV signal, I honestly couldn't see what other reviewers were complaining about when they spoke about the video transfer here. Now that I have viewed this transfer on my new equipment, I really wish that I still couldn't. The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is not 16x9 enhanced. As Michael has said, the majority of image problems present on this disc can be blamed fairly and squarely upon this one fact. Although I have not glimpsed the problematic transfers of Backdraft and Titanic, I cannot imagine they would be any worse in terms of aliasing and detail loss. While the image quality is far better than VHS or TV broadcast in areas where those formats experienced some difficulty, it is moderately worse in areas where they didn't.

    To say that the transfer lacks resolution is simplifying the story just a little too much. The finer details of the background and middle ground were simply lost due to the limited vertical resolution of the transfer. This is particularly evident during outdoor sequences, with anything losing a dramatic amount of resolution when it becomes distant to the camera. The helicopter sequences are particularly problematic in this regard, with fine details being lost and regained in proportion to its distance from the camera in the same shot. As for shadow detail, while I wouldn't call it particularly good, I wouldn't say it is poor except in the sequences in which MacReady and Copper investigate what is left of the Norwegian outpost. The shadow detail is otherwise simply average, with most of the important details being reasonably easy to make out. Low level noise was not apparent during the darker scenes, which is good considering how much of the film takes place in the dark. Colour balance was passable, but this is where all versions of the film, digital or otherwise, show its age.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen in this transfer. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of a great deal of aliasing, as well some wobble in the early portions in the transfer, particularly in the opening credits. Although I didn't find the aliasing very distracting, its presence was felt because it was in an amazing amount of shots. Scarcely a single shot of a man in woollen clothing goes by without very noticeable aliasing showing up. Film artefacts were also found in an abundance which cannot be explained away by the vintage of the film.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 88:19. Depending on how you look at it, this layer change is either badly placed or reasonably placed. It does slightly interrupt the flow of the film, but it does so much less than if it were placed in most of the other scenes. Still, placing it in an earlier point in the film, such as in one of the many fade-outs, would have been somewhat more ideal. This is all nit-picking, anyway, since the layer change is good enough as it is.


    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. I also briefly listened to the Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 track, which is amazingly well-synched and emoted. Spanish is a language that really suits the feel and theme of this film, so I recommend giving it a try once you've memorized the English dialogue. There are also nine sets of subtitles: English, French, Swedish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Czech, and Dutch. Astoundingly, in a rare stroke of brilliance, the English subtitles appear to match the spoken dialogue word for word!

    The dialogue was always clear and easy to understand, with no audio sync problems at all. Even during moments when Kurt Russell's dialogue threatened to become indecipherable, it was easy to follow everyone's speech. Praise must go to whomever was in charge of the mastering process, as a dialogue-driven film like this truly demands such ease of listening. The score music by Ennio Morricone is utterly brilliant, and well-suited to the mood and feel of the film. He also has a distinct style that I vaguely remember hearing from Escape From New York, but I can't confirm that quite yet since that's not available here just yet. Those who have seen that film and its sequel will agree that the styles in them are very close to this film, however, which is a wonderful thing. Getting back to the music in The Thing, however, I can say that this is a great film score that sinks into the aural nerves over time.

    The surround channels were used in a very limited fashion. The dialogue was generally confined to the centre speaker while the music and sound effects were in the left and right speakers. Some of the music and the special effects found their way to the surround channels, but this was rather occasional. Essentially, this is a two-channel (maybe) film that has been haphazardly remixed (as opposed to remastered) into six channels. The subwoofer only woke up every now and then to support some explosive sounds.


    There is an enormous selection of extras on this disc, rivalled by few titles I've seen in this region. It certainly sets the standard in terms of quantity for Collector's Editions.


     The menu is accompanied by score music from the film, presented in Dolby Digital 2.1, and said music has an eerie, disturbing effect.

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

    A brilliant documentary of the film's making that will have all fans drowning in interesting details.

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

    This is a brilliant commentary track with not a single idle moment, something that the makers of The Matrix should have listened to before making their commentary track. It is clear that John Carpenter and Kurt Russell really enjoyed making this commentary, with many amusing and revealing insights throughout the track. It is one of the few commentary tracks I could listen to more than enough times to vaguely memorize it.

Production Background Archive

    This and the other text-based extras are somewhat disappointing in my humble view. They are mostly hybrid galleries that combine images with text to varying results. They are worthwhile for reading once or twice, but on the DVD player I am using (Grundig GDV 100 D), some skilful use of the rewind and slo-mo buttons are required in order to read it all, thanks to the display and page change speeds.


    A series of outtakes from the film are included. The text-based version offers explanations of why the footage was removed, combined with stills, while the video version shows the full sequence of shots in Full Frame.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    A slight misnomer given that the only biographies are those of lead actor Kurt Russell, and director John Carpenter. It would have been nice to see some recognition of the fact that other men contributed stellar performances to this film.

Theatrical Trailer

    Visually, this is not very impressive, but the overall effect of this trailer is perfectly suited to the feel of the film itself. It will leave you feeling just as uneasy and nervous once it is over.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on;     I have not had the opportunity to directly compare the Region 4 version to the Region 1 version. I have been assured that there are severe problems linked to NTSC to PAL conversion, a plausible story given that this film is nigh on impossible to find on any other medium in Western Europe or Australasia, which means that a PAL master may not even exist. It gives me a perverse delight to say once again that the Region 4 version of one of my favourite films is a real loser which should be scrapped and remastered.


    The Thing is a classic piece combining the best science fiction elements with the best horror elements, and a worthy addition to the collection of anyone who seeks a brilliant film to keep for posterity.

    The video quality is disappointing. It's a massive improvement on an impossible-to-find VHS version, but it should have been much more so.

    The audio quality is above average. Given how the source material would have limited the quality of any remastered versions, it is good enough.

    The extras are mostly brilliant. Those that aren't are still good.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
5th January 2000
Amended February 15, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video and composite outputs
Display Panasonic TC51M80A (51cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs;
Audio Decoder Built-In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer