The Thing

Collector's Edition

This review is sponsored by

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 Home Video
Starring Kurt Russell
Case Transparent Amaray
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 No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s) 
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s) 
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s) 
Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/s) 
Polish (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/s) 
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/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


    Michael D has previously reviewed John Carpenter's The Thing, and his views were somewhat divergent to those expressed by other reviewers about the DVD. As a result, in the interests of ensuring that he was not being unduly harsh to the DVD transfer, he asked me to review the disc also. This is therefore one of those rare instances where a DVD will be reviewed twice on this site, but in the circumstances - since this is a classic film - this was felt to be justified.

Plot Synopsis

    Since Michael D has already provided a plot synopsis, it is reproduced here verbatim:

    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


    When thinking about the widescreen transfers of Universal, they broadly fall into two categories: the brilliant transfers as exemplified by Shakespeare In Love, and the dogs like Backdraft. Unfortunately, this effort reminds me an awful lot of the latter effort.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, although it is not 16x9 enhanced. This alone is a significant cause of the video transfer problems, most of which would have been solved by the expediency of 16x9 enhancement.

    The transfer in general lacked definition, noticeably lacking resolution with background details being very poorly resolved. If you want a damn good example of the problem, just check out the first ten minutes of the transfer, where it becomes a little bit of a strain to watch the lack of resolution of the helicopter. The image is also anything but clear which does not help the problem at all. Shadow detail was fairly mediocre, sometimes becoming quite poor, which rather shows up the fact that this is a seventeen year old film. It does not help either that the transfer tends towards being a little darker than perhaps would be expected.

    The colours were quite dull and lacking in vibrancy, especially in comparison to the Region 1 release. This did not help at all with neither the resolution problems nor the mediocre shadow detail. The overall effect is reasonably natural at a guess (having never been to the Antarctic), but could perhaps have been a lot better.

    The did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were however a significant problem, most noticeably significant aliasing throughout the film, but especially early on. Whilst it is not as bad as the shockingly poor Backdraft, it is nonetheless very noticeable and quite distracting. It does make it difficult to watch some portions of the film, especially the helicopter sequences, as it blurs the sharpness of the image very badly. As with the resolution problems, this aliasing would have been avoided by the use of 16x9 enhancement, which does raise the question as to why we are still getting non-16x9 enhanced transfers. In addition to the aliasing, there was also some wobble during the early part of the film, notably in the credits, which some may find somewhat distracting. Film artefacts were quite prevalent, although not much more than I would have expected in a film of this age, and they were quite noticeable and distracting at times.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change coming at 88:19. The layer change is quite well placed and is not really disruptive to the film.


    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 the default English Dolby Digital 5.1.

    Dialogue was always clear and easy to understand.

    There were no audio sync problems with this disc.

    The music comes from one of the ubiquitous names in films of the seventies and eighties in Ennio Morricone, who unfortunately I have never found too appealing. This effort is fairly typical, lacking distinction but being reasonably supportive of the film.

    This is something of a problematic soundtrack as it did not seem to be particularly well balanced. The resultant soundscape seemed quite unnatural to me with some of the effects/foley work being especially poorly placed in the mix. This is not a good example of a 5.1 remaster at all. There was decent enough use of the surround channels, both front and rear, but it should have been a lot more effective than it is in my view. Some of the front to rear effects with the helicopter were quite decent though.

    The bass channel was not overly well used, and the explosions in particular came across without any real bass support. This again created quite an unnatural soundscape in my view. Overall, this is one of the more disappointing 5.1 remasters that I have heard.


    We might have cause to quibble about the transfer, but when it says Collector's Edition, you know damn well that Universal will deliver the goods - and plenty of them. They do. Note that since Michael D. has already detailed these and I basically agree with his assessment of them, I shall not provide details of them but rather direct you to his review.


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

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

Production Background Archive

Cast Production Photographs

Production Art & Storyboards

Location Design

Production Archives

Post Production


Production Notes

Cast & Crew Biographies

Theatrical Trailer

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on:     I also took a look at the Region 1 release, and did a direct comparison of the first ten minutes of the film. On the basis of this comparison, it would seem that the Region 1 version:     Sorry, but after reviewing the discs myself, I have to agree with Michael D's assessment that the Region 4 version of this film leaves a lot to be desired and that if you want this classic film, then Region 1 is the one to get.


    The Thing is a classic science fiction/horror film, that seems to be what John Carpenter does better than anyone else. However the film has been let down by a problematic transfer that whilst not the worst widescreen transfer that Universal have come out with, is getting very close thereto. Overall, I found the transfer to be very tiring on the eyes to watch.

    The video quality is very problematic.

    The audio quality is barely acceptable.

    The extras are beyond reproach.

    Quite why we are still getting non-16x9 enhanced transfers, especially from Universal and MGM, I do not know, as in general the more recent such releases from these sources have been quite poorish. DVD is a long term format and with the advent of HDTV and more widescreen televisions over the next five years, to release non-16x9 enhanced discs is really not acceptable. Would it be expecting too much for we poor consumers to expect the quality of 16x9 enhancement every time in a widescreen release???

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
14th December 1999

with portions

© Michael Demtschyna
12th November 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL