CRASH DISCUSSION: Macabre Milestone: THE THING (1982)

The Last KnockJohn Carpenter spent three months shooting one of the most intense horror films of all time on cold LA soundstages, and in the better chill of British Columbia. We take a look at the legendary film THE THING, why it bombed at the box office, and how it gained the respect of audiences and critics alike the world over. In addition, we probe deep into the film’s mysteries, themes, and intriguing trivia.

  • Vic’s Movie Den

    Fantastic Show, guys! The Thing is my favorite film from John Carpenter and is in my Top 5 favorite films of all time. Listening to you guys talk about your experiences with the film and getting into the characters and why they are all there in the frigid Antarctic was very cool and somewhat nostalgic. I say that because my friends and I, back in NYC, used to engage in the same very types of conversations while dissecting this classic. Everything from theories regarding the Norwegian camp, the dog, who was infected or not to even discussing whether or not one knows if he is the Thing or not. I LOVE that you guys bring all of the great complexities, and in contrast, the vague-ness of the movie and the world it inhabits, to the table.

    As far as JC, you guys express very vivldly and astutely, how JC was taken aback by the box office failure of this movie. It was indeed a big blow to him and when you add in all of the incredible talent involved in the movie, it’s no wonder that JC didn’t become more jaded and stop making movies all together. We are all, obviously, glad that he did not. I saw The Thing, upon its initial release, on Fordham Road, at a theater called “The Valentine” and we got in for free because the manager was my Mother’s girlfriend’s Mother…I think lol. But anyway, I recall staying for every showing that day (back when you could pull that off) and loving every minute of each showing. I left the theater just singing the highest praises for it. But everyone was on ET’s jockstrap back then and no one wanted to watch a big, ugly, gruesome and grisly alien taking over a bunch of surly men in the Arctic. Too bad. The Thing was just inundated by hit film after hit film, like Billy mentions. That year brought us Star Trek 2, Blade Runner, Poltergeist and a myriad of other horror flicks and The Thing just got buried under the weight of them all.

    In the end, though, The Thing has gained an amazing popularity and respect for obvious reasons. It still provokes debate, discussion, analysis, observations and conversations, probably more so than even Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Great observation about The Thing’s body being higher up in the ice than the ship, too! Never thought of that at ALL lol. The strange blocking in the film has also been something I used to ponder about too. I didn’t think others really noticed it. Especially during Blair’s freak out. But like Billy says, I think it was done for a reason. If you guys listen to the commentary, Kurt starts laughing his ass off when Brimley says “I’ll kill you!” Funny as hell. Those sound fx are classic too. The punches are so hilarious. I laugh every time. There is a theory that when the explosions happen at the end, we can hear Nauls screaming as a result. And so on and so on!

    I had a blast with this one guys, A LOT of fun listening to REAL fans discuss, observe, take the film apart while having the reverence and respect for the film. You guys covered so much that this podcast warrants a re-listen very soon. Thanks for this one, Billy and Jonny! Very happy you guys did this one. The dedication was a very awesome surprise! I literally threw my arms up in the air! Thanks so much fellas! (Oh btw, I have the comic books of The Thing, too. I will take some pics and post them soon! Also have the PS2 game as well). Looking forward to your next ep, guys.

    • crashpalace

      Wow, Vic. This is an amazing post on its own. I am certainly thrilled that you enjoyed the show, but I love your comments regarding the feature, as well as your movie viewing experience.

      As for the movies from 1982 you mentioned, BLADE RUNNER and THE THING seem to be the two that are placed on pedestals for theme, and rightfully so.

      Yet, I often think what would have happened to THE THING if it had been released one year later? But I know one thing: Carpenter’s film is here to stay and will continue to attract new horror fans as time marches on.

      Be well, Vic and thank you so much for your stellar commentary!

  • Randy Brzoska

    Few films explore exploit alterity and paranoia the way THE THING does. Oh, awesome show again, BTW. Yeah, so there’s so much I’d love to say, but I’ll save it for my essays. But one thing I just have to mention…. My favorite scene in the film (and this film has many ‘favorite scenes’, it contains multitudes), but my favorite of the favorite scenes is when Macready goes out to see Blair after he’s been locked in the shed and Blair insists that ‘he’s fine now’ and ought to be let out. Except the noose is just hanging there, unused. Why? It’s not like Blair’d be able to hang himself in time to stop himself from being taken over if the the alien showed up. It’s not a thing you do quickly, hastily. It’s kind of ambiguous w/r/t what happened (perhaps he was just ‘thinking about it’) but kind of not. And Macready keeps a straight face through the whole thing, doesn’t comment on the noose, nothing. Awesome. Why tip your hand? There’s a lot to think about in those few seconds. And the whole fucking film is like that!

    Just one more thing. When you’re talking about why they were so well armed. Keep in mind, this is height of the Cold War and they were down there with Russians and Chinese, etc… pretty much on their own. And that’s a subtextual element very specific to the era that the film spoke to: the paranoia regarding mutually assured destruction that hung over everything back then.

    In any case, you guys gave me a ton to think about, so now I’m going to go to bed and think about it (not sleep, obviously). So thanks a lot. But I mean that only half-ironically. Can’t wait for next week’s show.

    • crashpalace

      Spot on about the other camps in the area. The Antarctic wasn’t necessarily an international playground for the sake of science.

      As for that scene with Blair and Mac: Blair might have been “much better” because he’d already turned. As for Mac’s lack of a response, maybe he’d come to that conclusion, or was at the point of apathy because there was too much on his mental place already.

      Thanks so much for the comments, and I look forward to reading more in your upcoming articles!

  • Thomas S Flowers III

    Best movie ever, totally underrated, and horribly treated on its inception. It amazes me how the practical effects in this 1982 movie is better than a lot of CGI/practical effects movies today! 33 year old shelf life, not bad huh?

    • crashpalace

      Couldn’t agree more, Thomas! Bottin’s effects are simply too fantastic to ignore – captured in one horrific mystery.

      But I don’t think THE THING is under-rated any longer. Even my students (late teens/early twenties) sing its praises.

      Thanks so much for the comment!

  • Love the show (as always)! The blood test scene is presented with respect, but I have to say this: The scene is so damn tense… tense… Wait for it… no? More tension… Then (mini spoiler) the test works and there’s mayhem of the highest order! But the best part is that the test IS NOT OVER. Unbelievable.

    I love the recognition that the characters are not fully formed. Every man is an everyman. We’re drawn to Mac’s reluctant leadership but not everyone goes willingly. So many walks of life and attitudes are right there in the cast that if the viewer is not one of them, he or she knows someone who fits one of them perfectly. And boys club it was! If I remember correctly, John Carpenter’s commentary spoke about the lack of actual women on the set. I believe one pregnant woman was on the crew, but went home mid-production and left these scruffy men to live like a real outpost in a refrigerated environment (couldn’t go over 31 degrees or the snow would melt off the roof). Immersion for sure.

    And I’m shocked that it took almost half the show to mention the genius of Dean Cundey. But you guys came through for me in the end. I enjoy Halloween a bit more than you guys do, but mostly for a few scenes that are brilliantly lit and executed by Cundey.

    Thanks again for a great show, guys.

    • crashpalace

      You’re so right about the tension in the blood test scene – and it’s great how that scene climaxed, yet continued to deliver more suspense. Such smart writing.

      I cannot argue the point of the “every man.” Well stated. And I agree, the crew was male to the hilt. Thinking back to the chess scene with Mac, it’s even more poignant that he killed the game. Maybe just hearing a woman’s voice irked him. Who knows, he may have left a wife or girlfriend behind because he was bitter. The question marks never end.

      Don’t be shocked, I had planned to bring up Cundey the whole time. It just took me a while to get there – we had so much to discuss!

      Thanks so much for the killer comments, Owen!

  • Carpenter’s remake of ‘The Thing’ is one of our favorites. Like ‘Alien’, it’s also impossible to change the channel when the clicker lands on it.
    The blood testing scenes are extremely intense. Love the SciFi treatment as they investigate what’s up.
    The ending is perfect…and in my opinion it’s well worth a revisit by another great movie maker such as Carpenter.
    If anything, the Thing is a survivor.

    • crashpalace

      Couldn’t agree more, Ron. (I must admit, I never pass on CREEPSHOW, either.) THE THING may definitely be the ultimate survivor.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Crash, totally concur on CREEPSHOW and will add Tales From The Crypt to that short list of must watch…the Cryptkeeper rocks.

    • crashpalace

      I so wish “Tales from the Crypt” was still on the air.

  • Bill, so do we, but we have all the DVDs from the series.
    Watched the original The Thing a few weeks ago with James Arness (Gunsmoke) as The Thing…it remains a favored classic.

    • crashpalace

      I have to pick up that series in the near future – and I must revisit the original THE THING. I haven’t seen that one in over twenty years.