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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BluRay Review: The Thing



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#1 of 38 Sam Posten

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Posted September 28 2008 - 05:01 AM

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Blu Ray Title: The Thing
Disk Release Date: September 30th, 2008
Rated: R
Screen format: 1080P High Definition Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Universal
First theatrical release: June 25, 1982
Previous releases on disk: Multiple DVD release, including anamorphic (Oct. 2004) and non anamorphic (1998), plus a November 2006 HDDVD
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Richard Masur, Richard Dysart
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French (Parisian) DTS 5.1
Length: 1 Hour, 49 minutes on a single BD-25
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French



Plot: 5/5

In John Carpenter’s The Thing, Kurt Russell stars as R.J ‘Mac’ MacReady, a helicopter pilot for an Antarctic team whose solitary and cold existence is turned haywire when a neighboring Norwegian expedition goes crazy, crashing their helicopter while in hot pursuit of a sled dog, apparently trying to kill it before it reaches the American camp. In trying to piece what the Norwegians were up to, they discover that a huge flying saucer has crashed nearby and has been trapped under the ice for thousands of years. Now that the craft has been excavated, its pilot has made his escape.

The Thing is like no creature seen on Earth, it operates by killing a living creature and then taking its form. The dog the Norwegians were desperate to kill was The Thing, and it is now in the American camp, and it has begun to emulate them and pick the crew off one by one. Mac and his team come to realize that any one of them could now be the creature. If they aren’t already, then they are in line to be its next target. Once they are all gone, perhaps it has plans to make it out to the rest of the world, or perhaps it will lay in waiting again, dormant until a rescue mission comes in the spring, after all it has already waited millennia to spring this trap... They must kill The Thing before it kills them, mankind depends on it!

It should be noted that The Thing is a re-imagining of 1952’s The Thing from Another World, which was in turn based on ‘Who Goes There?’ a short story by John W. Campbell. While the paranoia and solitude of the original remains, the political overtones are mostly missing, and what remains has become a cult favorite in the gore and science fiction genres. The Thing is perhaps one of the slickest examples of prosthetic, animatronic, and miniature effects ever created, and it is likely that if this movie were remade today such low tech but effective solutions would be replaced by digital wizardry. I cannot recommend this film highly enough, it is both tense and funny with an excellent ensemble cast, terrific effects and a highly effective but extremely minimalistic score by Ennio Morricone.

Sound Quality: 3.5/5

The BluRay version gets an upgraded transfer to DTS-HD Master Audio but it sounds exactly as I recall the DD Plus soundtrack used on the HD DVD sounding. If there is any additional detail to be found in this transfer it is likely lost on me and would have only been found in a direct A/B listening. Overall the film has a decent surround mix that puts environmental sounds to all corners, and layers in Ennio Morricone’s subtle but chilling theme to good effect. Particularly good are the panning effects used when the helicopter is buzzing the camp, the sounds the creature makes when taking over new hosts, and the chaos created when the team is running from encounters with the Thing. The bass end of things isn’t all that notable, but remember this is a circa 1982 film, and in the sequences when the bass kicks in, it is used effectively but not mind blowing.

Visual Quality: 3.5/5

As I noted in my HD-DVD review of this film, I bought the original The Thing on DVD and was somewhat disappointed in that it was non-anamorphic, and it somehow escaped me that it was re-released with a new anamorphic transfer in ’04, but I probably wouldn’t have upgraded just for that. Getting this movie in HD was a huge treat for me as a fan of the film, and I was happy to say that this version is truly great looking. While I have not compared the BD and HD-DVD versions directly I can say that this version does not strike me as being radically different and looks about as good as I remember that version being, however I’ve become a bit more adept at picking out minor flaws and a few of those popped out for me on this viewing, particularly in some edge ringing around objects that stand in high contrast to the white snow, the sled-dog in the opening sequence seems to be the best example of this. Otherwise it’s an excellent transfer.

The blueish-white snowscapes are pixel perfect here (seriously you can pick out individual flakes!), the sharpness is dead on, grain (where apparent) is a byproduct of the film-stock used and is not excessive, and most impressive is that the effects hold up admirably with the increase in resolution.

Speaking of this film’s age, the one area where you immediately recognize its timeframe is the use of a classic Apple computer playing chess (voiced by Adrienne Barbeau). If it wasn’t for that little link, the image looks almost good enough that you wouldn’t guess that it’s going on 25 years old!

I found no pops or crackles in the transfer, it has been cleaned up admirably and is without a doubt the best this film has looked at home, and probably looks better than what most people experienced in the theaters when they first saw it.

Extra Features: 2/5

Unlike the nice batch of extras on the HD DVD, we are presented with a flimsy two choices here, the feature length commentary from John Carpenter which originated on the earlier DVD version, and a number of sequences from prior extras have been tossed almost randomly into a U-Control track that play PiP along with the film. It’s completely disjointed and one has no way to pick those that might be interesting without rewatching the film in its entirety to get to the ones you might like. PLEASE UNIVERSAL STOP DOING THIS.

Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
Unfortunately this is just the kind of release we have come to expect as BluRay grows: classic film with a heavy fan base, great looking transfer, identical sound or better than previous DVD releases, and a shovel full of previous special edition content slapped on for good measure.

It’s actually worse than that with this disk tho, with previous extras butchered onto U-Control, which I PLEAD with Universal to stop doing. It’s madness to take perfectly good featurettes and put them into their stupid U-Control just so they can say it has interactive extra features. Don’t let them get away with this!

If you haven’t seen The Thing before, you will be as pleased with the audio and video presentation as you will be with the gripping story and the splattery effects. If you have seen The Thing before, you will be impressed with the new transfer and probably feel as frustrated as I do that the extras on this classic film continue to be treated so poorly.

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#2 of 38 David Deeb

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Posted September 28 2008 - 05:33 AM

Nice review Sam.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Posten
Extra Features: 2/5

Unlike the nice batch of extras on the HD DVD, we are presented with a flimsy two choices here, the feature length commentary from John Carpenter which originated on the earlier DVD version, and a number of sequences from prior extras have been tossed almost randomly into a U-Control track that play PiP along with the film. It’s completely disjointed and one has no way to pick those that might be interesting without rewatching the film in its entirety to get to the ones you might like. PLEASE UNIVERSAL STOP DOING THIS.

That's terrible. This is one of my favorites & was to be the first BD I double dipped on, but now I'm on the fence.

I'm so sick of junk like this on both BD and DVD. Give us a main menu please. No hoops to jump through to get to bonus material. No Easter Eggs please. No cutesy authoring tricks. No previews, disclaimers, FBI warnings, previews, transitions, and everything repeated in Spanish.....just give us a listing of the material please.

#3 of 38 Stephen_J_H

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Posted September 28 2008 - 10:23 AM

Glad I got the HD DVD as one of my 5 free. I wouldn't upgrade to Blu with this release.
"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#4 of 38 WillG

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Posted September 28 2008 - 12:15 PM

I'm not happy about the debacle with the special features, but this is a must have for me. So I buy under protest. Besides, I alreday have the original DVD and the Anamophic re-release (kept the original for the isolated score).
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#5 of 38 JeremySt

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Posted September 29 2008 - 04:19 AM

The original non anamorphic DVD is the one to buy if you want the "Terror Takes Shape" documentary. It has chapter stops and isolated soundtrack audio. Both features that were dropped on all later releases.

#6 of 38 Jerome

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Posted September 29 2008 - 11:30 PM

the european Blu Ray will be a 50 GB disc with Terror takes Shapes



DVD Times - Universal UK Blu-ray Coming Soon

The Thing

Specs
BD-50 Dual Layer
1080P 2.35:1 Widescreen

Audio Options
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
French, Italian and German 5.1 DTS Surround
Spanish 2.0 DTS Mono

Subtitles
English SDH, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese and Chinese (Traditional)

Extras
U-Control Picture in Picture track with cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage
Commentary with director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell
John Carpenter’s The Thing: Terror Takes Shape
Production Background Archive
Cast Production Photographs
Production Art and Storyboards
Location Design
Production Archives
The Saucer
The Blairmonster
Outtakes
Post Production
Theatrical Trailer

#7 of 38 Sam Posten

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Posted September 30 2008 - 12:00 AM

I heard the Japanese one will be similar to the european

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#8 of 38 Jari K

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Posted September 30 2008 - 12:20 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerome
the european Blu Ray will be a 50 GB disc with Terror takes Shapes...

Interesting. I have the older HD DVD, but it would be nice to get rid of that.. "Terror Takes Shape" is a great documentary, so sad that it´s not included in the US BD..

#9 of 38 Dave H

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Posted October 01 2008 - 02:32 AM

Xylon has posted screenshot comparisons of the BD vs the HD DVD at another forum. It's quite obvious some DNR as been applied to the BD in the attempt to remove print defects and dirt.

#10 of 38 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted October 01 2008 - 02:57 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerome
the european Blu Ray will be a 50 GB disc with Terror takes Shapes



DVD Times - Universal UK Blu-ray Coming Soon

The Thing

Specs
BD-50 Dual Layer
1080P 2.35:1 Widescreen

Audio Options
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
French, Italian and German 5.1 DTS Surround
Spanish 2.0 DTS Mono

Subtitles
English SDH, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese and Chinese (Traditional)

Extras
U-Control Picture in Picture track with cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage
Commentary with director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell
John Carpenter’s The Thing: Terror Takes Shape
Production Background Archive
Cast Production Photographs
Production Art and Storyboards
Location Design
Production Archives
The Saucer
The Blairmonster
Outtakes
Post Production
Theatrical Trailer

I watched The Thing every halloween - best horror movie hands down. Looks like I will pick up the UK version (when I head home for Christmas).

Thanks for the review Sam. Your score for the movie (5/5) is spot on Posted Image
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#11 of 38 Dave Mack

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Posted October 01 2008 - 04:46 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave H
Xylon has posted screenshot comparisons of the BD vs the HD DVD at another forum. It's quite obvious some DNR as been applied to the BD in the attempt to remove print defects and dirt.


The Thing comparison *PIX* - AVS Forum

Yep. A shame. Clearly NOT the same as the HDdvd. I was going to sell my copy and get the BD but unbelievably they did this. Also the doc being reduced to a PIP window is shameful.

Posted Image grrrr...

#12 of 38 Sam Posten

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Posted October 01 2008 - 07:22 AM

HTF is apparently cutting off outbound links to AVS as they have been doing to us for about 2 months. Sucks to be in the middle of this pissing match but quite frankly it is the owners of AVS being asshats, not us.

I agree that Xylon's comparison clearly shows detail being lost with this grain reduction, that shot of the grey t-shirt is frightening. I simply don't see the loss of detail in a normal viewing of this film at 720p but I am going to A/B a few scenes of the HD DVD myself tonight just for giggles.

I find it interesting Xylon didnt mention the extreme EE I saw on the dog, and have asked him to do a comparison using that scene. Did it bother anyone else?

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#13 of 38 Sam Posten

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Posted October 01 2008 - 07:32 AM

I just noticed that my review had an error on it, the sound should have been given a 3.5 not a 2. Not sure how that happened.

I stand by my score of 3.5 on the video side tho. I agree that Xylon's shots do clearly show some DNR that is obvious in static screen grabs but I repeat that it was not notable to me in motion and on my specific setup, that being a 720p projector (with smoothscreen that is not defeatable) at 96" and sitting just over one screen length back. The EE is was immediately obvious to me while the minor detail loss was not, and that is reflected in the score given.

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#14 of 38 Dave H

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Posted October 01 2008 - 10:41 AM

It's certainly too bad it has been grain reduced, however, I will still pick this up (although I want to see what happens to the overseas releases first). I watched the U-571 BD which also went through grain reduction, however, I found it tolerable and thought it still looked quite good in and of itself. My viewing is at 1080p/24, but only on a 60" display at about eight feet distance.

#15 of 38 Jari K

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Posted October 02 2008 - 12:16 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave H
I will still pick this up (although I want to see what happens to the overseas releases first).

Yep.

#16 of 38 Tony Whalen

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Posted October 02 2008 - 03:15 PM

Lost sale here. I would have purchased The Thing on BD in a flat second, but this cut-rate U-Control BS is...well... BS! No Terror Takes Shape either?

Nope. Holding on to my non-anamorphic DVD thanks.

#17 of 38 Sam Posten

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Posted October 02 2008 - 03:32 PM

Terror takes shape is butchered onto the UControl.

AVS has just locked Xylon's thread, through no fault of HTF that I can see.

One of our readers just told me he asked David Bott why they were removing our links and David told him they weren't. I could point to the thread where David replied to me that we weren't welcome tho and where links were removed, and I have sent that reply on...

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#18 of 38 Dave Mack

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Posted October 02 2008 - 11:32 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Whalen
Lost sale here. I would have purchased The Thing on BD in a flat second, but this cut-rate U-Control BS is...well... BS! No Terror Takes Shape either?

Nope. Holding on to my non-anamorphic DVD thanks.

There is actually an anamorphic SE dvd. Looks decent.

#19 of 38 frankie108

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Posted October 03 2008 - 01:55 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Posten

AVS has just locked Xylon's thread, through no fault of HTF that I can see.

One of our readers just told me he asked David Bott why they were removing our links and David told him they weren't. I could point to the thread where David replied to me that we weren't welcome tho and where links were removed, and I have sent that reply on...
Good!!! Boy those "Pics" threads over there get way out of control and down right ugly with tons of unfounded accusations that go unchallenged and are frequently accepted as "fact."

#20 of 38 Stephen_J_H

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Posted October 03 2008 - 06:22 AM

The lack of Terror Takes Shape was the deal-breaker for me. Looking at Xylon's screencaps, yes, detail has been lost, but not to Longest Day levels. I'd say it sits somewhere between Pan's Labyrinth and Patton in terms of lost detail.
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