Blu Ray Title: The Thing
Disk Release Date: September 30th, 2008
Screen format: 1080P High Definition Widescreen 2.35:1
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
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.