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32 Responses to “Saturday Afternoon Matinee ’82”
As much as I admire Howard Hawk’s THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, this one blew the doors off! John Carpenter (directing) and Kurt Russell (starring) really nailed this. This is one of my annual viewings — each time, I alternatively watch the film and doing the outstanding commentary track by the two (all of their co-commentaries are great by themselves, too). Thanks, christian.
Unforgettable first time viewing with an audience collectively groaning or saying “holy shit” aloud in fun revulsion. I actualy attribute its poor box office to the poster of the flashing face parka man whereas as this fantastic ominous early poster was deemed “insufficiently exploitive.” I was angry that Ebert panned it also.
This is my favorite poster from the film, too (and I agree the ‘flashing face’ later design certainly didn’t help it). But, I also think its release in the summer of ’82 (E.T., Poltergeist, ST: Wrath of Kahn, etc.) was a poor decision and also contributed to its ill-fated box office. I think if it had a fall release (Blade Runner, too, for that matter), it would have done better. Still, both of those films were leaps ahead of the ticket-buying public then and would have to wait for the acclaim coming to them only after time had caught up to Carpenter and Scott classics. Thanks, christian.
I have one odd, trivia tale with this one. I was living in Atlanta at the time and a friend & I won tickets to a midnight screening from local radio station 96Rock. So, blah, blah, blah, and of all people in attendance for the screening was none other than Andy Kaufman. Random, baby, random.
Seeing THE THING with a shape-shifter like Kaufman might not have been so random…And what really happened at that midnight show?
My oft-told tale is that i had my name printed in “Fangoria” as one of the 100 finalists in their “Draw The Thing” contest. Still have my button prize. The cover story was for a “ferociously original” li’l fil called THE EVIL DEAD.
that classic ‘the thing’ one-sheet is BEYOND LEGEND, and “man is the warmest place to hide” has got to be one of the most perfect, fitting tag-lines in history (up there with “in space no-one can hear you scream”)
of course ‘the thing’ is just badass perfection from the first frame to the last, i ADORE that movie with the passion of a thousand suns — and i still contend it’s blessed with the best use of a single ominous note in a film score (the effectiveness of carpenter’s own musical compositions esp. in his early films is rather astonishing). the best use of TWO ominous notes in a film score must go to williams for ‘jaws’, but the single is pure ‘the thing’, that one note conveys so much mood and dread and WAITING for bad shit to happen…
brain fart alert: ‘the thing’ score is also morricone; i remember carpenter talking about how he came up with ‘the single note’ and the composition on some commentary or some such so i always attribute the score to him in my head, but for the sake of propriety morricone for credit where it’s due
I know some reviews wished the score wasn’t so “Carpenteresque” but it’s quite effective, especially later as the suspense builds.
Like I said, this one-sheet was only seen in early print ads (I have a few from HEAVY METAL and elsewhere) and should have been used along with the clever tag instead of that limp “The Ultimate In Alien Terror!”
this movie is achingly perfect. the actual presence of the various mutated forms on the set (and not blue/green screened telepresence) can be felt in every frame : these things were in there with the actors, they could feel their weight, their mass, as they crawled, as they nested. must have been a really harrowing experience, to shoot this gem, surrounded by so much difference.
i always wonder what it would have been if carpenter would have shot an actual remake of lovecraft’s mountains of madness. he was the only one to understand the concept of unfathomable terror, the rape of reality, the sheer alien-ness of what is not human, therefore, that cannot be grasped by human mind. the thing is probably the nearest we ever gazed into the abyss.
totally agree with the mouth’s ending, a most amazing feat. i wonder when we will be able to see a true lovecraftian vision onscreen……..there were some good attempts and some successes, but you can count them on the hand of a leprous.
I’m wracking my brain for new insights or anecdotes. We’ve gone over this one many times, here and elsewhere.
Great then, great now, an all-time fave, topped only by ALIEN for SF/horror. (I’d love to see a triple of those two and Kaufman’s BODY SNATCHERS.)
I’m not enthused about the prequel. We know how it goes — a bunch of Norwegians get it. Effects will most likely be digital and cartoony. And of course, they’ve apparently found a way to shoehorn some Yanks into the camp.
I could change my mind — but the reviews will have to be overwhelmingly favorable for me to even consider checking it out. Maybe we’ll get a nice surprise.
“I dunno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”
Love that quote and this film. I would go so far as to say that this is Carpenter’s masterpiece. Yeah, yeah, I know people will go on about HALLOWEEN and that’s great film too but THE THING just fires on all cylinders in a way that just edges out HALLOWEEN. I love the slow burn of this film and how the paranoia gradually creeps in as all the characters start to get tired and irritable and distrust sets in.
Plus, I love the sombrero that Kurt Russell sports throughout the first part of the film. Only he could pull that off.
One of the best horror movies ever made (Carpenter’s best), Ebert wasn’t the only person who missed the point, it seems most of the other nationally esteemed writers disliked it as well.
Not too shocking about Ebert, as he seems to more often than not be skeptical of good movies in favor of forgettable empty spectacles. KNOWING and THE GOLDEN COMPASS got 4 stars fer christ’s sake, while THERE WILL BE BLOOD got something lower….then there’s that infamous pan of BLUE VELVET….
I adore Ebert as a fan of the original “Sneak Peviews” and his screenplay for BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS but I almost never agree with the man. THE GOLDEN CHILD over BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA fer gawd’s sake!
For me, Ebert was, like he was for numerous people, a gateway drug to film criticism, and I will always appreciate that inflluence. But I rarely agree with him, and I think his reviews can be dull. One of my favorite contemp. critics is Edelstein, who I think has a pretty sound grasp of art/pop.
Well worth it. His 80’s film essays are hot gems. He’s way too harsh on maestros like Dante and Carpenter but he generally knows a good film when he sees one. He praises DUNE and nails the era’s Reagansque cultural tone.
I second that recommendation for Kim Newman. I read NIGHTMARE MOVIES at an impressionable age and it really made a big impression on me. I wish he would publish an updated version. Also, his review of TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME for SIGHT & SOUND magazine was right on the money.
Agreed. I also have to take him to task for not digging BUCKAROO BANZAI but as you say, even when I disagree with him I still respect his opinion. I also love that he had the balls to trash STAR WARS and BACK TO THE FUTURE.
“I’m a bastard child of Pauline Kael and John Simon.”
Hey, mee to! So few online film geeks seem to even remember Simon.
When I was in my twenties, I found a book of his stuff on a shelf in a house I was living in and it rocked my young brain. Print criticism was on the level of Time and Newsweek to me before that. Then I discovered Kaffumann and Kael. It’s fun to read those old collections and see which films they dismissed, stuff like MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER that’s considered untouchable now.
Simon could be a mean fucker (I bet you know without checking which pop star/actress he said resembled an albino rat) but he expanded my vocabulary and made me think about film in a way I never had before. And when he was cruel, he was also funny.