Monday, June 20, 2011

The Thing Week: A Brief Look Back

Well folks, it’s that time of the year again… a time for summer fun, barbequing and alien invasions. Indeed, it was this week starting today, almost 30 years ago, that John Carpenter’s The Thing was released to the public and was given poor reviews by the critics that the general audience. It seems that people were not ready for a film this cold and bitter but as time went on it was considered to be one of the greatest films in both the horror and sci-fi genre. To further prove that its relevance is still under discussion, the magazine Sci-Fi Now published a list of “25 Films that Changed Science Fiction” in their 48th issue. Though none of the films were assigned numbers, The Thing made an appearance and I think some people forget (I’m one of them) that The Thing is in fact a sci-fi flick as well. It’s a film that’s literally half horror and half sci-fi. Anyway, here is what Sci-Fi Now has to say about John Carpenter’s The Thing:

As with many films now considered to be seminal in science fiction, The Thing was a major commercial flop on released, coming out two weeks after Spielberg’s blockbuster ET. The failure of the film had a largely negative effect on John Carpenter’s career, beginning a downward box office spiral that would culminate with Big Trouble In Little China and Escape from LA. These days, of course, it’s considered to be one of the finest sci-fi/horror films ever made, and certainly one of the greatest remakes.

In terms of influence, however, Rob Bottin’s name crops up in conversation again and again. His work on the effects – which involved him working seven days a week for over a year, and landed him in a hospital – are legendary, from the infamous ‘spider head’ to the dog transformations, and the chest-jaws. In terms of screenwriting it’s an excellent example of establishing characters swiftly and early on – men already losing discipline and ready to jump at each other with the drop of a hat. The score was exceptional, and the final scene proved that nihilistic ending can be done well.

But Sci-Fi Now doesn’t stop there. They feel that it was necessary to briefly expand on the entire Thing franchise. It was here that I was introduced to the comic book and the novelization of the Carpenter film. Sci-Fi Now explains The Thing franchise:

Who Goes There?

The original 1938 short story from John W. Campbell kick-started the whole franchise. First published in Astounding Stories, August 1938, Who Goes There? has since been voted one of the best stories of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America.

The Thing From Another World

This 1951 adaptation was very loose in its fidelity to the original story from Campbell. Still, it is considered to be one of the best science fiction films of the Fifties, and has been selected for preservation by the US Library of Congress.

The Thing: A Novel

Written by Alan Dean Foster based on the 1982 film’s screenplay, several extra scenes are included, and some alterations made with character names. The novelization itself now seems to be out of print, however.

The thing From Another World

In 1991 a four-issue continuation of the film was released by Dark horse comics named The Thing From Another World, in which MacReady is the lone survivor, Childs having been infected. It was written by Chuck Pfarrer with arty by John Higgins.

The Thing (Videogame)

Framed as the sequel to the events of the 1982 film, The Thing saw the player as a member of a team assigned to investigate what happened at Outpost 31. It received decent reviews from critics for its gameplay and graphics.

So there you have it. A crash course in both the film and the entire franchise that it created and to think that it all started off with a novella in 1938. I think this was a great introductory post to really get Thing Week started. I only wish that I were able to get my hands on the comic books or the video game so that I can do reviews of them. Either way, I hope you found this read to be as interesting as I did.


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