The Thing (1982)

R | 108 or 127 mins | Horror, Science fiction | 1982

Director:

John Carpenter

Writer:

Bill Lancaster

Cinematographer:

Dean Cundey

Editor:

Todd Ramsay

Production Designer:

John L. Lloyd

Production Companies:

Universal Pictures , Turman-Foster Company
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HISTORY

The film was based on the science fiction short story "Who Goes There?," by author John W. Campbell Jr., who is often referred to by his pseudonym "Don A. Stuart." The story initially appeared in the science fiction magazine Astounding in Aug 1938. It was first adapted to the screen as the 1951 RKO picture, The Thing From Another World (aka The Thing), produced by Howard Hawks and directed by Christian Nyby (see entry). Although the 1982 version of The Thing is consistently referred to as a "remake" of the 1951 classic, it draws more from Campbell's short story than from Hawks's film. The most notable difference resides in the "thing" itself. Whereas Hawks's "thing" is a uniform vegetative colossus that threatens to replicate in large quantities and at a rapid pace, John Carpenter's "thing" is more faithfully a shape-shifter who can mimic whatever creature it absorbs. Thus the anxiety in Carpenter's film relies on the team members' suspicions and distrust of one another, as no one can be certain who is a "thing."
       The closing credits begin with the film's complete title, John Carpenter’s The Thing . Opening credits erroneously identify production designer John J. Lloyd as John L. Lloyd. In a Jun 1982 Starlog interview, cinematographer Dean Cundey misidentified Lloyd as the film's "art director," a position the closing credits attributed to Henry Larrecq.
       The music is credited to Italian composer, Ennio Morricone, most noted for his work on Sergio Leone's Westerns. In an interview in Boulenger's 2001 book, John Carpenter, The Prince of Darkness , Carpenter admitted he added additional music to ... More Less

The film was based on the science fiction short story "Who Goes There?," by author John W. Campbell Jr., who is often referred to by his pseudonym "Don A. Stuart." The story initially appeared in the science fiction magazine Astounding in Aug 1938. It was first adapted to the screen as the 1951 RKO picture, The Thing From Another World (aka The Thing), produced by Howard Hawks and directed by Christian Nyby (see entry). Although the 1982 version of The Thing is consistently referred to as a "remake" of the 1951 classic, it draws more from Campbell's short story than from Hawks's film. The most notable difference resides in the "thing" itself. Whereas Hawks's "thing" is a uniform vegetative colossus that threatens to replicate in large quantities and at a rapid pace, John Carpenter's "thing" is more faithfully a shape-shifter who can mimic whatever creature it absorbs. Thus the anxiety in Carpenter's film relies on the team members' suspicions and distrust of one another, as no one can be certain who is a "thing."
       The closing credits begin with the film's complete title, John Carpenter’s The Thing . Opening credits erroneously identify production designer John J. Lloyd as John L. Lloyd. In a Jun 1982 Starlog interview, cinematographer Dean Cundey misidentified Lloyd as the film's "art director," a position the closing credits attributed to Henry Larrecq.
       The music is credited to Italian composer, Ennio Morricone, most noted for his work on Sergio Leone's Westerns. In an interview in Boulenger's 2001 book, John Carpenter, The Prince of Darkness , Carpenter admitted he added additional music to the soundtrack. Carpenter explained that Morricone delivered twenty-two minutes of orchestral music, which made up the majority of the score, but, after cutting in Morricone's score, there were still a few "scenes of tension" which required music different from what Morricone had delivered. Carpenter secretly composed electronic pieces, which he described as "tones" and "sound effects," to supplement Morricone's orchestral work. In addition to the orchestral music, the end credits identify the songs "Don't Explain," performed by Billie Holiday, and "Superstition," written and performed by Stevie Wonder. The songs, neither of which were written for the film, were not included in the commercial soundtrack released by the label Varese Sarabande on 25 Jun 1982, which was attributed solely to Morricone.
       A 29 Jul 1982 HR article reported that Wilbur Stark, credited as executive producer onscreen, filed a lawsuit with the Los Angeles Superior Court charging Universal Pictures with denying him deserved screen credit on The Thing and Cat People . Stark, who is credited as "executive consultant" on Cat People , complained that his agreements with the studio entitled him to be credited as either producer, co-producer or co-executive producer, and that the inaccurate credit has tarnished his reputation and cost him two European film project deals he was negotiating. Universal officials claimed that, in spite of Stark's screen credits, he was not involved in either project. A 22 Aug 1982 LAHExam article elaborated that Stark charged slander, breach of contract, fraud, and deceit. He also alleged the studio besmirched his reputation by denying his involvement in The Thing and Cat People to prospective financiers. Stark, who sold Universal the rights to the RKO original The Thing From Another World , also owned the rights to twenty-one other RKO classics, including Suspicion , Enchanted Cottage , The Big Sky , Morning Glory , and I Walked With a Zombie. An 8 May 1983 LAT article reported that Stark submitted an amended complaint, adding $15 million to his original $43 million lawsuit, claiming David Foster, co-producer of The Thing , defamed Stark in comments he made about the lawsuit in an LAT Calendar Letters to the Editor column and to a reporter for People magazine. Foster stated that, beyond selling the remake rights of the original picture, Stark "played no role in the development of [ The Thing] or its production." The article acknowledged that Stark penned a treatment to an early draft of the screenplay, in which he relayed his ideas for the script, but Foster claimed the treatment was never solicited nor considered in the project's development.
       Rob Bottin, who made a name for himself with his make-up work on The Howling (see entry), received the screen credit, "Special Make-up Effects Created and Designed by Rob Bottin." However, according to Make-up and Hair Stylists Local 706, Bottin's work on The Thing did not constitute "make-up" work. As a result the local 706 filed for arbitration over the miscredit. A 28 Jun 1982 Var news item reported that UCLA professor of economics Harold M. Somers presided over the arbitration hearing with both parties' consent, under the auspices of the motion picture industry's Contract Services Administration Trust Fund. Somers determined that Universal violated a collective bargaining agreement between producers and Local 706 "by granting screen credit containing the phrase 'make-up' to a person who did not actually perform make-up work." Local 706 attorney Julius Reich argued that, while Bottin created numerous "mechanical devices, mannequins and nonliving things," he did not work on living persons and thus was not eligible for a "make-up" credit. Somers decided in favor of Local 706 and awarded the organization $10,000. A 17 Dec 1982 Var news item later reported that U.S. Federal Judge Robert Takasugi upheld Somers's decision and maximum $10,000 fine in an appeal brought forth by director of industrial relations for Universal Studios, Jack McDaniel. McDaniel later clarified that the appeal was not contesting Somers's screen credit determination but rather the $10,000 fine, which the studio deemed unwarranted as there was no determined evidence of damages done to Local 706. However, McDaniel said the studio would not appeal the judge's ruling and would pay the fine.
       Production notes stated that co-producer Stuart Coen brought the idea of producing a film based on Campbell's short story to David Foster and Lawrence Turman, six years prior to the film's release. According to a 15 Feb 1982 Film Journal article, Cohen suggested the project after recalling his childhood affection for the science fiction classic. With Foster and Turman on board, Coen approached Carpenter, a fan of both the short story and Hawks's original film. Carpenter was excited about the idea of creating a film that was more faithful to the original Campbell story and agreed to direct. However, a 24 Nov 1981 NYT article reported that, in 1976, Coen could not sell the then-unknown director to the studio. The article also explained that the project went through three screenwriters and one director before the success of the 1979 film, Alien , indicated a market for science fiction/horror pictures. The NYT article did not name the initial screenwriters or director, but a 17 May 1977 Var news item listed David Wiltse as the project's scriptwriter at the time and a 29 Jul 1981 Var news item identified Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre , as an early directorial candidate. The above Var news item announced Universal's acquisition of the remake rights to The Thing From Another World . Following the success of Carpenter's Halloween and The Fog , Carpenter was officially assigned to direct. Bill Lancaster, son of actor Burt Lancaster, was hired to pen the script. By 1980, a 17 Nov 1980 Var article announced that Universal greenlit the remake, with filming scheduled to begin the following year in Los Angeles. The article also summarized the Turman-Foster production company as a successful independent firm, at the time, working on projects with several of the major studios. A 31 Jul 1981 Entertainment Today news item announced that Russell had signed on to play "MacReady," marking the third time the director-star duo paired, following Escape from New York and the made-for-television movie, Elvis .
       Although an exact production cost remains elusive, a 10 Mar 1982 Var article stated $15 million and claimed it was the largest budget of any Turman-Foster production at the time. According to various sources, including the Film Journal article and a 29 Nov 1981 LAHExam article, The Thing was Carpenter's first major studio project and his biggest budget picture at the time of its release. According to the 29 Jul 1981 Var article, Carpenter's shift into studio production came after he directed five independent films and three telepix.
       Universal studio production notes stated that Carpenter had a twelve-week shooting schedule, and principal photography began on 24 Aug 1981 at Universal City in Los Angeles, CA. Production occupied a half-dozen sound stages, some of which were cooled down to below freezing temperatures, partially to "create an arctic feeling" and also to produce the breath mist necessary to visually convey the freezing temperatures of the Antarctica setting. All post-production photography, which continued into Spring 1982, was shot at Universal-Hartland, the visual effects house in North Hollywood. Additionally, one week of second unit photography was shot on the Taku Glacier on the Juneau Ice Field in Juneau, AK, in June 1981, and, on 2 Dec 1982, approximately one hundred American and Canadian filmmakers traveled to a remote location near Stewart, British Columbia for location shooting. A 29 Nov 1981 LAHExam article indicated the Stewart-based shooting schedule lasted four weeks. A Jul 1982 Twilight Zone Magazine elaborated that location requirements were based on production heads' viewings of documentaries made on Antarctica by the National Geographic Society and the National Geophysical Society. Production notes indicated the location was chosen for its accessible port and glacier, as well as for its appropriate snowfall levels. However, before selecting the B.C. location, Carpenter and production designer Lloyd scouted the Montana site where Hawks's 1951 film was shot. They scrapped the Montana location due to insufficient snowfall. While on-location, cast and crew were housed in the former Gold Rush community of Stewart, B.C., from where they were daily flown by helicopter to the production sites or transported via van and bus along the Canadian Wide Mine, a restricted mine road owned by ESSO and run by the Grand Duke Mine Co.
       Production notes additionally indicated that production construction began in Stewart in Jun 1981, under the supervision of a studio construction foreman and painter and performed by a Canadian construction crew. Construction and film crews reportedly worked in temperatures as low as fifteen to thirty degrees below zero. In the Twilight Zone Magazine article, Robert Martin described broken heaters and trailers with limited heating, which were parked at some distance from the set. Martin also claimed that, during his visit to the location, Russell was suffering from bronchitis brought on by the cold. Additionally, he listed several logistical problems posed by the climate, including delays in film processing, which could take up to four days to develop depending on weather delays; day and night shootings, which imposed twelve to fourteen-hour workdays; subzero working conditions; and, insufficient housing for cast and crew. According to a 15 Jul 1982 Var news item, Carpenter and ten second unit crewmen were stranded for two days in Juneau, AK, without water or power, because of poor weather conditions. In the Film Journal article, Ralph Kaminsky reported that the production crew built warming sheds for the cast and crew to use during down time, in order to combat the freezing conditions.
       The 29 Jul 1981 Var article indicated that the production's "monster unit" would work concurrently with the first unit, with special effects work and inserts of the creature scheduled for completion by year's end. Although the special effects team was headed up by a trio of accomplished effects artists, including Roy Arbogast, who did effects for Spielberg's Jaws, and Albert Whitlock, who previously did the special visual effects for Universal's 1982 remake of Cat People (see entries), most sources single out Bottin's work on the film's monster. A 5 Sept 1981 LAHExam news item claimed that the mechanical monster was built at a cost of $1.5 million by Bottin and, at times, required as many as seventeen crew members to operate. In Boulenger's book, Carpenter explained that he relinquished most creative control regarding the look of the "thing" to Bottin, interfering only occasionally to veto a design. The Twilight Zone Magazine article also noted the contribution of Randy Cook, who animated a stop-motion sequence of the "thing" under the supervision of Bottin. Production notes indicated that Carpenter kept the design of his "thing" secret, forbidding cast or crew to photograph it or talk about the design during production. In the 29 Nov 1981 LAHExam news item, co-producer Foster explained the order was made to prevent mimicry of the monster and stated: "It's the nature of this business. Something gets out and the next thing you know you see it on television." Carpenter, explained the secrecy differently: "We feel it (the monster) is unique and interesting and different and it's very hard to describe. It doesn't look like any one thing. It's constantly changing. It can be anything. And rather than go through that we just shut up about it."
       The Thing was the third film in which Cundey worked with Carpentter as cinematographer, following their collaborations on Halloween and Escape From New York . In the Starlog interview, Cundey revealed that he worked on the picture from Jun 1981 to Feb 1982, a stint Cundey claimed was the longest he had ever worked on a project. The interview also included the following information: Despite reports that parts of the 1982 adaptation were pulled from the 1951 script, Cundey claimed the remake's production was taken from "John Campbell's entire original short story, of which Hawks only used a small portion." Cundey worked closely with production designer Lloyd to establish the somber look of the film. Lloyd designed fully realized sets complete with ceilings and exposed pipings. At Cundey's request, Lloyd fashioned the pipes so they jutted out into the frameline in order to emphasize a sense of claustrophobia. Cundey also stated that many shots relied on practical lights, and some scenes were lit solely by the flares carried by the characters on screen. In the Starlog interview, Cundey revealed he relied on radio-controlled cameras to capture the climactic series of explosions executed by Arbogast for the film's finale. The cameras were housed in make-shift wooden cabins and set to shoot at fifty-percent higher speed, so as to extend the explosion time on normal playback. In the same interview, he explained that the majority of shots involving the "thing" alongside other characters were shot to minimize the monster's visibility. Reverse shots were then photographed separately, so the crew could make the small adjustments and reshoots necessary when working with complex mechanical effects without unnecessarily detaining the cast.
       In Boulenger's book, Carpenter revealed that he restructured the second act, which he claimed was "talkier," eliminating a "big dialogue scene" in which Clark is suspected of being the "thing." The scene was cut and additional scenes were added (Bennings's possession and death and various "mood scenes," including MacReady's speech in the snow) to increase suspense. Carpenter also claimed that Russell came up with the film's closing dialogue.
       Various efforts were taken to gauge public awareness and increase anticipation prior to the premiere. A 10 Mar 1982 Var article reported public awareness polling performed by an independent marketing consultant indicated high public awareness of the picture, due to a substantial cult following for Hawks's original film and influenced by the Bantam Books novelization of the 1982 screenplay, which was written by Alan Dean Foster and published in Feb 1982. A May 1982 Box article anticipated a number of promotional tactics, including visits by producers to science fiction film societies and science fiction fairs, where excerpts from the film would be screened, followed by a major promotional tour led by Carpenter, that would include t-shirts, posters, and buttons. The article also mentioned radio promotionals that asked listeners: "What do you think the Thing is?" as well as a paperback reissue of Campbell's original short story. The 10 Mar 1982 ^Var article reported that a film reel, which was intended to be screened for journalists in New York City to generate interest in the film, was not ready and the screening was cancelled.



Academic Network participant. University of Texas, Austin. Advisor: Prof. Janet Staiger; Student: Thielvoldt. fks 09/2010 More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
May 1982.
---
Box Office
15 Jul 1982.
---
Empire
23 Nov 2010.
---
Entertainment Today
31 Jul 1981.
---
Film Journal
15 Feb 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 1982
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 1982.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
5 Sep 1981.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
29 Nov 1981.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
22 Aug 1982.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Jun 1982
p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
8 May 1983.
---
New York Times
24 Nov 1981.
---
New York Times
25 Jun 1982
p. 14.
Twilight Zone Magazine
Jul 1982.
---
Variety
17 May 1977.
---
Variety
17 Nov 1980.
---
Variety
29 Jul 1981.
---
Variety
10 Mar 1982.
---
Variety
23 Jun 1982
p. 26.
Variety
28 Jun 1982.
---
Variety
15 Jul 1982.
---
Variety
17 Dec 1982.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
+

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
Also Starring
as
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr, Stewart, British Columbia crew
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir, Stewart, British Columbia crew
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
Co-prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op, Stewart, British Columbia crew
1st asst cam
1st asst cam, Stewart, British Columbia crew
2d asst cam
2d asst cam, Stewart, British Columbia crew
2d asst cam, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Key grip, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Gaffer
Gaffer
Gaffer, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Elec best boy
Elec best boy, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Lamp op
Lamp op, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Grip
Best boy grip, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Generator op, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Stills, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Filmed in
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Prop master
Prop master, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Asst prop master
Propmaker foreman
Leadman
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Painter
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Cost supv
Cost supv, Stewart, British Columbia crew
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Prod sd
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd re-rec
Sd re-rec
Sd re-rec
Loop dial ed
Asst sd ed
Sd eff asst
Sd eff asst
Foley supv
Synthesizer sd
Boom man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff by
Spec eff
Spec eff, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Spec eff, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Matte photog by
Computer graphics
End titles & opt eff
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Dimensional anim eff created by, Anim eff seq
Crew, Anim eff seq
Crew, Anim eff seq
Crew, Anim eff seq
Crew, Anim eff seq
Visual eff des by, Main title seq
Miniature supv, Main title seq
Anim, Main title seq
Anim, Main title seq
Opticals, Main title seq
Opticals, Main title seq
Opticals, Main title seq
MAKEUP
Spec make-up eff created and des by
Make-up
Make-up, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Line prod, Spec make-up eff unit
Mechanical anim coord, Spec make-up eff unit
Spec make-up eff coord, Spec make-up eff unit
Prod illustrator, Spec make-up eff unit
Prod illustrator, Spec make-up eff unit
Prod illustrator, Spec make-up eff unit
Spec tech, Spec make-up eff unit
Spec tech, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Crew, Spec make-up eff unit
Spec thanks to, Spec make-up eff unit
Spec wigs
Spec wigs
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Tech adv-Juneau
Tech adv, Stewart, British Columbia crew
DGA trainee
Scr supv
Scr supv, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Animal trainer
Norwegian dog owned and trained by
Asst trainer
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Transportation capt, Stewart, British Columbia cre
Pub coord
Craft service, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Asst to Stuart Cohen
Asst to John Carpenter
Prod accountant
Prod asst
Prod secy
Prod secy, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Craft service
Craft service
Driver
Auditor, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Asst auditor, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Cook, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Cook, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Helicopter pilot, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Helicopter pilot, Stewart, British Columbia crew
Helicopter pilot, Stewart, British Columbia crew
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell Jr. in Astounding magazine (Aug 1938).
SONGS
"Don't Explain," by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr., performed by Billie Holliday, courtesy of MCA Records
"Superstition," written and performed by Stevie Wonder, courtesy of Motown Record Corporation.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
John Carpenter's The Thing
The Thing from Outer Space
Thing from Another World
Release Date:
1982
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 25 June 1982
Production Date:
began 24 August 1981
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 July 1982
Copyright Number:
PA145007
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo in selected theatres
Color
Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
108 or 127
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26699
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In outer space, a flying saucer careens into Earth's atmosphere. In Antarctica, winter 1982, a man riding in a helicopter fires a rifle several times at a dog on the snow-covered terrain below but the fleeing animal escapes harm. At the nearby United States National Science Institute Station 4, team members, among them R. J. "Mac" MacReady, relax in the recreation room, but are interrupted when the hunt works its way onto Institute grounds. Hearing the helicopter, the team gathers outside where the gunman has since exchanged bullets for grenades. As the dog dodges the explosives, the gunman fails to recover a live grenade he dropped in the snow and the resulting explosion kills the pilot and destroys the copter. The gunman, shouting furiously in Norwegian, continues on foot and the dog seeks refuge amidst the team. The gunman shoots at the dog, but hits one of the Institute scientists, George Bennings, in the leg. The gunman then pursues the dog deeper into the compound, firing more shots, until Garry, the Institute's commander, pulls a handgun and shoots the gunman dead. With safety restored, the group extinguishes the blazing helicopter, which MacReady later discovers was loaded with cans of kerosene. The on-site physician, Dr. Copper, sutures Bennings's flesh wound and speculates that the Norwegian’s behavior was the result of cabin fever. The radio operator, Windows, attempts unsuccessfully to report the incident to authorities off the continent. After identifying the Norwegians as members of a ten-party science expedition, Doc volunteers to fly to their base to check on the remaining expedition members and MacReady is selected to pilot his helicopter. When Mac and Doc arrive at the Norwegian station, they ... +


In outer space, a flying saucer careens into Earth's atmosphere. In Antarctica, winter 1982, a man riding in a helicopter fires a rifle several times at a dog on the snow-covered terrain below but the fleeing animal escapes harm. At the nearby United States National Science Institute Station 4, team members, among them R. J. "Mac" MacReady, relax in the recreation room, but are interrupted when the hunt works its way onto Institute grounds. Hearing the helicopter, the team gathers outside where the gunman has since exchanged bullets for grenades. As the dog dodges the explosives, the gunman fails to recover a live grenade he dropped in the snow and the resulting explosion kills the pilot and destroys the copter. The gunman, shouting furiously in Norwegian, continues on foot and the dog seeks refuge amidst the team. The gunman shoots at the dog, but hits one of the Institute scientists, George Bennings, in the leg. The gunman then pursues the dog deeper into the compound, firing more shots, until Garry, the Institute's commander, pulls a handgun and shoots the gunman dead. With safety restored, the group extinguishes the blazing helicopter, which MacReady later discovers was loaded with cans of kerosene. The on-site physician, Dr. Copper, sutures Bennings's flesh wound and speculates that the Norwegian’s behavior was the result of cabin fever. The radio operator, Windows, attempts unsuccessfully to report the incident to authorities off the continent. After identifying the Norwegians as members of a ten-party science expedition, Doc volunteers to fly to their base to check on the remaining expedition members and MacReady is selected to pilot his helicopter. When Mac and Doc arrive at the Norwegian station, they find it in disarray, exposed to the elements and frozen throughout. Inside they discover a bloody ax and the mutilated and frozen corpse of one of the expedition members. They also uncover a large hollowed-out block of ice that Doc guesses might have contained an excised fossil. Behind the station, they find smoldering, unidentifiable remains, though it appears to contain some features of a man. Beside it, they find cans of kerosene. Mac and Doc return to the Institute bringing with them the frozen corpse, the smoking remains, and some of the Norwegians' research. Disturbed and baffled by the specimens, Doc and Blair begin autopsies, which reveal a normal set of internal organs inside the remains. Team member Clark locks up the new dog with the Institute's dog pack, but after he leaves, the dog moans and shakes; then its face splits open as tentacles sprout from its body. A dog in the pack panics and attempts to gnaw its way through the chain link fence when the creature sprays it with slime. Upon hearing the panic, Clark returns and when he opens the pen door, two dogs bolt to safety before Clark can re-latch the door on the creature, which is still whipping itself violently about the pen. Mac, hearing the commotion, signals the team and calls for Childs, another team member, to bring the flamethrower. From outside the pen, the team watches as the creature lashes out its tentacles at the remaining dogs. Seeing this, the team fires several shots, wounding the creature and killing the remaining dogs. Moments later Childs arrives with the flamethrower and torches the creature, which has begun to sprout large arms and hands. The following morning Doc performs an autopsy on the remains, concluding that it is a shape-shifting organism that replicates the cellular makeup of the subjects it absorbs. Later, by questioning Clark, Blair learns that the creature, while disguised as a dog, wandered freely around the camp and that Clark was alone with it for over an hour. Though Clark senses Blair is suspicious of him, Blair denies it, saying, “It’s probably nothing.” Using the Norwegians' video materials, the team pinpoints an important excavation site that Mac is intent on investigating. At the site, Mac and a small team discover an excavated flying saucer, estimated to have crashed 100,000 years ago, as well as the hole in the ice where the Norwegians excised the creature. After Mac reports the trip's findings, Blair privately runs a computer simulation of the creature’s cellular absorption process. In addition to plotting how the cells of “the thing” attack, absorb, and mimic foreign cells, the simulation assesses a seventy-five percent probability that one or more team members may be infected. The simulation projects it would take 27,000 hours for the entire world to become infected if an intruder organism reaches civilized areas. At Doc's request, Windows and Bennings haul the two sets of burned remains down to the storeroom for safe keeping, after which Windows sets out to recover the keys to lock the room. Neither Windows nor Bennings, who stays behind, notices the subtle movements of one set of remains. Meanwhile, Blair locks himself away in his room and refuses to answer the door, and the team learns, through Blair’s notes, that there is still cellular activity in the creature’s burned remains. When Windows returns to the storeroom, he finds it alive and in the process of absorbing Bennings. Windows runs for help and when he returns to the storeroom with Mac and Fuchs, Bennings has broken through an exterior window and is stumbling in the snow. They catch up with Bennings and are followed by others who respond to the commotion, but realize it is not Bennings they pursued. It is the creature, which looks much like Bennings but has mutated hands. The creature lets out a resonating wail, before Mac douses it in gasoline and sets it ablaze. After the team cremates the remains in a makeshift fire pit, Fuchs reports that Blair is missing. Mac spots Blair running from the Institute's helicopter with an ax in hand and discovers he destroyed the helicopter's controls. Retreating inside, the armed Blair threatens to shoot anyone who tries to stop his destruction of the Institute's communication equipment. Childs tells Mac that Blair also disabled the tractor and killed the remaining dogs. While ranting about “that thing” needing to be human to make it to the mainlands, Blair shoots at anyone attempting to stop his rampage, but as soon as he empties his gun, the team rushes and disables him. They lock Blair in the tool shed, where he warns Mac to "watch Clark and watch him close." The team, hit with the realization that somebody in the camp is not what he seems, decides to test each other's blood to determine who is infected. However, they find that the supply of clean blood they need to perform the test has been emptied and that the lock on the refrigerator where the blood is stored is unbroken, indicating the saboteur used a key. This discovery makes Doc and Garry the prime suspects, as they are the only two with access to the refrigerator. Accusations and an armed standoff ensue. Eventually, Garry relinquishes command of the team to Mac, despite his claim of innocence, because he realizes his reliability is in question. Mac orders that Garry, Doc, and Clark be sedated, while Fuchs works on a new test. In the meantime, Mac notes in a secret audio log his theory that the creature tears through the subject's clothes during the absorption process. Moments after Mac leaves a brief meeting with Fuchs, someone kills the electricity in the lab where Fuchs is working. Fuchs stumbles through the dark, relying on the weak light of a candle, when a figure passes before him. He calls out, but no one answers. Outside the lab, Fuchs finds a shredded jacket with the name "R. J. MacReady" stenciled on the back. Some time later, in the recreation room, Mac questions the group about the blackout and organizes search teams to look for Fuchs, who is now missing. After checking on Blair, MacReady, Nauls, and Windows discover what appears to be Fuchs's burned remains outside, in the snow. Mac also observes that the lights in his shack are on, and he sends Windows to report the news to the team, while he and Nauls continue on to the shack. Mac and Nauls have been missing for about forty-five minutes, when Childs gives the order to seal the outside doors. However, Nauls returns before all the doors are sealed. He informs the team that he cut Mac loose from the guide line, stranding him in the ongoing blizzard, after he uncovered Mac's shredded jacket. Most of the team concede that Mac is now "one of those things," and, while Childs is not fully convinced, he refuses to open the door for whatever it is that starts rattling its handle. Soon after the rattling stops something breaks through the supply room window down the hall. Childs hacks through the locked supply room door with an ax to find Mac inside, holding a flare and dynamite and threatening to blow up the camp if anyone “messes” with him. He forces most of the team back into the hall but overlooks Nauls and Norris, who rush him from behind. In the scuffle Norris is knocked to the ground and later found not breathing. In an attempt to revive him, Doc places the pads of a defibrillator on Norris’s chest, which splits open sending Doc lurching into it. The cavity then quickly clamps shut, severing Doc's forearms and two “things” are created. One projects from out of Norris's chest and latches onto an overhanging vent. A second grows from within Norris's head, sprouts legs and scuttles toward the door. Mac eventually torches both creatures. He then gathers the remaining team members at gunpoint and demands they be tied up. During initial protests, Clark tries to stab Mac, but Mac shoots him first. With the team restrained, Mac begins a new test, based on the theory that each piece of an infected subject is occupied by a separate “thing” that will try to survive when threatened. Thus, the blood of an infected subject will try to flee when touched by a heated wire. The test clears Windows and Mac, as well as the deceased Doc and Clark, before exposing Palmer as infected by the creature. When his blood leaps from the petri dish, Palmer transforms and kills Windows. Mac fumbles with his malfunctioning flamethrower, finally igniting Palmer, then blowing him up with a stick of dynamite. He then turns the flames on Windows's corpse, which is beginning to transform. Mac's test also clears Nauls, Childs, and Garry, but when they go to the tool shed to test Blair, they find him missing, despite the door being locked from the outside. Although they do not find Blair, they discover he dug a tunnel below the tool shed in which he is building a flying saucer, using parts from the helicopter and other Institute technology. After the men resurface, Nauls sees Childs leaving the main building in which he was posting watch. When the Institute's electricity goes out, Mac concludes that the creature blew the generator, initiating its plan to freeze the camp and itself until a rescue team arrives to transport it to the main lands. Intent on stopping it, the men blow up its ship and set out to explode the camp. Blair kills Garry, as he is setting the final explosives, and Childs also goes missing, leaving Mac alone in a final battle with the “thing.” Using his last stick of dynamite, Mac blows it up and initiates a chain reaction that destroys the rest of the camp. As Mac sits down to drink a bottle of booze, Childs arrives, claiming he got lost in the storm while pursuing Blair. Both men sit and drink, realizing that if one of them is the “thing,” the other can do nothing about it. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.