John Carpenter’s The Thing is a masterpiece.
Transcending the often maligned sci-fi horror niche, it comfortably sits at the Big Boys table, shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of The Fly, The Terminator, and Alien.
It is easily the best work of a highlight-packed career for Carpenter, and equally his best collaboration with badass Kurt Russell.
While I do plan on writing a complete review and analysis of this awesome, awesome movie, I did want to bring to attention the personal blog of the film’s producer, Stuart Cohen.
In The Original Fan, Cohen charts the production The Thing, and offers some incredible insights into Carpenter’s creative process, and how the movie was put together.
Now this is not just a quick, miss-spelt anecdotal tweet from the production’s caterer. Nor is it a rambling doctrine of how Carpenter “butchered the original movie” by a disgruntled, uncredited screenwriter.
It is an archive of previously unknown detail. There are important photos, stories, and facts that are completely vacant from the DVD commentary. For instance, did you know that the role of MacCready, was the last one to be cast. And even more incredibly Russell was considered along side the likes of Jeff Bridges, Tom Berenger, Christopher Walken and Ed Harris.
Other interesting factoids include how the film transformed from a more ensemble driven piece to the Alpha MacCready commanded tour de force. Several completed scenes in the can were discarded, several of which were not just character moments. Indeed the off-screen deaths of Bennings and Fuchs was shot but never made the cut.
Bennings’ demise was actually reshot utilizing, as Cohen describes, only “a bunch of miscellaneous tentacles, along with jars of Vaseline and tubes of Orange K-Y jelly”. Great stuff.
Joined by fantastic photos, this great effort charts the beginning, the middle, and the end of production. It analyses Cohen’s adoration of the original The Thing From Another World, the sound design, the location scouting, the opening credits, the hiring of Ennio Morricone for the music. Everything.
Some of the concept work is really interesting too, including this image of the proposed final transformation.
As Cohen goes on to say, they wanted a lot of different effects that ultimately they would not have the time or the money to implement. Other such things as interesting camera techniques or hugely rigged sets were actually utilized but produced unsatisfactory results.
Cohen also describes the original intended ending of the film, why it was changed, and what his thoughts are on the current (and I’d say best) ending.
MacCready heartily suggests you take a look.