So I sat down to consider which movie to watch as my Sunday Night Movie last night when I noticed that on my Netflix play now queue John Carpenter’s The Thing was going to expire on Monday. If I was going to watch it as a play now without the disc it had to be right then.
That was fine by me I was in the mood for a horror film.
John Carpenter’s The Thing (1981) is a remake of the Howard Hawks’ film The Thing From Another World (1951) and both used are their source material the story Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell. I have not read the original short story so I can’t compare the films as adaptations, but these films are great moments in the culture when they were made.
The Thing From Another World was made shortly after WWII and the culture of the military and the deep faith in the US military infuses every scene of the film. These military men are America’s best and most noble resource. Courageous and resourceful in the face of a blood drinking monster from beyond the planet these men do not despair and do not quit. The scientists of the movie are not evil, not cackling mad scientists here, but are naive in the evils that can exist in this world, evils that these military are well equipped to fight. This film ends upbeat but the the admonition to “Watch The Skies.” Evil can come again at any time and we must always be vigilant.
John Carpenter’s The Thing while released in 1982 is very much a 70’s movie. The viewpoint of people in general is a cynical one and the military men are now seen as misfits and malcontents either lost in their petty power structures, stoned out of reality, or rebels doomed to failure. These military men are unkempt disordered and far from vigilant. Faced with terror and the unknown they are more prone to panic and paranoia than competence and action. The scientists while still not portrayed as evil as more useless and powerless before the alien threat. The film ends more cynically and without optimism. There is no admonition to watch for anything, because doom, destruction, and death are our fates.
These two films makes fro quite a contrast to view. The special effects in the 1982 film are far superior, but that is to be expected. John Carpenter’s The Thing is perhaps John Carpenter’s best film, and he was well served by not composing the music for this film. (The man seems to have a very limited library of musical themes and he has used them all to death.) This movie is not without flaws. There are scenes that are edited together in a ham-fisted way, causing the characters to appear stupid when they were merely ignorant. (These are very different qualities.) Despite the warts though the film is worth watching, particularly when seen in conjunction with the Howard Hawks classic.