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Randy on John Carpenter's Presentation of THE THING at the Cinematheque

Harry here, with coverage of John Carpenter's THE THING where he did Q&A afterward. Ol Randy was there for us and wrote up a report. If any of you saw the other presentations that Carpenter did, I'd love to post about them. Wish I was there, any and all Carpenter events are of interest. HEre ya go...


This is Randy of ASK RANDY again. Thought you'd like to have an overview of the 2nd night of the American Cinematheque John Carpenter retrospective and the screening of The Thing with John Carpenter in person!

Got there about 45 minutes early to a line... to get in! Not for tickets, just to get in. Always a good sign though this is my first time at the Egyptian. Inside, I hit the balcony for a good seat and wait a little while for the movie to start.

When the lights go down, the audience is ready. They are most definitely fans.

As the movie started, I was disappointed to see that this wasn't a new print. An OK print, but I was still hoping. The sound system there is excellent., doing wonders with Ennio Morricone's score Applause through the credits, especially FX Rob Bottin and screenwriter Bill Lancaster.

The movie is still good. If you don't know that, well, that's your loss.

So the movie ends and John Carpenter was introduced. He stayed about 20-25 minutes, eventually taking audience questions(no, I didn't get picked). Here's the highlights(these are from memory, forgive if a little off):

On a sequel to THE THING:

"It wouldn't have anything to do with the original. The first one didn't do well at the box-office so Universal wouldn't go there. Instead, Universal would do it as a 'reimagining.' "

"Now, it would probably have teenagers in it and take place in the Bahamas."

On MacReady's costume:

"Rob Bottin's storyboards at one point showed MacReady fighting the Thing with this HUGE sombrero on and I said "Yeah! I want that!' So I had it made up and Kurt looked at me-'You sure you want me to wear this?' 'YEAH! It's great! You look COOL!' "

"Kurt hated the sombrero."

On having Ennio Morricone scoring instead of him:

"Well, I've been a fan of him for years. Spaghetti westerns and all. Once Upon a Time in the West, A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More. There was an opportunity to have him and I took it. I don't think the studio was excited but I was. And I didn't think they really wanted me to do it.

So I went to Italy and he doesn't speak English and I don't speak Italian so we talk through an interpreter. He hasn't seen the film but he's already got two or three themes done. They're ok, but not quite what I wanted. 'They're too complex. Simplify. Two or three notes.' (Audience laughs) So the opening and end titles are his interpretation of what I wanted.

Course, toward the end of production, I did put some stuff together, so actually I'm in there as well."

On the identity of the silhouetted team member who is first alone with the dog:

"That was a crew member who wasn't actually in the film."

On Wilfred Brimley's motivation as the Thing:

"When Wil if dragging someone around by the face, I asked him what he was thinking about, what was the way he was playing it-'I'm going over my laundry list.'

On the MPAA cutting the gruesome FX:

"Nothing. I was expecting to have to cut a bunch. But nothing. They approved it as it was-an 'R'"

On the television version which includes VO's about the characters and a "modified" ending:

Oh, that. That was Sid's version(NOTE-Sid Sheinberg, head of Universal. You've heard of him if you know anything about Terry Gilliam's battle over Brazil. Bastard). He wanted to show me how to make a horror movie.

It was only shown a couple of times. I think they burned that version. Maybe the TV stations burned it themselves. I hope."

On the fate of Childs and MacReady:

"There was a great comic series a few years ago...(Someone yells out)Yeah! Dark Horse comics! If you can get a hold of it-read that! That's what happened to Childs and MacReady! It was a great story, a helluva sequel. That's what they should make for the sequel-but it would probably cost 200 million to make today!"

And then it was over. I thought about doing that same evening's Halloween and The Fog but I can't stand the 2nd one.

Tomorrow(1/27), Carpenter will be there again for Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China.

Hope you enjoyed this.

RANDY of Ask Randy


Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 27, 2002, 7:29 a.m. CST


    by CigaretteFairy

    Anyone know how I can get hold of that Comic? Sounds like a great read.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 7:58 a.m. CST

    De Ting

    by fango

    One of the best horror movies ever. Full Stop. Period etc etc. Scared the shit out of me back in 83 when I saw it at the movies. I think half the audience just about passed out with shock. For 83 it was so over the top but so well done. And the score? Man, that's one of the best scores ever. A few notes on a bass and some creepy synth. How cool is that? Very, very cool grasshopper. Waz in Oz

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 8:14 a.m. CST

    Thing Comics

    by TechLord

    The series is called "The Thing from Another World" by Dark Horse Comics. You could try to find it on or eBay. It is a GREAT series, picks up right where the movie left off. It starts with a rescue chopper coming in and finding them because one of their distress calls got through. I won't spoil any more. Great series!!!

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 8:33 a.m. CST

    It's Clobberin' Time

    by Hayden_Zuggs

    How can you make a movie about The Thing without the rest of the Fantastic Four?!

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 8:45 a.m. CST

    Good THING resource

    by Jodo

    Check this link out if you want to know more about how the Dark Horse comics further the THING story....

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 8:58 a.m. CST

    John Carpenter- auteur par excellence

    by SHIVA

    Now I don't know why so many find Carpenter's work misogynist and/or full of mechanical thrills, but I've always felt that he has given his heroines as much space to fight/die as he has to his male protagonists. His last two films, indicate his preference for giving his heroines the better deal. The Ghosts of Mars even portrays an ideal matriarchy. As for inducing Pavlovian responses, I have always felt that Carpenter is a classicist who more than any director in the horror/thriller genre working today allows his audience to use their imagination. He has always balanced his 'Scope frames with such fluidity that we feel a desperate need to keep an eye on every secition of the screen. His directorial eye never loses control and never allows any periphery to be arrived at accidentally. The idea of a secure world with breathing-space is completely undercut by his use of the frame where there are corners or apertures which seem to hold some ghastly apparition or the other. Now all this doesn't translate well onto the television screen where unless all the stuff is at the dead centre of the frame you are very likely to miss all the subtleties. I don't see very many people like Carpenter whose hold the belief that the frame can be used as a stabilizing force in a chaotic world. That is the key to much of his work.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 8:59 a.m. CST


    by SHIVA

    As for Big Trouble in Little China, Man, that movie was poking fun at Kurt Russel's macho posturing from the get-go. Kim Catrall's character was one of the fiestiest females I have seen in a big budget Hollywood film in the last several decades. Sort of like the women in Carpenters guru, Howard Hawks', films. As for They Live, I'm mostly with the guys who call this film 'macho'. But even here that macho thing is taken to ridiculous levels, to the point of satire. Consider that extended fist fight between Roddy Piper and Keith David. This is the film that, for all its faults, shows us the B-horror movie influences of the 50's that first inspired Carpenter to make films. Its a love letter to those films. And like most love letters, is flawed. I think that the movie is, like Cravens The People Under the Stairs, an expression of personal frustration that Carpenter felt during the Reagan era.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 9 a.m. CST

    more contd

    by SHIVA

    Ghosts of Mars made it into my best of the year list, possibly being the choice that raises the hackles of most readers. But I dont care.Its probably the most assured work by Carpenter since In the Mouth of Madness.Here,instead of the misstep that he made by redoing Hawks' Rio Bravo without any of the psychological motivations in Assault on Precinct 13,he reworks El Dorado.And the reception to the masters was remarkably similar to the reception that this film was accorded.Here the shifting aural perspectives combine with the shifting camera movements to plunge us into an unstable, nearly chaotic world full of momentary convergences.Ice Cube who lost my respect when he parodied Public Enemy in the early 90's is turning out to be quite a Woody Strode for the new millenium.What with this and 3 Kings it is he and not Denzel or Will who deserves recognition.I was most disappointed by the fact that no one on the hardcore Carpenter fan list,neither Quint,Moriarty nor Harry picked up on the delightful Cinemascope compositions that Carpenter created.But the soul of this movie is Natasha Henstridge in a great turn as the lead which is sure to be overlooked.Her performance rivals that of Naomi Watts in Mullholland Drive.Carpenter use of Pam Grier suggests a politically radical Spike Lee.Most of all though this movie owes the storyline to El Dorado and there have been claims of Carpenter deriving inspiration from Rio Bravo and The Thing from another World,these are not the Hawks movie that drive it.A sure sign of maturity,Carpenter draws from the masters last most misunderstood and perhaps greatest work Rio Lobo,with its inversion of the boy scout skills of a typical Hawks hero,the allusions to castration,the urge to repeat,the refusal to look death in the face.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 9:27 a.m. CST

    Oh, my sweet lord.

    by Boo's Mommy

    Shiva, no offense, but you talk more shit than my dad at a family reunion. I love "Halloween" and "The Thing" and even fucking "Prince of Darkness", but lately John Carpenter has been a festering shit-stain on the face of our fair cinema. He's just lost his mind. Hell, he even *looks* like he's lost his mind. Is it just me, or is he really rocking that whole crazed, Back-to-the-Future scientist look? And as for he and how he feels about women, well, if he doesn't completely hate us then he's sure as fuck getting there.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 10:05 a.m. CST

    Early J.C.- "I Am Woman, Here Me Roar"....Later J.C.- "Smack My

    by EricAlan69

    Normally, I wouldn't dare to say a bad word about J.C., because I've loved most of his films (and, frankly, his contemporary imagining of 'Rio Bravo' in 'Assault on Precinct 13' surpasses the original by making it more claustrophobic, and opening the connections to all of the characters, instead of that macho Hawks bullshit), and was all ready to jump in and defend Carpenter's treatment of women in his films....when I remembered two things. 1.)Yeah, in his *early* films, he certainly showed a preference toward his female characters, but that's slackened off to varying degrees....but then there was 2.) 'Vampires', a hideously bad film that managed to waste James Woods, fuck up vampire mythology all across the spectrum, and make Sheryl Lee look like a punching bag for everything spurned man on earth. I mean, Jesus! I actually cringed at the way she was getting bitch-slapped back and forth across rooms and being talked to like an inmate in an 'Ilsa' movie. Now, his returned to strong female characters again in G.O.M., but the film was so one-track, it didn't mean a thing. I mean, this was the most bare-bones plot execution I've seen in years. I really hope that at one point there actually *was* a script worth reading, and maybe in the editing phase they managed to strip all of the characters down to their skeletons, because if they started off that way, someone needs to get Cube, Natasha, Pam and Clea new agents. // I'm still always going to love old-school Carpenter, but he started losing me with that idiotic Roddy Piper flick, and damned near lost me for good with 'Vampires'. He's always worth another shot, but I don't get my hopes up. // e.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 10:07 a.m. CST

    Hey, Boo's Mommy....

    by EricAlan69

    ...aren't you a Kittie, too? // love and witchiechix, e.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 11:37 a.m. CST

    I still think he should do a sequel... Big Trouble In Little Chi

    by Kampbell-Kid

    Seriously tho... with hong kong martial art inspired films at a total high right now in the business. It made watching Big Trouble In Little China even more fun, more cool, and less campy in todays film world. WHY IS HE NOT DOING THIS PROJECT?! I wanna see more Jack and the green eye'd girls dammit!! Some crazy wire-fu, some cheezy cgi!!!

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 11:40 a.m. CST


    by Toranaga

    I am so jealous right now. My favorite director. My favorite fucking director! Jesus! This is probably what I get for recently talking shit about LA and how much I hate it and never want to live there again. And the fact that this reviewer had a chance to also watch Halloween and the Fog, but chose to skip it.......FUCK! Why? Because he doesn't like the Fog? SHIT-FUCK! I fucking love the Fog. I would have done anything to go to that screening. damn...

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 11:54 a.m. CST

    "Vampires" is not misogynist

    by Some Dude

    1) Content is not the same thing as intent. Repeat.------------------2) Lee plays a vampire. Woods is a vampire killer. His abuse is justified.------------------3) Even if "Vampires" is a misogynist work, that shouldn't negate the rest of Carpenter's decidedly pro-woman oeuvre.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, noon CST

    The death of Nauls

    by gakchat

    From what I remember, there was a scene cut from the film showing what happened to Nauls (the cook) because Rob Bottin's FX were not up to scratch. Mr. Carpenter, if you're reading, how about finishing that scene now and re-releasing THE THING as a "director's cut" dvd? I'm sure Rob would love the chance to complete his only failed effect. Or if that is too costly, take the existing footage and composite in a cgi creature (I know, I know...I'd prefer rubber and goo too).

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 1:22 p.m. CST

    The Thing was a flop??

    by Action

    It's mind boggling, really. "The Thing " is one of the best horror films ever made. As well a sci-fi. How this flopped escapes me. I rented the DVD a few months ago and couldn't belive how good it still is. Definetely Carpenter's second best film.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 1:26 p.m. CST

    at least Carpenter shows his good stuff

    by Louis P.

    I tend to lump Carpenter in the sam category has Walter Hill. They are both directors that have shown there age in recent years and are or were considered kingsof there genres. The difference it would seem is that Carpenter knows his good work form his bad. Hill was at Cinaquest in San Jose a few years back and showed "Wild Bill" and "Trespass". Both movies are bad (the first of which is awful) but Hill thought they bombed because the studio didn't get behind him. What a retard. This is how you know "Supernova" would have been shit even if Hill got his cut.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 2:55 p.m. CST

    HEY ! "The Fog" was kind of cool ! C'mon, someone agree !

    by SilenceofFreedom

    It had it's own charm, I thought. But whatever, what the hell do I know.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 3:03 p.m. CST

    THE THING is 'good'? You don't like THE FOG?

    by Cash Bailey

    Then what the fuck were you doing there!?!! I hope we get a report from someone who gives a shit.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 4:02 p.m. CST

    Ghosts of Mars Sucked

    by Barron34

    ..sorry, but it is true. Carpenter has done some great work, and The Thing is a masterpiece, one of the best horror movies of all time, IMO, but Carpenter has lost it. Ghosts of Mars was just awful, one of the few movies I have seen recently that made me angry I had spent money and time on..ouch...

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 4:17 p.m. CST

    Carpenter had it for a while...then he lost it...

    by Sabreman there any getting it back? Precinct 13, Halloween, The Thing, New York, Big Trouble (one of the most outright entertaining films ever in my opinion - I'm always in the mood for it), but since then, crapola. I mean, a couple of his later films were OK, but put it in perspective - the guy that gave us those classics should not be making films that are just 'OK'. Blimey, I almost forgot Dark Star!

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 5:11 p.m. CST

    JC stands for Just crap

    by Monkeybrains

    The dude was once great, maybe the best, but c'mon, "Ghost of Mars"? Worst piece of s*&t made last year, though I admit I did not see "Freddie got Fingered". (Only judge movies I saw, not what others say.) Crapenter maybe the saddest case of an absolutly brilliant director turned into a hack. I have a feeling that he did not really direct Halloween, Big Trouble, The Thing, Escape from NY. Hopefully if they try to make a sequel to the Thing, he won't be allowed to have anything to do with it. Ghost of Mars......uggh, I think I'm going to puke. Why did someone have to bring that back into my mind.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 6:03 p.m. CST

    Some info on missing THING footage...

    by tbrosz

    can be found here:

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 7:23 p.m. CST


    by JackBurton__ME!

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm wasting away here in Tucson where NOTHING COOL LIKE THIS WOULD EVER HAPPEN! Any of you that dis the MAN should take a look in the mirror and ask..... Can I really call myself a film geek without giving props to John Carpenter???? The answer clearly is NO. SHIVA, you ROCK!!!

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 8:48 p.m. CST

    Actually, I think it was Stan Winston that did the closing numbe

    by nazismasher

    I'm not really sure but I heard Rob Bottin had some sort of nervous breakdown at the end from being committed weeks on end with minimal rest and sustenance so Stan Winston was brought in to do the "dog penn creature" and the huge dog-man-alien Thing at the end using stop motion along with puppetry and animatronics. Then again it could have been due to the breakdown or that the effects weren't up to par. I can't remember just right now. Anyhow, I think The Thing needs no further embellishments. I'm totally satisfied with it and weary of any tampering that could lead to some cgi that would spoil next to the awesome creature effects. I too am loathe to think this film didn't do so well in '82. SCREW THAT S*IT! Rob Bottin's work on this is legendary, the story is such a cool trip on 50's b-movies, and the whole Thing just jelled together so effortlessly on the screen it was only a matter of time before Horror-scifi fans finally caught up with this film.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 9:06 p.m. CST

    Big Trouble in little China Bombed Too

    by BigTuna

    So don't expect a sequel to that either. There isn't a huge demand for it despite how much net geeks like ourselves love the movie.

  • Jan. 27, 2002, 10:44 p.m. CST

    alas poor John Carpenter, I knew him well...

    by the shrunkenHead

    well, when I say knew him, it's more of a deep fondness for his earlier work really. But thinking about it, with the recent duds , I don't want to write JC off yet, there's too much genius in the bloke for it all to have shrivelled away. I like to think he's got at least one film left in him that could explode geek testicles from 50 yards. Whatever his sins, the guys still got a film track record that will always secure him deep respect.

  • Jan. 28, 2002, 12:14 a.m. CST

    The Carpenter\Russell commentaries are always great.

    by Cash Bailey

    The Fincher\Pitt ones are great too, but they can't compete with the commentary on a movie like BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. The commentary is funnier than the movie itself, if that's possible. I'd kill for a great Rob Bottin commentary. That guy's hilarious on that THING DVD documentary. BTW, Stan Winston did the mutated dog-thing in the kennel, not the big end monster. That was pure Bottin genius.

  • Jan. 28, 2002, 2:06 a.m. CST

    Christine rules!!

    by spiderblood1969

    So does the Fog!!

  • Jan. 28, 2002, 2:12 a.m. CST

    Enigmatic Carpenter

    by Lord Shell

    I'm not sure why, buy J.C. (Jesus Christ?) seems to run hot and cold. I've seen him do some films that I've thought were some of the best and most influential ever made. Some of his "off" pictures are pretty weak, but still manage to bring some odd and unique things to the screen. I think it just comes down to something annoying fanboys can't seem to understand: NOBODY gets it right EVERY time! Enjoy and appreciate a creator's flaws as well as his strengths. Uneven films can be just as enjoyable as "perfect" ones if you appreciate the effort and vision involved (I always like to use "The Fifth Element" as an example of a flawed masterpiece. It doesn't quite work, but is still a glorious journey thanks to the ballsy vision of its creator.)~~~~~~~Damn. I really went off on a rant there. Sorry.~~~~~~~~I just wish John would do an adaption of a Lovecraft story like "The Dunwich Horror" or "The Colour Out of Space". Sigh.

  • Jan. 28, 2002, 2:57 a.m. CST

    The Thing and Gulacy

    by Clare Quilty

    Can't recommend the Dark Horse "The Thing" -comics highly enough. Absolutely brilliant. One little thing's been bothering me over the years, though. I remember DHC annoucing a third mini-series by Paul Gulacy, but I don't recall ever seeing it. Does anybody out there know what happened? Was it ever published, or did I just not look close enough?

  • Jan. 28, 2002, 5:14 a.m. CST

    EricAlan69- re: Kittie

    by Boo's Mommy

    What's a "Kittie?" Just curious. Have no idea whether I am one or not.

  • Jan. 28, 2002, 8:08 a.m. CST

    The Thing, and comics

    by laguna_loire

    The first two-parter following from the film was truly excellent and I still have mine in mint nick. The follow-on with macReady in the jungle was good too, but after that the stories lost the horror, in what seemed to be a removal of MacReady and a resolvance to new characters. I love the Thing, its still the best horror movie of all time alongside Alien, in my opinion. Its not a sci-fi/horror thing (no pun intended), its just that these films truly convey fear of the dark and of the unknown and fear of trust. If anybody lives here in the UK Dark Horzions do have numerous back-issues of the Thing and Aliens comics, as well as the awesome Predator comics by DH too, and also all the separate series have been collated into card/hardback books, published by Titan. Have a good hard look and you'll find'em!! Lastly, if the Thing comics were good then applause must be hefted on the artist who painted the covers - they still entrance, with a gilt of sheer horror and beauty combined.......

  • Jan. 28, 2002, 9:27 a.m. CST

    If you don't like the Fog,

    by sanjuro

  • Jan. 28, 2002, 3:59 p.m. CST

    Thing had cool marketing

    by Orange Crush

    I was a small child, living in Austin, when the thing came out. I didn't get to see the film until years later, but I seem to remember a big, slightly sinister-looking crate being in the lobby of one of the theaters (Aquarius?) to advertise the thing. I don't get disturbed by movies all that often, but The Thing still gives me the creeps. Darn, Norwegians!

  • Jan. 28, 2002, 4:50 p.m. CST

    The Thing.. one of my all time fave horror flicks

    by PR_GMR

    It is one of my all time favorite horror flicks. And even though the original wasn't a hit.. I wish a sequel would be made. Maybe I'll track down those Dark Horse comics and see this 'comic sequel' referred to in the article. It should be interesting.

  • Jan. 28, 2002, 9:35 p.m. CST

    you know,

    by the shrunkenHead

    I can't think of any film since The Thing that was actually worthy of a skid mark in the underpants. Why don't they make horror films like this anymore? Alien, Jaws, (even , uh Poltergeist) all had that : " AARGGHH !!! WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT ?!?!" factor. I'd so love to see a resurgence of proper terrifying balls-hiding-in-your-belly style horror films. Those moments spent dribbling in disbelief are a highly prized commodity to me. Oh , and the one scene that I could only view after perhaps fifteen viewings of The Thing is the bit where they draw blood to see who's it. Papercuts suck. Big paper cuts are just plain gruesome.