The Thing appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not flawless, the movie looked quite good.
Sharpness seemed mostly crisp and clear from start to finish. Some softness crept into the occasional wide shot or interior, but most of that seemed to stem from the source material, as the combination of anamorphic lenses and dimly-lit sets made for focus challenges. Overall, the image was well-defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects were virtually nonexistent, and I noticed no edge enhancement. As for source defects, I noticed a couple of specks but nothing else. The movie looked surprisingly clean.
Colors looked appropriate. The film used a blue tint to match the chilly setting, and the hues were seemed accurate and true. Black levels were nicely deep and rich, and shadows were solid. As I mentioned, the movie featured many low-light interiors, and those caused potential problems. Nonetheless, they usually appeared reasonably concise. Overall, the transfer proved positive.
I also found the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The Thing to prove satisfying. The soundfield was surprisingly wide and detailed for a relatively old film such as this. The mix appeared quite active and the elements were appropriately located within the environment. Panning between speakers seemed slightly awkward but worked acceptably well. Although I didn't notice much split surround usage, the rear channels added a nice element to the track and helped create a nicely encompassing soundstage.
Audio quality was similarly positive. Speech was natural and concise, with no signs of edginess or issues connected to intelligibility. Effects were occasionally a little thin but they remained decently realistic. They displayed only a little distortion, most significantly during explosions.
Ennio Morricone's score came across very well. It seemed smooth and clear and boasted some good bass at times. It's an impressive mix for an older movie.
How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray of The Thing compare with the 2004 Special Edition? The audio is pretty similar; the lossless DTS track offers a little more punch, but there’s only so much that can be done with the source material, so don’t expect revelations.
As for the picture, it demonstrates the usual step up in tightness we get with most Blu-rays. Actually, the increased resolution can be a drawback in some ways, as softness inherent to the original footage becomes more apparent; the lack of definition found in some interiors was less noticeable on the DVD. Nonetheless, much of the Blu-ray looks very good, and it clearly outshines the DVD.
One area in which the DVDs top the Blu-ray relates to extras, as the Blu-ray doesn’t include all of its predecessors’ components. First up is an audio commentary from 1995 that features director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. The track rambles a bit and the participants - especially Carpenter - tend to spend too much time describing the action on screen, but I liked it nonetheless.
Both of the guys sound like they're having a great deal of fun as they talk about the movie, and enough interesting information appears to make the commentary worthwhile. We get notes on the sets and locations, story and character issues, stunts and effects, and various production elements. Honestly, even Carpenter's frequent blow-by-blow of what we already see on screen bothered me much less than usual just because the pair are so engaging. Lots of people regard this as an all-time great commentary; I don’t think it’s that good, but I like it.
For something more interactive, we jump to U-Control. Also found on other Universal Blu-rays, this offers a way to experience content as you watch the movie. However, don’t expect a wide variety of forms of content; unlike other similar programs, this one sticks with picture-in-picture material.
“U-Control” mixes interviews and behind the scenes footage. We get notes from Carpenter, Russell, producer David Foster, screenwriter Bill Lancaster, director of photography Dean Cundey, production designer John Lloyd, special makeup effects artist Rob Bottin, additional creature effects artist Stan Winston, special optical effects artist Peter Kuran, editor Todd Ramsay, Joel Polis, matte artist Albert Whitlock, model maker Susan Turner, and actors Richard Masur, Charles Hallahan, and Joel Polis. We learn about the adaptation of the source material and the film’s development, sets and locations, creature design, various effects and visual choices, cast and performances, and a few other production issues.
If you own either of the prior Thing DVDs – or the 1995 laserdisc, for that matter - you’ve already seen this material. “U-Control” simply takes the old “Terror Takes Shape” documentary and spreads its 84 minutes across the film’s 109 minutes. It’s a fine program, but it works best when viewed as intended, not as a bits-and-pieces “interactive” show.
Honestly, I’m not sure why the Blu-ray’s producers felt the need to alter the documentary’s presentation. If the “U-Control” broadened the show’s scope, that’d be one thing, but as it stands, the Blu-ray omits a bunch of behind the scenes features found on the SE DVD. I think it’s a big disappointment that the Blu-ray – with all its extra storage capacity – comes with fewer supplements than the 2004 DVD.
Although it was a financial bomb at the box office in the summer of 1982, The Thing has since gone on to become a minor classic of the science fiction genre. Its delicious melding of sci-fi creatures with Fifties-era paranoiac drama create a film that remains wonderfully tense and unusual. The Blu-ray provides pretty good picture and sound with a few interesting extras.
I’d love to wholeheartedly recommend the Blu-ray, but I can’t. While it presents the movie in the best manner to date, it drops many of the supplements from the prior DVDs. Fans will want to get it to see the film in the most positive way, but the absence of so many existing extras makes the Blu-ray a disappointment.
To rate this film visit the Collector's Edition review of THE THING