It’s always good news when classic movies get restored and one such classic Kurt Russell movie is getting the complete make-over. The Thing, the John Carpenter 1982 horror film, stars Kurt Russell as MacReady, a pilot for an American research station. The film begins with a Norwegian helicopter chasing a sled dog as it approaches the research station. Not understanding why the helicopter is shooting at the dog, the Norwegian pilot is shot dead in self-defense when it lands.
Kurt Russell as MacReady, along with the station’s doctor, Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart), then go to inspect the Norwegian base. When they get there, they find it destroyed. They also find frozen corpses and the burned remains of a malformed humanoid, which they bring back to the base to study.
At the base, the horror begins. The kennel dogs are the first victims of the Thing. After the new creature is incinerated, it is autopsied. They discover that this creature can perfectly imitate other organisms, including humans.
Now, no one is safe, something Kurt Russell finds out quickly. No one at the base is without suspicion as bodies begin to drop. More investigating is conducted, and it is found that the Norwegians had discovered a partially buried spaceship along with a much smaller human dig site.
The hunt is on to discover which remaining human at the American base is actually the alien creature. It’s like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None as one-by-one, the research station falls prey to the alien.
John Carpenter was riding high when he took on The Thing. The noted horror director began with Assault on Precinct 13 and then moved on to the horror classic Halloween. He turned that hit into another with The Fog and then worked for the first time with Kurt Russell in Escape from New York.
Kurt Russell and John Carpenter teamed up again one year later for The Thing. Although Russell initially wasn’t slated to be in the movie (he was the last actor to sign on the dotted line), he eventually took the role.
The Thing was not an instant classic. In fact, the movie was widely regarded as one of the most hated films at the time of its release. The Thing is a loose remake of the 1951 Howard Hawks film The Thing from Another World. Upon its release, Carpenter’s The Thing was labeled as “instant junk” and “a wretched excess.” Horror, fantasy, and science fiction magazine Cinefantastique posed the question, “Is this the most hated movie of all time?”
It could be that the Kurt Russell-led film was simply the result of bad timing. Two weeks before The Thing premiered, Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was released. Any film, much less a dark, gory, science fiction film revolving around aliens, that followed the massive hit E.T. was bound to fare poorly.
It is also noted that not only was The Thing having to deal with the E.T. success, but it also had Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Poltergeist, as well as Disney’s Tron to contend with. Bad timing to say the least.
So, how did a movie so reviled during its initial run become such a cult classic with critics now approving the movie at an 86% clip per Rotten Tomatoes? First off, Kurt Russell delivered a solid performance. Secondly, many critics, over time, were able to look back on The Thing with a different lens. The special effects, for its time, were practical and now considered some of the best on film. Now, the story stands on its own.
As for Kurt Russell, his career has spanned nearly 60 years and if one takes a look at where it started (with Walt Disney), seeing him graduate to a John Carpenter horror film is not where you’d predict him to be.
After years of finding himself in Disney family films, Kurt Russell first made the leap into more adult-oriented movies with the 1980 underrated comedy Used Cars. It would be the first time fans would hear Russell utter a naughty word, and it pretty much opened his career for many other projects.
Kurt Russell would team up with John Carpenter a total of five times, starting with the 1979 TV movie Elvis with Russell taking on the role as the King. Their other movies included Escape from New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, and Escape from L.A.
Kurt Russell would also go on to star in many more notable movies such as Swing Shift (where he met his lifetime partner Goldie Hawn), The Best of Times, Overboard, Tango & Cash, Backdraft, Captain Ron, Tombstone, Stargate, and Executive Decision. Those were just his big ‘80s and ‘90s hits.
Kurt Russell would also eventually return to the studio that first brought him fame in Disney’s Miracle and Sky High as well as the 2017 mega-hit, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Most recently, Kurt Russell teamed up with Hawn once again for The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two and he can now be seen reprising his role as Mr. Nobody in F9.
You can see The Thing over many streaming services and the film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray. But if you’re wanting to watch the Kurt Russell classic with as crisp an eye as possible, the 4k UHD disc will be available on September 7, 2021.