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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

enik1138
at popapostle-dot-com

The Thing The Thing
Screenplay by Bill Lancaster
Directed by John Carpenter
Released in 1982

A U.S. scientific research outpost in the Antarctic is invaded by a being from outer space which can take over the form of any life form it encounters.

 

Read the complete transcription of The Thing at the Outpost31 discussion board

 

Didja Know?

 

The Thing is based on the 1938 short story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell (writing as Don A. Stuart).

 

The first season episode "Ice" of the 1993-2002 TV series The X-Files, in which 250,000 year old worms dug out of the ice at a research station in Alaska infect the human personnel and cause them to turn on each other, was significantly inspired by The Thing.

 

Didja Notice?

 

The spaceship we see crashing to Earth at the very beginning of the film pretty much has the look of a classic-style flying saucer, perhaps in homage to the original film version, The Thing from Another World, from 1951, during a decade which saw a plethora of flying saucer movies (and sightings!). The spaceship in The Thing from Another World is also depicted as a saucer.

 

Why does the saucer crash? We never learn the reason and there was no apparent damage to the craft as we see it soaring through space towards Earth. Perhaps the Thing itself was not the pilot; possibly an alien pilot had just been caught by surprise by the Thing and the transformation process was in the middle of occurring, leaving the ship out of control or internally damaged by a battle. (Peter Watts' story "The Things" has a different explanation. And a back-story in early drafts of the script of the The Thing prequel movie of 2011 described the Norwegians boarding the craft early in the film and discovering dead alien bodies and evidence that the ship was a zoology lab in space that had brought the Thing aboard and it had escaped and attacked the crew, causing the crash. )

 

The opening scene of the alien saucer soaring towards Earth's surface must take place about 100,000 years ago. Norris later guesses the ice in which the ship was found buried is that old or older.

 

The land masses seen on Earth as the saucer enters the atmosphere are the white, snow-covered Antarctic peninsula and the brownish-green tip of South America.

 

The title logo here is designed similarly to that of The Thing from Another World.
1982 1951

 

The film's opening tells the viewer it takes place in Antarctica, Winter 1982. Antarctica is the icy continent at the South Pole. Winter there lasts from February 28 through September 21, with a few months of 24-hour darkness. The story must take place sometime in the early winter weeks when there is still some daytime sunlight.

 

The "Norge" on the tail of the helicopter should tell viewers right away that it is a Norwegian vehicle; "Norge" is Norse for Norway.

 

The sign outside the U.S. installation tells us it is United States National Science Institute Station 4. This appears to be a fictional installation and institute made up for the film. It is more frequently referred to in the film as Outpost 31.

 

From the open toolbox sitting on the snowcat treads at 4:45 on the DVD, it appears Childs was making repairs to the vehicle. When Palmer comes out of the compound (with a couple of the others) to investigate the arriving helicopter, he appears to have some tools in his hand, so he may have been about to come out to help Childs with repairs anyway.

 

Being an all male research station, it's not surprising that, at 4:49 on the DVD, we see numerous photos of scantily-clad and sexily-posed women on the wall of the rec room.

 

At 4:57 on the DVD, MacReady is drinking a bottle of J&B Rare Blend, a blended Scotch whisky. This is a real world brand, J&B standing for Justerini & Brooks, which has been around since 1749 (though known as Johnson & Justerini at that time). MacReady is playing a Chess Wizard computer while he's drinking. Chess Wizard appears to be a fictional model of game-playing computer for the time, though there are some computerized chess games using that name now.

 

There appears to have been some moves cut from MacReady's chess game because the monitor screen showing the board, and the computer voice's description of the moves, do not entirely correlate with the seemingly two rounds of play we witness.

 

The Chess Wizard's female voice is too realistic to have been a computer voice of the time. Allegedly actress Adrienne Barbeau provided the voice in an uncredited role (she was married to John Carpenter at the time).

 

The discarded oil drum seen outside of the U.S. camp at 6:05 on the DVD has a Chevron logo on it. Chevron is a multinational energy corporation, best known for oil and gas.

 

At about 6:20 on the DVD, there is a sign posted below the main Station 4 sign. According to the Outpost31 website, it is a Smokey the Bear sign and is only clearly visible on a theater sized screen.

 

At 7:46 on the DVD, a Busch Beer neon sign can just barely be seen behind the bar of the rec room. This is a real beer brand brewed by Anheuser-Busch. To the left side of the bar, a Natural Light neon sign is seen, also an Anheuser-Busch beer. Some Budweiser cases can be seen stacked up just outside of the bar, in the rec room; Budweiser is another, more popular, Anheuser-Busch brand of beer.

 

There is an Asteroids Deluxe arcade game in the rec room.

 

The scene of one of the Norwegians grabbing a grenade out of the case at 8:05 on the DVD, is a repeat clip from the earlier scene at 7:14.

 

At 8:41 on the DVD, a Caterpillar mini-tractor can be seen parked in the background. It is seen a few times in various shots of the outpost exterior, but it's never used.

 

After the "attack" by the Norwegian copter, Windows tries to call McMurdo Station on the outpost's radio, to no avail. McMurdo Station is a real world U.S. research station on Ross Island in the McMurdo Sound of Antarctica. It was founded in 1956 and is the largest community on the continent.

 

At 11:25 on the DVD, there appear to be two Revell plastic model boxes on a shelf. At 1:22:55, we see another Revell box labeled "Stratofortress", the Boeing B-52 bomber built for the U.S. Air Force.

 

At 11:34 on the DVD, Palmer appears to be lighting up and smoking a joint.

 

Fuchs reads from a report of some kind that the Norwegians had only been at their outpost for about 8 weeks.

 

Nauls is heard referring to Garry as "bwana". Bwana is a Swahili word which more-or-less means master or lord.

 

Palmer wears a denim jacket with the sleeves cut off. The back of it has a motorcycle gang logo of two crossed battle axes over a motorcycle wheel and reads "Barbarians, California". On the front of the jacket is an olive drab patch that says U.S. Army.

 

At 14:22 on the DVD, the new dog seems to be listening attentively to the sound of MacReady's copter taking off. Later, the dog also watches it return through a window.

 

The U.S. helicopter flown by Mac appears to the same model as the Norwegian one that chased the dog to the outpost. Probably the production just redressed the same copter to act as both.

 

At 14:48 on the DVD, we see that Nauls has a Cuisinart blender and Panasonic boom box in his kitchen. The song that is playing on the box is "Superstitious" by Stevie Wonder.

 

There has been much speculation about who the first human victim at Outpost 31 was. Presumably, it is the person whose shadow silhouette we see at 15:38 on the DVD, as the new dog walks in on him. To me the head silhouette looks like someone with puffy hair like Windows or, since we later learn that Windows isn't infected, Norris. (Peter Watts' short story "The Things" suggests it was Palmer.)

Throughout the scenes of MacReady and Copper exploring the ruins of the Norwegian base, occasional icicles can be seen jiggling on the ceiling beams, etc., indicating they are plastic props on a soundstage.

 

At 17:55 on the DVD, the band on Copper's goggles is seen to have the Scott logo on them.

 

Since the Norwegian base had seemingly been set on fire, how is that the large, carved-out ice block is still unmelted?

 

How did the Norwegians get the huge block of ice inside their outpost? The block appears to be quite a bit larger than the door!

 

At 21:49 on the DVD, it looks like there may be two burned bodies in the snow at the Norwegian base.

At 24:26 on the DVD, Windows has fallen asleep at his station in the radio room with a copy of Photoplay magazine on his chest. It must be an old issue because the magazine ceased publication in 1980. Possibly it's an old copy that was lying around the station from previous inhabitants.

 

At 25:58 on the DVD, Palmer and Childs are watching an old video tape, on a Panasonic TV and VCR, of Let's Make a Deal, a TV game show the original version of which ran from 1963-1986.

 

A Heat Wave pinball machine can be seen in the rec room at 26:54 on the DVD. This game was produced by Williams in 1964. It's probably intended as ironic that a game called Heat Wave is at an outpost in Antarctica; perhaps also that MacReady is standing right next to it while he tries to reignite his flame-thrower to kill the Palmer-Thing at 1:23:07.

 

At 29:00 on the DVD, the Thing-dog squirts a pressurized stream of fluid at one of the other dogs in the kennel. What is the purpose of this? Was it just meant to chase the dog away from the hole it was tearing in the chain-link fencing to prevent its escape? Or was the Thing using the fluid to squirt its own cells at the dog in order to infect it from a distance? Possibly, the slime-covered dog still in the kennel and being "tentacled" by the Thing at 31:17 is the same dog.

 

When Clark goes to investigate the barking and other noises coming from the kennel, he flicks the light switch but the light inside the pen itself does not come on like it did earlier when Clark put the new dog in. Did the Thing deliberately smash out the bulb with its tentacles in hopes of going unseen should a human walk by?

 

At 30:07 on the DVD, MacReady uses a can of Budweiser to break the glass on the fire alarm.

 

When MacReady pulls the fire alarm after hearing the sounds of the chaos in the kennel, notice that at about 30:23 on the DVD, Dr. Copper appears to have stumbled out into the hallway with no underwear on! Yet, he is wearing socks and boots!

 

At 30:47 on the DVD, the men walk past a crate with the stenciled words, "FROM, SUSMAX SCIENTIFIC, PALM DESERT, CA". As far as I can tell, this is a fictitious company.

 

There were 6 dogs in the kennel when the Thing-dog was put in with them. Two of the dogs dash out of the gate when Clark comes back and opens it to investigate the disturbance. Two more are seen under attack by the Thing. Did the Thing already absorb the other two?

 

Notice that an eye opens in the middle of the pulsing mass of the Thing at 32:11 on the DVD. Another one is briefly seen at the bottom of the frame seconds later.

 

According to special effects designer Rob Bottin, the Thing-formation that looks like some kind of carnivorous flower at 32:20 on the DVD, is actually intended to be made up of a number of dog tongues with teeth along the center of each!

 

Looking at the records brought back from the Norwegian camp, Norris remarks that the inhabitants seemed to have been spending a lot of time at a spot 5 or 6 miles north of their camp. This would be the location of the crashed saucer.

 

At 36:05 on the DVD, the group is watching the Norwegian video records on an RCA TV. They see the Norwegian team plant thermite charges over a large object buried in the ice. Thermite is a metallic powder that can generate an extremely hot burst of heat when combined with a catalyst. Later we see that the Norwegians apparently used the thermite to melt the ice away from the object, discovering the crashed alien saucer. However, in The Thing prequel, the activated ship melts its own way out of the ice; there does not appear to have been any thermite used to uncover it.

 

The Antarctic map seen at 37:05 on the DVD is labeled in Norwegian and uses real world place names on the continent such as Dronning Maud Land and Enderby Land, etc.

 

At 40:45 on the DVD, there is a bottle of Budweiser and a can of Coke sitting on the table next to Blair.

 

When Palmer starts supporting MacReady's theory of the creature being of extraterrestrial origin, he mentions Chariots of the Gods. This is a 1968 book by Erich von Daniken postulating his theories that aliens visited Earth in the distant past and interacted with ancient human civilizations.

 

Blair's computer projection predicts that if the alien organism reaches civilized areas, the entire world population would be infected 27,000 hours from first contact. That comes to 1,125 days, or a little more than 3 years.

 

At 43:14 on the DVD, Blair has a bottle of Smirnoff vodka as he uses the computer to calculate infection projection rates by the alien organism. Smirnoff is a real world brand but, strangely, the word "vodka" appears to be obscured by a black strip on the bottle seen here.

 

MacReady is drinking some more J&B at 43:23 on the DVD. There is also a can of Coors Beer next to the J&B bottle.

 

Bennings tells Windows the grotesque body brought back from the Norwegian camp is going to win somebody the Nobel prize. The Nobel prizes are awarded once a year by a committee of the Scandinavian countries for work in the studies of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace and are considered the top prizes in the world in each field.

 

After Windows covers the recovered Norwegian corpse with the blanket, the blanket is seen to be moving slightly at 45:03 on the DVD. At 45:21, thawed fluid is seen dripping from the thawing corpse down to the floor.

 

Fuchs tells MacReady he wants to talk to him privately in the Thiokol. Thiokol is a manufacturer of snow vehicles (as well as chemical compounds). Thiokol vehicles were also seen modified as the landrams and snowrams that appeared in some episodes of the original Battlestar Galactica. When Fuchs and MacReady go outside and climb into the vehicle, it can be seen that it is actually a Skidozer, manufactured by Bombardier, not Thiokol. A model plate on the front shows that there are at least two Skidozers at the outpost, a Skidozer 301 and a Skidozer 302.

 

At 51:42 on the DVD, why is there a flashlight conveniently sitting on the helicopter's landing pontoons for MacReady to pick up and examine the interior at night? I guess we have to assume Blair left it there when he came out to sabotage the aircraft.

 

When MacReady runs into the main building from outside at 52:12 on the DVD, he runs past a door marked "M.T. Garry, Station Manager". It must be Garry's office or quarters.

 

In the director's commentary, Carpenter points out that at around 53:00 on the DVD, we can see that actor Keith David (as Childs) has a cast (painted brown to match his skin) on his left hand. David had broken his hand in a car accident a day or so before this scene was shot.

 

At 57:42 on the DVD, several large containers of Rhoplex are seen stacked in the hallway. Rhoplex is an acrylic polymer used in many sealants. Probably it is used at the outpost to seal floor, wall, and window edges to keep in heat and keep out cold and ice.

 

There has been some controversy among fans over the years as to whether Doc Copper is wearing a small nose ring in his right nostril. Some say yes, some say he just has a small mole there that occasionally reflects the light. Well, photos of the actor himself do not show any mole there. And a scene at 58:29 on the DVD, definitely shows a ring in his nostril! In the screen shot below, you can see not only the reflection of light on the ring, but also its shadow cast on his upper lip. It does seem odd though that a "midwestern doctor" (as described in the novelization), especially at his age, would wear one!

 

After finding the blood supply to have been sabotaged, Garry and Copper both agree that only the two of them had access to the key which opens the locked medical refrigerator where the blood was stored. Of course, they both deny having done it, which makes sense since we later learn that neither are possessed by the Thing. So, how did the blood get sabotaged? (In Peter Watts' story "The Things", Copper was, in fact, a Thing; he just hadn't been one long enough for his blood to be entirely converted, so it didn't react to MacReady's blood test.)

 

Apparently, one of the Things was smart enough to think of the blood serum test before the human group did since he had already sabotaged the blood supply before they thought of it. This would make Blair the most likely to have done it, being a biologist (or, again according to "The Things", Copper).

 

When Windows starts to get a little paranoid about who's still human or not, he runs and busts the glass out of a gun cabinet to grab one of several rifles. Why does the station have the rifles in the first place? There are no native predators in the Antarctic dangerous to humans. Possibly the guns are for hunting (seals, penguins) in case they should be stranded for an extended period without resupplies of food. (The novelization tells us the rifles are for recreational shooting or in case the biologists need to bring down a specimen.)

 

Since Garry is under suspicion, there is a bit of argument over who will take the leadership role and possession of Garry's Magnum. MacReady ends up with the unenviable promotion. We see him with the Magnum in the later scenes, but presumably he also hid, or locked up more securely, the rifles from the glass case that Windows broke into earlier.

 

After the group discovers the sabotaged blood, MacReady mentions that a storm will be hitting them in 6 hours. Later, it seems that a couple of days have passed since then, because we hear MacReady recording a log onto a cassette tape and he comments that the storm has been hitting them hard for 48 hours.

 

During his recording, we will learn that MacReady's first and middle initials are R.J. We also later see the name R.J. MacReady on the torn clothing found by Fuchs.

 

When Fuchs is startled by MacReady walking in on him at his desk, he quickly wraps his hand around an Erlenmeyer flask sitting on the desk, half-full of a dark liquid. Is the solution in the flask possibly his idea of a weapon, like maybe some kind of acid?

 

At 1:04:37, Fuchs appears to have a coffee mug with his name on it sitting on his desk.

 

At 1:06:28, a six pack of Natural Light beer is resting on top of the juke box in the rec room.

 

There is a line art poster of a woman in the rec room with the phrase at the top, "THEY AREN'T LABELLED, CHUM", and she is holding a tag that reads, "I HAVE Vd!" This may be a reproduction of a WWII-era "public service" poster warning G.I.s on furlough about venereal disease.

 

At 1:06:49 on the DVD, the sedated Dr. Copper has fallen asleep on the couch with his head on Clark's shoulder.

 

At 1:13:00 on the DVD, there appear to be a couple cases of Milk Duds in the storage room. Milk Duds are roundish caramel candies coated with chocolate.

 

When Dr. Copper delivers the first charge to the dying Norris with the shock paddles, at 1:15:09 an electrical spark can actually be seen from the paddle closest to the camera. 

 

When Copper gets is arms bitten off inside Norris' chest, notice that the arm on the left somehow was severed above the location of the teeth!

 

When the Norris-Thing shoots a grisly stalk from its torso up towards the ceiling (at 1:15:30 on the DVD), there appear to be two tiny, baby-like, human arms and hands growing out of the stalk at different locations. I attempted to get decent screen grabs but each frame always came out with the hands looking blurry from motion, as below. Watch it closely on DVD and you'll see the horizontal appendages look more like hands than they do here.
   
Seconds later, at 1:15:39, the hands seem to have turned into tiny feet!

 

Note that the Norris-Thing actually has two Norris heads. While the head on a stalk is distracting the humans by its presence on the ceiling, the original head is sliding down the back of the table to sprout spidery legs and make an attempt to escape.

 

One of the most well-known lines from the film has got to be when the Norris-head-spider-thing is scuttling out the door and Palmer says, "You gotta be fuckin' kidding..!" Ironically, Palmer is himself already one of the Things at this point (as we learn minutes later)!

 

Notice that when MacReady begins explaining his idea to test each person's blood, he is now wearing a "bandolier" of dynamite on his lower torso.

 

At 1:16:03, what appears to be an Atari 2600 Game System, with two joysticks, can be seen sitting on top of the TV behind Clark.

 

As MacReady makes Windows draw blood from each member of the group, Windows is using the same scalpel on each man. Isn't that inviting the Thing's cells to infect the next man's open wound? They should have been using clean scalpels on each, or at least disinfecting the scalpel with alcohol or flame after each cut. The best we see Windows do is to wipe the blade on his pants!

 

As Windows is thrown into the wall at 1:24:02, we see another shelf of games and puzzles. Legible titles are: Stay Alive, Gribbit, Chess, Easy Money, Numbers Up, Backgammon. These are all real board games; in this case all appear to have been produced by Milton Bradley.

 

Starting at 1:25:30 on the DVD, you can see in the background that MacReady has leaned a ping pong table, propped with another table and a chair, up against the hole in the rec room wall that was made by the Palmer-Thing. 

 

On the small, saucer-shaped ship Blair was building underground, there appears to be some exhaust jets at 1:29:04 on the DVD. The dual exhausts are similar to the ones seen on the large saucer.
Small saucer Large saucer model

 

Notice that the Caterpillar tractor that Nauls drives through the building wall has gasoline cans strung up all over the outside of it to further facilitate the explosion they plan to ignite.

 

Notice that when Blair attacks Garry at 1:35:40 on the DVD, his fingers appear to merge into Garry's face. Seconds later, at 1:36:03, Blair is seen dragging Garry's corpse by his fingers which are still fused into the man's face. This same type of attack is later seen again in "Climate of Fear" Part 2.

 

As the camera zooms in on the creature at 1:37:59, notice that the head is Blair with a giant carnivore mouth emerging from the side of his head!

 

As an exhausted MacReady sits within the wreckage of the outpost and sucks down his bottle of J&B, Childs staggers up, claiming that he had earlier thought he'd seen Blair outside and went out after him, then got lost in the storm. But, looking back, it seems that Blair must have been inside at the time, blowing the generator just seconds after we saw Childs run out into the snow. So, who did Childs see outside if not Blair (if anyone)? This may be a clue that Childs is a Thing (as depicted in Peter Watts' short story "The Things").

 

Notes from the Director's Commentary on the DVD, with John Carpenter and Kurt Russell

 

The opening scenes of the Norwegian dog running through the snowfields were shot near Juneau, Alaska. The outpost was a specially-constructed, working set of buildings built by the crew during summer on a glacier near Stewart, British Columbia, Canada; then the winter was allowed to set in for the appropriate look of snow and ice for the shoot.

 

The Norwegian who is firing his rifle at the dog from the helicopter was played by the film's first assistant director, Larry Franco. The Norwegian dialog spoken by him to the pilot was just ad-libbed sounds and are not real Norwegian words at all!

 

Kurt Russell and John Carpenter came up with a back story for MacReady that he was a Vietnam vet and alcoholic.

 

Actor David Clennon came up with a back story for Palmer suggesting that he had just recently gotten out of rehab before taking on the mechanic job at the outpost.

 

Carpenter and Russell reveal that there were endless discussions on the set about whether the people who were secretly Things knew they were Things or did they still believe they were human? From my vantage point as a fan analyzing the film and the novelization, I'd have to lean towards the idea that the characters did not know they were Things; they are duplicated so perfectly that they have their normal personalities and memories (except for the memory of being "assimilated") with a small part of the brain reserved for the Thing consciousness to observe and take over when needed. In the "making of" documentary on the DVD called John Carpenter's The Thing: Terror Takes Shape, actor Charles Hallahan, who played Norris, seems to agree that the possessed characters did not know they were possessed when he comments that he actually played Norris that way and, in the scene when Norris is asked to take charge in place of Garry, he played it that Norris says he's "not up to it" because he subliminally knew something was wrong even though he had no recall of the assimilation. The writers of the various comic book mini-series published by Dark Horse seem to also have followed this concept of the possessed not knowing it. 

 

Notes from the novelization of The Thing by Alan Dean Foster
(The page numbers come from the 1st printing, paperback edition, published February 1982)

 

Page 1 calls Antarctica the worst desert on Earth, except it never gets hot. In fact, Antarctica is officially classified as a desert due to its low precipitation rates. The narrative here references the Sahara, the Gobi, and Rub al Khali. These are all large real world deserts, the Sahara in north Africa, the Gobi in northern China and southern Mongolia, and Rub al Khali covering most of the Arabian Peninsula.

 

Page 1 also mentions the Vinson Massif. This is the highest mountain in Antarctica at 16,050 feet.

 

Finally, also mentioned on page 1, is Erebus. Mount Erebus is the southernmost historically active volcano on Earth, located on Ross Island in Antarctica.

 

On page 2, the passenger with the rifle in the Norwegian copter is said to be using Zeiss binoculars in search of the dog on the snowfields below. Zeiss is a real company in Germany that has made optical devices since 1846.

 

Page 2 reveals that the dog which has escaped from the Norwegian compound and made its way to Outpost 31 is a husky and malamute mix.

 

Page 3 describes the sign outside the U.S. station differently than the one seen in the film and also seems to contain a mistake. "NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION - OUTPOST #31, UNITED STATIONS OF AMERICA". I assume "United Stations" is supposed to be "United States". Notice also that the sign suggests the outpost is run by the National Science Foundation (a real U.S. government scientific research organization) instead of the National Science Institute (fictional) as in the film.  

 

The novel gives us a little more background on the characters than the film.
   
Norris is a geophysicist, at the outpost mostly in the interests of finding potential oil deposits.
Bennings is a meteorologist.
Childs is the outpost's mechanic and comes from Detroit. Like Palmer, he occasionally likes to indulge in smoking pot and, with Palmer, maintains a small marijuana crop in a heated room of the outpost.
Garry is ex-Army and continues to carry a gun out of habit. He is the manager of the outpost.
The character of Windows is instead called Sanders in the novel (which is particularly odd because he was called Sanchez in the first draft screenplay, and Simmons in the second draft, with the final name Windows in the third; so where did Foster get "Sanders" from? "Sanchez" would make more sense since he is depicted speaking Spanish a few times!). He is just 21 years old, runs the outpost's telecom, and is from Los Angeles. He worries that, while he's sitting in the Antarctic freezing his ass off, his girlfriend, for whom he took the job in order to impress, is laying on the beach in Santa Monica with another guy.
Clark maintains the snow dogs and their kennel.
Fuchs is an assistant biologist.
Copper is the station doctor and is well-liked by everyone, with a Midwestern, country doctor charm. The book ambiguously suggests that he is from Indiana.
Nauls is from Chicago and is the outpost cook.
Palmer is good with machinery and is a pilot, though he has only 2 months training on the outpost's choppers. He has a slightly radical past from the '60s. Fuchs says Palmer dropped a lot of acid in the '60s. With Childs, he maintains a small marijuana crop in a heated room of the outpost.
MacReady is the main pilot. He hates the cold and is only there for the money. He has an inflatable love doll he calls Esperanza.
Blair is the senior biologist.

 

Page 6 mentions the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest ice shelf in Antarctica.

 

Page 8 reveals that the gun Garry carries is a .44 Magnum (although this is more a designation of the type of cartridge used; the actual model of the gun is not revealed).

 

In the novel, the low-flying Norwegian copter is blown into the ground by the wind after releasing the passenger, and blows up. Here, the pilot dies in the explosion and the passenger lives long enough to shoot and injure Bennings while trying to kill the dog. In the film, a fumbled grenade accidentally blows up the copter, killing the passenger while the pilot tries to shoot the dog and injures Bennings (unlike in the film, he does injure the dog's hind leg as well).

 

On page 9, Sanders grumbles, "Mierda del toro," at Garry's order to dig up another pane to replace the shattered window. Mierda del toro is Spanish for "bullshit".

 

Page 9 reveals that the Norwegian pilot's name was Jan Bolen.

 

On page 10, Fuchs mentions Sanae, on the other side of the continent, from which the Norwegians have recently set up a smaller base about 80 kilometers southwest of U.S. Outpost 31. SANAE is the South African National Antarctic Expedition which has set up a series of bases in Antarctica since 1962 called SANAE I-IV. In 1982, when this story takes place, it would have been SANAE III.

 

In the film, Nauls uses the term "bwana" with Garry. In the book, it is Childs who does so.

 

Childs tries to recall what the Norwegian was saying before he began shooting. He says, "Tru de menge, halt de foggen." I have not been able to get a good translation of this sentence; the translation engine at babylon.com translates it from Norwegian into English as, "believe they rub shoulders, hauled the Fogg." Oh, of course!

 

Page 11 suggests that Doc Copper belongs in a Norman Rockwell painting. Rockwell (1894-1978) was a popular American painter and illustrator, best known for his covers to the Saturday Evening Post magazine.

 

Page 11 also compares Copper to Dr. Gillespie. Dr. Leonard Gillespie was the mentor of Dr. James Kildare in the Dr. Kildare series of films beginning in 1938.

 

In the book, Palmer is described as having a ponytail.

 

Here, Fuchs' information says there were just 6 people total stationed at the Norway base. In the film he says 10.

 

Page 18 describes MacReady's unusual hat as "a large, gaily colored Vera Cruz sombrero." Although the hat he wears in the film could not be described as "gaily colored" it does resemble a sombrero. I am not aware of a variant called a "Vera Cruz sombrero."

 

Page 18 also describes MacReady's shack as being decorated with posters of warm places like Naples, Rio, Jamaica, and Acapulco.

 

On page 21, MacReady tells Copper that their chopper ride to the Norwegian base isn't Disneyland. This is a reference to the  Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, CA.

 

On page 23, Copper mentions the Arctic, the region of frozen land masses around the north pole.

 

On page 24, MacReady muses that the burnt out Norwegian base looks like Carthage after the last Punic war. Carthage is an historical city on the Gulf of Tunis in Tunisia. The city was destroyed by the Romans in the Third Punic War in 146 BC (though it was rebuilt and destroyed and rebuilt again in the centuries following; the city still exists today).

 

Page 23 mentions a Ganz lantern resting on a table in the ruins of the Norwegian base. I've not been able to find what a Ganz lantern is. Possibly, it's a Norwegian brand of lantern.

 

On page 31, MacReady muses that Copper is only a GP, not a scientist. Presumably, GP stands for General Practitioner.

 

Page 33 describes a metal cabinet with several Polaroid prints taped to the front. Polaroid is the company that introduced instant film to the camera community in 1948 and the photos taken on this film were often referred to as Polaroid prints or just Polaroids. The Polaroid company has not manufactured instant film since 2008 due to falling sales as a result of the popularity of digital cameras.

 

Page 34 mentions the sounds of howling within Outpost 31 which degenerates into the lyrics of a song about werewolves in London. This is a reference to the Warren Zevon song "Werewolves of London" being played on Nauls' boom box.

 

On page 35, Garry complains to Nauls that Warren Zevon isn't culture...Beethoven, Janacek, and Vaughn Williams are. These three were composers of classical music. Nauls comments that if he hears the Antarctica symphony blaring from Garry's room one more time, he'll go nuts. He is probably referring to Vaughn Williams' seventh symphony "Sinfonia Antarctica" (1953).

 

Also on page 35, Nauls answers Garry's request to turn the music down with, "Oui, mon sewer." This is a bastardized way of saying, "Oui, monsieur," which is French for "Yes, sir."

 

On page 36, Garry tells Sanders in the radio room to let him know the minute he gets through to McMurdo or anyone else. Sanders asks, "Even the Russkies?" At this time in history, the Cold War (no pun intended) was still ongoing, and relations between the U.S. and "the Russkies" (Russia/Soviet Union) were not warm. Russia has had a permanent presence in Antarctica in the form of Vostok Station since 1957.

 

Page 39 mentions Mendocino. This is a small town south of San Francisco, on the California coast.

 

On page 39, Childs plays some Al Green for his "babies"...his pot plants. Childs starts singing, "IIIIII cried out..." Unfortunately, I have not been able to identify this song. Green is a soul and gospel singer and also a pastor.

 

Also on page 39, Childs recalls seeing Al Green perform his music "...at the Music Center, in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, singing on the same stage usually occupied by the Philharmonic." This is a reference to the Chandler Pavilion, one of the halls in the Los Angeles Music Center, where the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra performs regularly.

 

As the outpost crew watches some of the video footage recovered from the Norwegian base by MacReady and Copper, the operator of the video camera is compared unfavorably on page 42 with Victor Seastrom. Seastrom was a Swedish film director. The comparison of the Norwegian video to a Swedish director is probably intended as an in-joke by Foster about MacReady's constant referral to the Norwegians as Swedes. On page 52, MacReady is going through all of the videos himself and reflects that the cameraman was no Abel Gance, a French film director.

 

On page 42, Norris jokes that he learned Norwegian about the same time he learned Xhosa. Xhosa is a Bantu language spoken by some of the citizens of the country of South Africa.

 

Besides video, the group also listens to audio tapes recovered from the Norwegian base.

 

On page 45, Fuchs comments that, despite his more radical past, Palmer no longer uses any drugs stronger than sensimilla (sic). Sinsimilla is the seedless bud of an unpollinated female cannabis plant, the part that is commonly smoked to get high.

 

On page 48, Sanders is thumbing through an old issue of Playboy.

 

Page 50 reveals that four of the camp's dogs are named Nanook, Archangel, Lobo, and Buck.

 

Page 51 mentions Wellington. This is a reference to the city of Wellington in New Zealand, apparently one of the supply points to Outpost 31.

 

On page 52, Palmer is reading a collection of Gilbert Shelton. Shelton is an underground comic book artist and writer, known for the stoner antics of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers among other comics.

 

Page 52 also mentions several different kinds of beer available in Outpost 31's pub: Foster's Lager from Australia, Dos Equis from Mexico and Hinano from Tahiti. It also mentions a Hamm's Beer sign hanging on the back wall of the pub. These are all real beers of the world.

 

Page 54 mentions that, after dissecting the freakish corpse found at the Norwegian base, Copper's white overcoat now resembled a Jackson Pollack canvas. Pollack (1912-1956) was an American abstract expressionist artist, known for his paintings of seemingly randomly splattered or streaked paint.

 

On page 56, MacReady is watching the Norwegian videos and the scene of them packing charges into the ice to get down to the saucer buried there. He wonders if they're using thermite or maybe decanite. As mentioned above in the movie study, thermite is a metallic powder that can generate an extremely hot burst of heat when combined with a catalyst, but I have not been able to find any real world reference to what decanite might be. The term is also used in the original short story by John Campbell, "Who Goes There?"; seemingly, scriptwriter Bill Lancaster got the term "decanite" from this story.

 

On page 70, Norris mentions NATO. NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance of most of the western world's democratic nations.

 

Norris mentions "surface Quonsets" on page 72 as potential structures in a temporary Antarctic camp. Quonset huts were introduced by the U.S. Navy during WWII as a lightweight, easy to ship and assemble building for housing offices, barracks, latrines and medical facilities.

 

On page 73, Norris comments that the uncovered ice at the Norwegian excavation site is "...over 100,000 years old. Pleistocene at least." This is correct, the Pleistocene epoch ranges from 2,588,000 to 12,000 years ago.

 

On page 75, Nauls is listening to the Gossamers on his boom box. I have not been able to find a reference to a real world musical group by that name.

 

On page 76, Childs says he believes the theory that the excavation site was part of a former Russian site and the Norwegians must have found evidence of it, such as materials with Cyrillic markings. He is referring to the Cyrillic alphabet, a variation of which is used officially by Russia (originally developed in Bulgaria in the 10th century).

Russian alphabet (from Wikipedia).

 

Page 76 reveals that Palmer is doing his own research on what the creature might be, perusing back issues of The National Enquirer and The Star for information. These are both supermarket tabloids which currently run stories mostly about celebrity and political scandals and gossip, but have gone through periods when they published stories of the bizarre and unusual. Childs disdainfully comments to Palmer, "That shit you're reading ain't exactly Scientific American, you know." Scientific American is a science magazine for the general public, published since 1845.

 

On page 77, Palmer asks the others who they think built Sacsayhuaman, implying it was ancient aliens and not the Inca natives of the time. Sacsayhuaman is a walled complex, perhaps a fortress, outside of the ancient Incan capital of Cusco in Peru.

 

Page 78 reveals that MacReady broke his leg trying to play basketball on the ice last year.

 

Also on page 78, MacReady gets irritated about Childs' questions to him about his alien life-form theory, saying, "What am I, Einstein?" Einstein, of course, is a reference to Albert Einstein, the renowned German theoretical physicist who refused, during a visit to America, to return to Germany after Hitler came into power and became an American citizen.

 

On page 83, Blair goes into more detail on his theory that the alien organism can mimic other life forms it encounters. He believes that while one cell of the organism is enough to imprint a pattern from another creature, it's not enough to initiate the takeover procedure; much more protoplasmic material is needed, which is the function of the tendrils it extrudes and wraps around the victim during the procedure (which probably takes about an hour).

 

Page 91 reveals that MacReady worked as a chopper pilot for a sight-seeing service in Tahiti for a year.

 

Page 92 implies that MacReady's love doll, Esperanza, is for more than just show.

 

Blair mentions skuas on page 95. Skuas are large, predatory seabirds known to inhabit both temperate and arctic (and Antarctic) climates.

 

Page 100 mentions that the mess of busted equipment in the radio room after Blair's breakdown would probably take a Bell labs instructor to fix. Bell labs is the research and development subsidiary of, currently, Alcatel-Lucent, but previously of AT&T when they owned Bell Telephone.

 

Instead of killing the dogs as in the movie, someone (presumably Blair), opens the external gate for them so they can escape.

 

On page 103 Norris thinks of MacReady's plan to go out after the dogs as tantamount to the seventh level of Dante's Inferno. This is a reference to the classic 14th century epic poem The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. In the poem, the seventh level of hell houses those who have committed violence against others and are immersed in a river of boiling blood.

 

Page 104 reveals that Childs built the extra flame-throwers for use against the Things.

 

On page 109, Bennings laments that he should be checking his anemometer and barometer instead of searching for alien dogs. These are common meteorological instruments, the anemometer being a device for measuring wind speed and a barometer for measuring atmospheric pressure.

 

Page 114 comments that MacReady and Childs had just seen two gargoyles (the Things) that would put the haunting visages of the ones at Notre Dame to shame. This is a reference to the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France, famous for the gargoyle statues perched along its roof and buttresses.

 

The book mentions the arrival of the vernal equinox to Antarctica, beginning 6 months of darkness in the region. The vernal equinox takes place in March of each year, marking autumn in the southern hemisphere (and spring in the northern).

 

On page 117, Copper comments that most of the men at the outpost are wearing long underwear made of damart, an artificial cloth with insulating properties. Damart is actually the French manufacturer of the material which has become a generic term for the material (officially called Thermolactyl).

 

On page 121, MacReady wonders if the Thing actually plans the paranoia it induces, letting the human population know it's there, then allowing the people to tear each other apart with accusations and fear. (The short story "The Things", however, suggests this was not the case.)

 

As he's trying to repair the engine of one of the helicopters, Palmer looks around for a magneto. This is a type of electrical generator that produces alternating current with the presence of two rotating magnets.

 

Page 129 reveals that Norris used to practice first aid in the Army, which is why he's chosen to inject the sedative into Copper, Garry, and Clark when they are deemed the most likely Thing suspects.

 

On page 132, MacReady refers to the presence of the alien cells in another creature as "thingism".

 

On page 139, MacReady bumps into somebody in the dark and says, "Who goes there?" This is probably an homage to the title of the 1938 story that inspired The Thing, "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell.

 

On page 141, MacReady says to Sanders, "De nada." This is Spanish for "It's nothing.'

 

Also on page 141, the group begins to realize that a lot of small pieces of equipment have gone missing. These would be the pieces Blair stole to build his escape saucer.

 

On page 146, Copper recommends that Norris should have an EKG. An EKG is an electrocardiogram, which measures the electrical activity of the heart.

 

On page 151, Sanders says, "Quien sabe?" This is Spanish for "Who knows?"

 

On page 162, Dr. Copper asks for the fibrillator to be wheeled over. He probably means defibrillator, a device for delivering an electrical pulse to the heart in order to allow the heart to reestablish a normal sinus rhythm. As far as I know, there is no such device as a fibrillator (though the word is commonly misused to describe a defibrillator).

 

On page 164, Sanders says, "Madre de dios." This is Spanish for "Mother of God."

 

On page 181, the remaining crewmembers of Outpost 31 make a number of Molotov cocktails to use against the Thing. Molotov cocktails are homemade firebombs consisting of a common glass bottle filled with a flammable liquid such as gasoline or kerosene and a cloth wick bunched into the bottle neck.

 

Page 182 comments that there were now enough explosives in the rec room to blow it halfway to Tierra del Fuego. Tierra del Fuego is the archipelago off the tip of South America.

 

Page 183 mentions that one of the arcade games in the rec room is Space Invaders. Ironically enough.

 

On page 184, MacReady gives the others small capsules of sodium cyanide to bite on and swallow if the Thing gets a hold of them. Sodium cyanide is a highly toxic salt that brings nearly instantaneous death, taken in sufficient quantity.

 

Page 186 mentions a time when Nauls was a teenager in Chicago and had to flee from the Crips on his roller skates. The Crips are a street gang originally founded in Los Angeles, CA. Although they have spread to some other states, Chicago residents do not seem to recall there ever being a Crips gang in the city (though there are other gangs who are loosely considered allies of the Crips).

 

On page 188, the crewmembers are speculating on whether they have enough electrical power from their two small generators to burn out the Thing. Nauls' opinion is that they need Boulder Dam. Boulder Dam is more commonly known as Hoover Dam and produces hydroelectric power on the Colorado River along the border of Nevada and Arizona.

 

On page 192, MacReady finds a surviving bottle of Jim Beam to drink in the outpost pub. Jim Beam is a brand of bourbon, produced in the U.S. since 1795. In the movie, MacReady has a bottle of J&B Scotch instead.

 

Also on page 192, MacReady tries to lure the Thing to its death by taunting it. At one point he says, "You like whiskey? Come on, join me for a drink. Be good for you. Put fangs on your chest." I just thought it was a funny substitution for "put hair on your chest". 

 

Unanswered Questions

 

Were there any crewmembers aboard the original saucer besides the pilot? If so, what happened to them? (The director's commentary of The Thing prequel suggests there were.)

 

Why doesn't the Thing just imitate a flying creature in order to escape Antarctica for warmer (and more populated) climes? The original short story, "Who Goes There?", speculates that the creature may not have previously visited worlds which had a sufficient atmosphere to have flying life forms it could imitate. Peter Watts' short story "The Things" suggests the creature has visited a thousand worlds, in which case it seems unlikely it never encountered a flying life form it assimilated and could make use of now.

 

In this film, we see the bodies of five of the 10 Norwegians: the passenger in the helicopter is killed by a dropped grenade; the pilot of the helicopter is shot by Garry; one is found to have seemingly committed suicide by slashing his wrists and throat at the Norwegian base; and two burned bodies are found at the Norwegian base. What were the fates of the other five? Might one or more of them still be alive as Things? Or frozen somewhere, awaiting "rescue"? (Of course, since the time this study was originally written, The Thing prequel has been released and we see how the others died.)

 

What of the Norwegian sled dogs? We see just one, infected, dog. Surely the Norwegians had more? Again, might one or more of them have survived or gone into deep freeze? (Again, The Thing prequel suggests there was just one dog at the station for some reason.)

 

Is Garry actually dead? It seems like the Blair-Thing quietly suffocates him, and later we see the Blair-Thing dragging Garry's body away with his hand fused into Garry's face. But maybe Garry was still alive and about to be copied? It doesn't seem that enough time passed for the Blair-Thing to have copied Garry, but we don't really know how long it takes. Blair guesses it takes about an hour earlier in the film, but, again, we don't know that for sure, and if Blair was already a Thing at that time, he could have been lying! Could a Garry-Thing still be frozen alive out in the snow, awaiting rescue? "The Thing from Another World" Part 1 depicts MacReady finding a third frozen Thing body (after finding Nauls-Thing's and Blair-Thing's bodies). The body is not identified in the story, but it seems only Garry would be left for it to be.

 

What happened to Nauls? He investigates a noise (the sound of Blair-Thing dragging Garry away) and then disappears. Again, might he have been infected and still living? ("The Thing from Another World" Part 1 shows his frozen body in a state transformation as a Thing.)

 

At the end of the film, is Childs a Thing? For that matter, is MacReady? If the Blair-Thing somehow survived the explosion (as MacReady apparently did) MacReady could have been attacked and infected; after all, we don't know how much time has passed since the explosion and MacReady stumbling into shelter with his bottle of J&B.

 

If MacReady was a Thing, then it might not have been a good idea for Childs to drink from the J&B bottle; remember, Fuchs warned that they should all prepare their own food and eat only from cans since it might be possible to be infected internally by a small number of Thing cells.

 

Memorable Dialog

 

you're starting to lose it aren't you.wav

cheatin' bitch.wav

stir crazy.wav

maybe we at war with Norway.wav

a chance to use his popgun.wav

look at Palmer.wav

thanks for thinking about it.wav

you really want to save those crazy Swedes?.wav

they're not Swedish.wav

maybe they found a fossil or the remains of some animal in the ice.wav

put this mutt with the others.wav

it's weird and pissed off whatever it is.wav

an organism that imitates other life forms.wav

100,000 years old.wav

voodoo bullshit.wav

Chariots of the Gods.wav

probably not in the best of moods.wav

trust is a tough thing to come by.wav

he could be one of those things.wav

somebody a little more even-tempered.wav

I know I'm human.wav

if it takes us over.wav

who says I want you going with me.wav

you gotta be fuckin' kidding.wav

I'd rather not spend the rest of this winter tied to this fucking couch!.wav

it just wants to go to sleep in the cold.wav

fuck you too.wav

why don't we just wait here for a little while.wav

 

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