Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Thing

My first exposure to John Carpenter's The Thing came at a fantasy/comic book/horror/science fiction convention that I can't, for the life of me, remember the name of. It wasn't WonderCon; it wasn't Comi-Con; it wasn't Space-Con. I'm sure buried in some box under a pile of junk in my storage unit is a program from that convention, but until I unearth that, it may remain a mystery.

It was held in the Holiday Inn on Van Ness and California, and was tiny compared to the conventions we see today, but was still full of nerds selling comics and movie memorabilia, and, of course, at least one presentation of that "Star Trek" blooper reel.

I know I went to this particular convention with my father at least twice. I think 1982 was the first time, and the following year, after I had seen and become obsessed with Cat People, I spent most of my time looking for collectible stuff related to that movie, things like foreign posters, or lobby cards and film stills. I did end up finding some stuff, and would usually trade one or two Blue Harvest t-shirts for the loot. (At that time, those shirts were rare and coveted, and because my dad had access to the original screens that printed them, he could run off a dozen or so and use them for trade. Come to think of it, it was almost like printing money. Or at least printing nerd money.)

The convention must have taken place early in the year, as it was several months before The Thing's June release, and we were treated to about a ten minute scene from the film. The funny thing is, the print they had was 70mm, and while they had a 70mm projector to screen it with, they didn't have a screen big enough, so we had to watch it shrunk down to what was, essentially, the size of a big modern day TV screen. This is the first half of that scene, (the second part, not seen here, is when they find the flying saucer buried in the ice).

I was already a John Carpenter fan, so was definitely excited to see The Thing, and the clip only validated that excitement. My dad was also keen on seeing it, as he was a fan of the original film, and seeing that one in a theater as a kid was one of his most memorable movie going experiences.

We ended up seeing it at the Royal Theater, at a sneak preview showing. Back then, sneak preview screenings weren't really secret, and you didn't always need passes to get in. They'd just run an ad in the paper announcing the film, time, and theater, and you'd show up. There would usually be a line, but there usually was on opening night, too, so it wasn't any less convenient.

So, we got to see it the Sunday before it opened, sat in the balcony, and loved every slimy minute of it.

Of course, as is proving to be the case with a lot of these 1982 films, what are now considered classics, weren't always loved at the time, and that's certainly the case with The Thing. As I ended up seeing it a second time the following month, I'll save some of my further thoughts about it for another post, and leave you with a few of the film's less-than-stellar reviews...

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