A Dozen Diabolical Dogs – #9: The Thing

Jed in "The Thing" (1982)

Is it a dog or isn’t it? Well, that’s the key question posed during the opening scenes of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). The Alaskan Malamute arrives at an American Antarctic research camp, pursued by a helicopter full of angry Norwegians from their own camp across the way. Before any of the Americans can figure out what the deuce is going on, the helicopter explodes, station commander Garry is forced to shoot the last crazed Norwegian, and the poor pooch is taken into their midst. The fools…

This version of The Thing is the second screen treatment of the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr., under the pseudonym “Don A. Stuart”. Despite criticism from fans of the earlier, black-and-white film starring James Arness, the much gorier and slimier John Carpenter adaptation stays closer to the original story about a shapechanging alien battling against an isolated and increasingly paranoid research team led by helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell, in his second of four starring roles for Carpenter).

Movie Poster for "The Thing" (1982)

Movie Poster for The Thing (1982)

Jed (White Fang) plays the dog for much of the film, though not the opening chase. For that scene, Carpenter used a dog with a coat dyed to look like Jed. He does get plenty of screen time, however, and was praised by Carpenter for his acting ability. Jed passed in 1995 at the ripe old age of 17. By all accounts, he was a consummate professional and leaves behind a fine legacy in film.

Special effects wizard Stan Winston was responsible for the design of the dog creature. 1982 would mark his first Academy Award nomination, for the insipid Andy Kaufman/Bernadette Peters robot romcom Heartbeeps, but his collaboration here with fellow SFX icon Rob Bottin (King Kong, The Howling) insured it would not be his last. Before his death in 2008, Stan Winston had racked up 4 Oscars (one for Aliens, a pair for Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and the last for Jurassic Park).

The Thing marked the first time director John Carpenter didn’t score his own film, but he found a more than adequate replacement in the legendary Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). Ambient noise also adds to the film’s signature sound. The howling Antarctic wind was actually recorded in the desert outside of Palm Springs, but you can practically feel it taking hold of your bones as the weather becomes an antagonist to be feared every bit as much as the alien horror. In a final bit of sound trivia, Carpenter’s then-wife, actress Adrienne Barbeau is the only female voice in the film, as the sultry-voiced “Chess Wizard.”

Rage quit. Slightly NSFW due to some bitter profanity.

You know it’s bad when a bottle of J&B Scotch and a phone sex chess computer are what passes for intimate companionship. Now, Clark’s obsession with those yapping dogs of his don’t seem so crazy, does it? Beats watching videotaped episodes of Let’s Make a Deal.

Okay, so earlier in this countdown, I gave some deserved attention to Silence! The Musical. It seems those Kaplan scamps are at it again.

Totally NSFW due to excessive gore and some lyrical profanity.
Oh, and also spoilertastic as it recaps the entire movie in song.

Please join us for the rest of these infamous “Dog Days of Summer” as we count down
“A Dozen Diabolical Dogs”.


  1. RayRay says:

    Thanks for the tip. Outpost #31 is pretty awesome.

    I’m especially eager to try out the card game. I remember coming up with some kind of overly complex game as a kid with toy guns and sealed envelopes and such that would probably be classed as a proto-LARP now. At least we didn’t dress up or use make-up or anything like that. We were already wearing fuzzy parkas from the cold and snowy South Jersey winters, so we looked the parts, even if none of us were old enough to sport the epic MacReady-beard.

    • Wang says:

      The good professional dioretcrs and producers who would take their time doing good horror films should make eight to twenty sequels of ‘The Thing,’ and do over hundreds of more special makeup effects and puppetry special effects. I love to see a lot of air-bladders fx on the new transformations scenes, and love to see billions more monster transformations. Hope they will take their time doing good sequels as good as this movie.

      • RayRay says:

        I must confess, though the 1982 Carpenter version is probably my favorite film of all time, I haven’t yet gotten around to watching the 2011 prequel. I heard it was decent but pedestrian, more like someone covering a song rather than substantially adding to the franchise.

        I don’t think I want to see more sequels, though. I’d hate for it to go the route of the Aliens or Terminator franchises which are so far removed from their original awesomeness that they’re practically kitschy now.

  2. RayRay says:

    Ah, I was so naive back then… Both Abhi’s and Wang’s comments are c&p spam from a review on “The Paradise of Horror,” but I’ll leave them for relevance. Such a shame. Ironically enough, the “Abhi” comment was originally written by another RayRay.

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