Last night, at the Alamo Drafthouse Richardson, we celebrated the 35th anniversary of John Carpenter's The Thing with a special 35MM showing of the film (with a gorgeous print I might add!) presented by the 12th annual Texas Frightmare Weekend.
Our friends at Mondo were also on hand, with a The Thing poster release by artist Jason Edmiston and an exclusive in-person first look at their debut board game with Project Raygun - The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31.
But the real treat was that we were joined by special guests Wilford Brimley (Dr. Blair), Thomas Waites (Windows), and legendary cinematographer Dean Cundey.
The Q&A was a mixture of fascinating insight (from Mr. Cundey and Mr. Waites) and hilarious insanity (from Mr. Brimley). Here are the 3 to 5 best moments!
1. Cundey talked about not only working with Carpenter on The Thing but also on Halloween, Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Fog. On top of that, also with Steven Spielberg on Jurassic Park and Robert Zemeckis on all three Back to the Future films.
He cited The Thing, Jurassic Park, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Back to the Future I-III as his favorite films he's shot.
With The Thing, it was the first major studio film he and Carpenter worked on which was "so full of interesting new things" for the duo in terms of the types of boundaries they were pushing with the film on top of having the backing and budget of a big studio.
The film was a great challenge for him as a cinematographer, considering the groundbreaking practical FX as well as all the ways Carpenter likes to set the moodiness and tone with lighting and painting with light (there are many hints throughout the film as to who is human and who is infected through the lighting on their face).
2. Wilford Brimley is a big fan of John Carpenter as a filmmaker. "In my limited field of experience, he's certainly one of my favorites." He went on to describe Carpenter as a "marvelous director, gifted man, and a friend."
Brimley said he had a great time making the film, despite not being "a big time science fiction guy." He is however not a huge fan of The Thing's gore or just special FX in general. He kept referring to The Thing creature as a "slimy rubber dog."
In fact, he's also not much of a fan of more recent big budget Hollywood blockbuster movies (specifically remakes) "made by 19 or 20-year-old kids."
He does on the "other side of the nickel" think some of the most wonderful films to "come down the pike" are being made right now. He cited Fences as one of his contemporary favorites, calling it a film about "life on life's own terms." He also mentioned "A film about a bunch of Black ladies that are solving pretty serious problems for the War Department." (One can only assume he was referring to Hidden Figures).
"And then you got the other stuff, you know. The shit."
3. Thomas Waites favorite death scene was his own! And his favorite form of the Thing was the one that killed him - in the famous blood sample scene when Palmer is revealed to be the Thing then mutates and chomps on Windows, turning him into a ragdoll and having his head for a midnight snack.
Dean Cundey's favorite form of The Thing was the iconic Spider Thing that Charles Hallahan's Vance transforms into. Cundey said the transformational scenes were some of his favorite to shoot and that he enjoyed working hand-in-tentacle with the film's FX master (then 22-year-old Rob Bottin) to figure out how to bring Bottin's grotesque creatures to life on screen. He and Bottin even tried to invent a new type of camera that shot at variable speeds to capture the film's benchmark practical FX.
The thing with the FX that stuck out in Brimley's cowboy-hatted head was when he got to put his fingers through Donald Moffat's face.
Ok...we'll go to 5!
4. Wilford Brimley told me I taught him a new word that he was going to work into his vocabulary. "Carpenteresque"
5. When the guys from Mondo showed Wilford Brimley The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 he said "Well, it ain't Monopoly." And that's the best endorsement they could have received. As well as the perfect quote to put on the box.
You can watch the Q&A in its entirety below! And if you're a fan of The Thing, I encourage you to. There's so much more great stuff in the 45+ minutes that you just have to see and hear for yourself.
You should really at least tune into minute 41:43 for Wilford Brimley's closing thoughts on The Thing.
"Face it...we're making a movie about slimy rubber dogs. Who gives a shit about that?!" (He went on to thank the fans for 35 years of supporting the film and was met with a standing ovation by the entire audience, just as he was his last day of filming.)
If you're going to be around Texas Frightmare this weekend, you yourself can meet the facial hair force of nature that is Wilford Brimley along with Dean Cundey, Thomas Waites, and Keith David (who unfortunately couldn't join us last night). Along with a ton of other icons of genre film including legendary Italian Horror director Dario Argento and the cast of SUSPIRIA and more! And you can pick up one of THE THING prints from Mondo, along with all the other rad new prints they're releasing at the show. See you there! Stop by and say hi.