The Bizarro Edit Of 'The Thing' (That You Didn't See)
John Carpenter’s The Thing -- it’s arguably one of the greatest horror movies of all time, and inarguably the best movie in which a man’s arms get bitten off by a fanged tummy. Weirdly, if you were a kid in the ‘80s who first saw The Thing on television, you had a far different experience, and not just because of your run-of-the-mill network censorship.
When the film premiered on CBS in 1986, not surprisingly, a lot of the crazy body horror gore effects were cut out, but for some reason, they also added in narration. In the TV version of The Thing, each character is introduced with a voiceover explaining who they are and where they come from, presumably because TV viewers in the ‘80s were real dummies. For example, we learn that MacReady is a helicopter test pilot who angrily quit his last job, and Clark is studying the effects of the “extreme cold on animal behavior” for some reason. So we get way more information about the world of The Thing, but it all plays like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
Even crazier, the ending has been changed slightly; after the famously ambiguous scene between Macready and Childs, we get another shot of that goddamn dog implying that, regardless of their actions, the thing has survived. Then the narrator ominously returns and warns the audience to “be on guard” and “watch those around you” because you don’t know what “tomorrow will bring.” Somehow he doesn’t cackle maniacally after saying this.
It wasn’t unusual for TV edits of movies to be somewhat different, but the televised cuts of John Carpenter movies, in particular, seem to diverge greatly from the original. As we’ve mentioned previously, the network version of Halloween featured a bunch of added scenes that were retroactively shoehorned into the movie to A) make it fit a two-hour time slot and B) make the “Laurie is Michael Myers’ sister” twist in Halloween II seem less like an act of drunken desperation.
Perhaps weirdest of all, for the TV edit of Carpenter’s 1987 vampire film Prince of Darkness, there are added shots of one of the characters sleeping sprinkled throughout the movie, implying that the whole thing is a dream. So maybe we should just be glad that the TV cut of The Thing didn’t reveal that it took place in a snowglobe.
Top Image: Universal Pictures