Did ET kill The Thing's impact?

I’ve always heard that the release of ET pretty much killed the box office appeal of Carpenter’s The Thing. Would it have been bigger if it was released at a different time, or would it always have occupied the “cult sci-fi” niche it has now?

If this is GQish, please change.

I can’t give you any cites, because I’ve never heard this before.

But, consider this: They were two completely different types of movies, even tho both fit as Sci-fi. ET was a feel good movie, lots of cuteness, major family appeal. JC’sTT was a harsh look at a deadly problem and didn’t even get a happy ending. One was rated R the other, PG. One was hyped by mainstream media, the other didn’t get that free ride.

I think that, regardless of their release dates, the end results would have been the same, as far as box office.

As is often the case in Cafe Society, IMHO, YMMV

As NCB notes, The Thing was never a mainstream movie.

ET had a scene of a kid with flying bike.

The Thing had an exploding dog

You can’t meaninfully compare apples and and a man getting his arms ripped off by intestinal dentata.

Actually, Stephen King answered this one back in the 1980’s in Danse Macabre. His point was that (the original) “The Thing” is a paranoic 1950’s movie where “They” are out to get “Us” and was in perfect tune with the 1950’s zeitgeist of the US vs. the USSR.

However, 25+ years later, movies were featuring aliens as wiser, gentler, more caring, and willing to lead mankind into a post “Us vs. Them” mindset so that we can wise up enough to join them. Close Encounters, ET, even 2001 all played to this theme.

So it wasn’t that “The Thing” was hurt by ET’s success, it was more that it was released in the wrong decade.

There were plenty of paranoid alien films and entertainments out at that time – Alien , with its infiltrate-via-John Hurt scheme came out in 1979, as did the first remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

V the TV series about apparently helpful but really evil reptilian aliens came out in 1983.
You can’t just say that it was the time for benign aliens.

The bnig problem was that The Thing had an R rating (vs. the G or PG rating for ET) and was directed by edgy John Carpenter, vs. big audience-pleasin’ Steven Spielberg. It’s a relatively low budget film vs. a blockbuster, which is an unequal contest.

For what Itt’s Worth, Campbel’s original story was paranoid – had to be, given the nature of the Alien. Hawks/Nyby changed the storyline completely so it WASN’T paranoid.

I’m feeling a Shining-like modified trailer coming on. ET: The Extraterrestrial Thing. Drew Barrymore starts to scream, and then her head explodes and turns into a wirling mass of pseduopodia as she bursts through the plastic sheeting, shreding government agents and building a spacecraft out of tin foil, a children’s bicycle, and a Speak’N’Spell. Then Kurt Russell shows up and holds everyone hostage with a brulee torch: “I know I’m human. And if you were all these things, then you’d just attack me right now, so some of you are still human. This thing doesn’t want to show itself, it wants to hide inside an imitation. It’ll fight if it has to, but it’s vulnerable out in the open. If it takes us over, then it has no more enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it’s won.”


As has already been pointed out, King’s premise that the era wasn’t suitable for evil alien movies is not well supported by the facts if you look beyond “The Thing” and notice the success of “Alien” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” as well as the success of movies with monsters of more terrestrial origin, such as “Poltergeist.” Comparing any movie’s gross to “E.T.” is unfair anyway, since it was at the time the top grossing blockbuster in the history of movies (unadjusted for inflation) and so is not a reasonable standard. A more informative comparison is to “Alien” (or for that matter “Aliens”) which made far more money and was, in fact, a superior movie in many ways.

“The Thing” is one of those movies I always remember as being better than it was, because watching it, you understand what Carpenter was trying to do and you’re rooting for him to succeed but there’s just a few too many things he does wrong. Why are there so many fucking flame throwers in a research facility? Why does he have MacReady SAY that nobody trusts each other, rather than just investing another scene in SHOWING it?

So… this isn’t about Ben Grimm?

The “R” vs. “PG” factor had a lot to do with it (the R-rated Bladerunner was also released that summer and had underperformed at the box office for what many thought was the same reason). But another thing that hurt **The Thing ** was there was absolutely poisonous buzz around it when it was released. Reports from the Hollywood rumor mill said audiences at previews were vomiting because the film was so gory. Most critics blasted the movie for being ugly, gratuitously violent, vile, and repulsive (one likened the experience to watching an autopsy). All of this combined to make The Thing so unpopular that it was playing to empty theaters less than weeks of its release (at least it was in my town). It wasn’t until Carpenter’s The Thing came out on video that its reputation improved.

Also, the remake of **The Thing ** was definitely not a low budget movie. It had state-of-the-art special effects and a cast of many actors who, while not major box office draws, were certainly familiar. In fact, in terms of cost, I think The Thing was more expensive to produce than ET since the latter film had a smaller cast and fewer special effects.

FTR ET was PG. It had one line written in specifically to make it PG, instead of G.

Care to guess?


“Thing” wasn’t exactly heavy “state of the art”. They had one glitzy into shot of the flyig saucer landing. They got away with a lot of Albert Whitlock matte painting that precluded other means. There was a LOT of life-size model building, which I don’t think I’d characterize as anything needing high tech. They had some stop-motion work done, but Carpenter discarded most of it. I’d guess the budget for The Thing didn’t come anywhere NEAR that of E.T. The Thing might not have been low-budget (and a lot of the costs, I understand, were due to other people tacking on stuff that Carpenter disoened), but it wasn’t a Big Budget Spielberg film.
Everyone yhinks of The Thing as gory, but, for the most part, it isn’t. One guy gets shot in the eye, and Doc Copper loses both his hands. All the other “gore” shots are of the Thing itself, and aren’t even of the thing getting hurt. It is, however, gross. When they showed The Thing for the first time on CBS they cut out almost every single shot of The Thing. It’s a unique concept in monster films – don’t actually show the monster. Even "The Prehistoric Sound’ showed more of the creature than the CBS-censored version of The Thing did. Yet there was nothing sexual or violent about 90% of what they cut out. CBS vandalized The Thing simply because it was Gross. And , I suspect, the moviegoer buzz against it was for the same reason.

I’ve never actually watched ET, but I’ve watched The Thing. I don’t know why I prefer watching nasty parasitic alien-assimilative type things as opposed to cute® aliens that ride flying bicycles. Maybe because ET seems like one of those movies with an obvious moral to the story, and any depth is too much depth. (Yeah. That raised the tone of the conversation). Speaking of which:

I feel incredibly stupid saying it, but I never thought of that. Now just why did they have so many flame throwers? I just took them in my stride, you know, as you do.

Flame throwers? For melting ice. Masons use them for working with block in the winter months up here all the time. Melting water, heating up sand, breaking blocks free from ice, etc. I have one in the garage for freeing up the snowblower when it freezes up.
Those guys in the Arctic would need them for getting shed doors open, melting ice for drinking water, emergency heat, and other stuff where the ice would otherwise win.

ET’s budget was 10.5 million and The Thing’s was 10 million. Pretty close.
The Thing’s special effects were created using hydraulics.

I guess I just always assumed that when ET came out people preferred to watch the cute ‘n’ cuddly alien as opposed to the spider-head.

Those were clearly above the diaphragm; ergo, thoracic dentata.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Carpenter’s The Thing was the most perfect interpretation of the Lovecraftian mythos ever put on film.

Uh, nothin’ about ET or the OP. Just thought I’d get that in there, y’know?

So ET did cost slightly more than The Thing. I stand corrected. In any case, both movies were rather expensive for 1982 (certainly not low-budget). In fact, I’m a bit surprised ET cost as much as it did since it was supposed to be the “little” film Spielberg did in between his usual bigger budgeted projects.

Logan’s Run came out about a year before Star Wars. Thirty years later, it’s still in the dustbin of forgotten crappy sci-fi movies. I don’t think The Thing would’ve had a chance if it had come out before The Jazz Singer.

I still think Quatermass and the Pit got closer, but only by a hair. The “humankind as industrial waste” angle really nails the whole cosmic futility thing that Lovecraft had going on, in a way that Carpenter didn’t quite put across in The Thing.