Welcome to another edition of MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES, the column where we look at fun quotes from some pretty cool movies.
Up today a movie that makes the short list on almost every horror fan’s “Best of” lists. In fact, this gem— which was a flop upon its initial release— is often listed as the number 1 all-time favorite horror movie by horror fans. I’m talking about John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982).
A remake of the classic THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) starring James Arness as one of the creepiest scariest alien monsters from outer space ever, this John Carpenter version was truer to the original source material, the short story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, Jr. Yet that didn’t seem to matter back in 1982. Critics slammed the film because of its excessive gore and outlandish special effects. The complaint was the film didn’t contain the same creative directing Carpenter displayed on his break-out hit, HALLOWEEN (1978).
But fans felt otherwise. The year 1982 was the dawn of the VHS/VCR age, and I remember when this movie was released on video, it suddenly started gaining momentum and word of mouth spread rapidly. And like I said, today John Carpenter’s THE THING is heralded as a horror movie classic, and rightly so.
The screenplay by Bill Lancaster contains lots of memorable lines. Let’s have a look:
Even though the film is loaded with gory special effects, it still generates a sense of mystery and creepiness early on, like here when Blair (Wilford Brimley) explains his findings after his autopsy on the slaughtered dogs:
BLAIR: You see, what we’re talking about here is an organism that imitates other life forms, and it imitates them perfectly. When this thing attacked our dogs it tried to digest them… absorb them, and in the process shape its own cells to imitate them. This for instance. That’s not dog. It’s imitation. We got to it before it had time to finish.
NORRIS: Finish what?
BLAIR: Finish imitating these dogs.
And again, later when Fuchs asks to speak with MacReady (Kurt Russell) privately to read him Blair’s notes and to tell him his fears about what’s really going on inside the camp. At this point in the movie, neither the characters nor the audience knows yet what the Thing is, and so these scenes of dialogue set the groundwork for introducing the horror which is yet to come.
FUCHS: There’s something wrong with Blair. He’s locked himself in his room and he won’t answer the door, so I took one of his notebooks from the lab.
FUCHS: Listen: (Reading from Blair’s notes) “It could have imitated a million life forms on a million planets. It could change into any one of them at any time. Now, it wants life forms on Earth.”
MACREADY: It’s getting cold in here, Fuchs, and I haven’t slept for two days.
FUCHS: Wait a minute, Mac, wait a minute. “It needs to be alone and in close proximity with the life form to be absorbed. The chameleon strikes in the dark.”
MACREADY: So is Blair cracking up or what?
FUCHS: Damn it, MacReady! “There is still cellular activity in these burned remains. They’re not dead yet!”
Kurt Russell’s MacReady gets a lot of the good lines in the movie, especially later on as his character emerges as the natural leader among the camp and the most promising opponent of the Thing. But first he has to deal with his own men, as they suspect him of being the Thing. In this scene, he holds off his men with some dynamite, something that Childs (Keith David) scoffs at:
CHILDS: You’re gonna have to sleep sometime, MacReady.
MACREADY: I’m a real light sleeper, Childs.
Later, Macready devises a test to reveal the identity of the Thing, in one of the movie’s best scenes. Let’s listen:
MACREADY: 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.
We’re gonna draw a little bit of everybody’s blood… ’cause we’re gonna find out who’s The Thing. Watching Norris in there gave me the idea that… maybe every part of him was a whole, every little piece was an individual animal with a built-in desire to protect its own life. You see, when a man bleeds, it’s just tissue, but blood from one of you Things won’t obey when it’s attacked. It’ll try and survive… crawl away from a hot needle, say.
Later, when they try to restore power to their camp, Garry (Donald Moffat) makes a grim discovery and in this scene tells MacReady the bad news:
GARRY: The generator’s gone.
MACREADY: Any way we can we fix it?
GARRY: It’s gone, MacReady.
Meaning it is no longer physically there. Yikes!
Two of the best lines from THE THING come from two of the supporting characters. Donald Moffat’s Garry has one of them. In the scene where MacReady performs his test to learn the Thing’s identity, Garry is one of the men he trusts the least at the time, and so he had Garry tied to a couch along with two other men. One of the men turns out to be the Thing in one of the movie’s most exciting sequences. After it’s done, and both the characters and audience breathe a sigh of relief, Garry still finds himself tied to the couch. And after a moment’s pause, he says:
GARRY: I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I’d rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS F—-ING COUCH!
But hands down, the best line in the movie and certainly the most memorable line in the movie, belongs to Palmer (David Clennon). After an intense battle with the Thing, the severed head of one of its victims sprouts legs and crawls away like a giant spider. Palmer, wide-eyed and incredulous, sees this spectacle and says,
PALMER: You gotta be f—in’ kidding.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this look at memorable quotes from John Carpenter’s THE THING, screenplay by Bill Lancaster, a true masterpiece of horror movie cinema.
That’s it for now. Join me again next time when we look at more memorable quotes from another cool movie.
Thanks for reading!
This was a great post. I had to buy this movie for my collection. Thanks for all the inside information and your thoughts on the scenes, you hit all the right ones too.