The films and music of JOHN CARPENTER thread

edited October 2019 in General Movies & TV Posts: 479
Some of you may have already come across my Alien thread, and I thought I would make a thread for my second favourite Sci-Fi horror film of all time, The Thing. since it has quite a cult following and has an intriguing discussion range, I thought it would be quite a good topic. You can talk about the prequel and about the original 1951 film if you want. Feel free to write whatever you want. (within reason)

Mod edit: I am recycling this thread for everything Carpenter.

DD.
«1

Comments

  • Posts: 2,469
    Haven't seen the 1951 version, just Carpenter's. It's a very, very good one. Stark, bleak and genuinely scary. A tad too grotesque for my tastes, but the grotesquerie is appropriate to the material.
  • ShardlakeShardlake Leeds, West Yorkshire, England
    Posts: 3,970
    Did this a few years back, The Thing is my favourite John Carpenter film and up there with one of my all time faves.

    The Thing 1982

    You know it's strange the amount of films that at the time are not appreciated and receive not only poor box office reception but also negative critical reaction but then go on to become cult classics with a huge appreciation, the amount of times I now see John Carpenter's version of The Thing getting 5 star reviews and shouts of masterpiece but back in 1982 it was a very different story. Carpenter's film unfortunately arrived in the same year as another alien based film, though that film was an entirely different tone, friendly and wanting to return home. I never actually understood the love for Spielberg's E.T for me his best work was behind him (sorry but this is my opinion and I'll expand if anyone wants the discussion).

    The optimistic view point of the Beard's box office smash had the general public not ready for Carpenter's dark apocalyptic science fiction horror and consequently it took the VHS (remember them) release of this film for it to find it's audience and find it's audience it did. Some could argue that this is a remake of the Howard Hawks produced The Thing From Another World, both films are based on John W. Campbell Jr's novel Who Goes There. Whereas the Hawks film goes for the man in the suit routine typical of that genre of film making in the 50's, Carpenter with a treatment from Burt Lancaster's son Bill opts for the enemy within angle and produces a far more disturbing and darker take on Campbell's story.

    The plot is a given and don't see the point going into it here just that once the U.S scientists take in the husky dog after rescuing it from the supposed crazed Norwegian scientists things go from bad to worse when the scientists realise neither of them can be trusted and might just not be what they seem.

    I guess it's down to personal opinion but some might say that Halloween is Carpenter's finest moment, it undoubtedly informed the slasher genre to the degree of no other and is one of the most influential horror films of all time, a simple idea utilised brilliantly but for me it is 1982 film Carpenter's follow up to Escape From New York that is the man's finest achievement. Casting is key here and Kurt Russell had already been Carpenter's Elvis in an acclaimed TV film directed by JC as well as playing the stone cold cool Snake Pliskin in Escape. The Thing is essentially an ensemble but Russell's R.P McCready is the films most dominant character who emerges as the story progresses to take hold of the situation. This is not to say that he completely steals the picture, the rest of the cast are uniformly excellent. Wilford Brimley as Blair does a terrific job of the Doctor who is the only member of the group who realises the extent of the situation. A special mention to both Donald Moffat, Keith David and David Clennon who as Garry, Childs & Palmer add some welcome dark humour to the proceedings, Moffat's finest sequence just topping Clennon "You've got to be f**king kidding", something about being tied to a couch, you know the line. As the situation takes hold Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey notch up the unease, as the camera follows down the corridors which may or may not be the view point of the being. Inventive sequence like the blood test sequence are brilliantly played by the cast, the feeling of paranoia key to making this work.

    Of course Rob Bottin's still effective effects mark this out as not only a disturbing relentless work but also a visual feast of horror and eye popping delight of disgusting options to distort the human body that could only come from the mind of Bottin, if you watch the excellent retrospective on the Blu ray and DVD witness his sheer boyish enthusiasm for his creations, unfortunately with the advent of C.G.I this kind of technique
    as become rare and as films most recently proved there is no replacement for practical effects and make up. The late Stan Winston also contributes to the famous dog kennel sequence, bought on board to take some of the load of the work of Bottin's shoulders. Hitchcock veteran Albert Whitlock provides some exceptional examples for the landscape in the alien spacecraft sequences of the film. The Thing is a great example of the craft of practical visual effects been utilised to large degree although not detracting from the experience and only enrich the narrative and drive the story on. Speaking of an ensemble this isn't just the actors, we are talking a crew who's all aspects deliver in all departments making this work so well, Ennio Morricone's subtle minimalist score is essential to investing the film with it's unrelenting unease, although it's not up there with is best work it's seem incredibly unfair that it was nominated for a Razzie for worst score when you consider the efforts composers accompany films with these days, if only Danny Elfman could have taken note of Ennio's score when providing Red Dragon with it's score, talk about sign posting everything before it happens, Morricone allows the film to breathe and lets the action play out in the same way that John Williams does with Jaws.

    It would almost be unheard of today to see a film to be allowed the time to develop, it is nearly an hour in before the first real eye catching moment arrives although the film from its opening moment is gradually upping the dread and sheer hopelessness of the situation, it's no surprise that this failed on it's initial release these kind films are more typical of the 70's, the likes of Vietnam and Watergate looming over the films of that decade, the 80's saw a move to more positive vibe the end of the 70's had given birth to the blockbuster but the 80's ran with the concept, the nihilistic feel here must have felt incredibly out of place. Carpenter also remarked he'd not seen an all male ensemble for sometime, this aspect may have contributed to its reception in 1982.

    Fast forward to nearly 30 years later and Universal green lighting a prequel which tells the story of the Norwegian camp which McCready and co happen upon and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is cast in the lead role, completely betraying Carpenters film and making no sense for the sake of guaranteeing bums on seats. Whereas such a studio born film will likely be forgotten this film nearly 30 years old continues to endure and captivate.audiences. I would only rate Ridley Scott's Alien over it, none of the subsequent sequels including Cameron's much celebrated entry hit the mark like it does, not unlike Bladerunner it influence is ingrained in cinema and like that film it took it's time to make it's mark but now it's here to stay.

    * * * * * / * * * * *
  • Creasy47Creasy47 In Cuba with Natalya.Moderator
    Posts: 33,530
    Absolute perfection in my book when it comes to eerie chills and a wonderful sci-fi universe. This is still my favorite horror film, of sorts, and I could watch it non-stop without tiring of it.
  • Posts: 2,469
    Very effective score, too.
  • Posts: 169
    It's a film that, if anything, has improved with age. I now have a HD copy of it from iTunes that I can play on my laptop when I want a nice, chilly scare...
  • Creasy47Creasy47 In Cuba with Natalya.Moderator
    Posts: 33,530
    Dr_Yes wrote:
    It's a film that, if anything, has improved with age. I now have a HD copy of it from iTunes that I can play on my laptop when I want a nice, chilly scare...

    I'm jealous. I keep seeing a blu-ray steelbook of it that I want on Amazon, and it appears to have more features than the normal blu-ray I currently own of it.
  • Posts: 1,052
    I love this film so much, the best of the Carpenter/Russell films (although Big Trouble in Little China is also one of my faves).

    The atmosphere is just perfect and the tension never lets up, the old school effects still look pretty damn good also. Love the scene with the blood test, one of the tensest scenes ever put to film.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 18,295
    Very effective score, too.

    With an ongoing fan debate as to who really composed the score. ;-)

  • edited July 2013 Posts: 2,469
    Interestingly enough, to my mind there are real compositional and stylistic similarities between the scores of The Thing and Christine. I sense Carpenter's fine hand in The Thing's score.
  • ChevronChevron Northern Ireland
    Posts: 359
    I am fond of this one and while the effects are amazing I do like it best for the paranoia that sets in among the station personnel.
  • Posts: 6,396
    I love The Thing. Saw it around the same time as The Omen (I was 10 at the time). Genuinely the first proper horror film I saw after countless campy Hammer films before that.
  • JWPepperJWPepper You sit on it, but you can't take it with you.
    Posts: 488
    Carpenter had made the soundtrack of every he made before The Thing, and wanted something else, for a change, he hired Ennio Morricone whom he admired since John first saw Once Upon A Time in the West. Wat was the result from maestro Ennio: a typical Carpenter score Morricone= legend!
  • Posts: 2,469
    I love The Thing. Saw it around the same time as The Omen (I was 10 at the time). Genuinely the first proper horror film I saw after countless campy Hammer films before that.

    The only movie that scared me so badly I could not sleep. I was 11 at the time.

  • Posts: 6,432
    John Carpenters Masterpiece for me, must have watched this movie hundreds of times. Brilliant movie! Was surprised by the recent prequel was not by any means as good as Carpenters though better than i expected.
  • Creasy47Creasy47 In Cuba with Natalya.Moderator
    Posts: 33,530
    John Carpenters Masterpiece for me, must have watched this movie hundreds of times. Brilliant movie! Was surprised by the recent prequel was not by any means as good as Carpenters though better than i expected.

    I know how you feel. I think the prequel would've been leagues better if they used anamatronics and the like and didn't rely so heavily on CGI.
  • Posts: 6,396
    Creasy47 wrote:
    John Carpenters Masterpiece for me, must have watched this movie hundreds of times. Brilliant movie! Was surprised by the recent prequel was not by any means as good as Carpenters though better than i expected.

    I know how you feel. I think the prequel would've been leagues better if they used anamatronics and the like and didn't rely so heavily on CGI.

    It was a strange film. Was as much a remake as it was a prequel. Funny how the special effects and animatronics were far better in the original than the CGI was in the new film. If that isn't a lesson to those in Hollywood that CGI isn't always the best way to go, than I don't know what that is.

    After all, we all knew that after suffering DAD ;-)
  • Posts: 6,432
    Creasy47 wrote:
    John Carpenters Masterpiece for me, must have watched this movie hundreds of times. Brilliant movie! Was surprised by the recent prequel was not by any means as good as Carpenters though better than i expected.

    I know how you feel. I think the prequel would've been leagues better if they used anamatronics and the like and didn't rely so heavily on CGI.

    Definitely had the potential, agree use of cgi undermined certain scenes. Liked the references to the earlier movie the axe for example, they did try to create a similar atmosphere to the original movie. Though felt it ran out of steam at times. Though as remakes/prequels go it was pretty good.
  • Creasy47Creasy47 In Cuba with Natalya.Moderator
    Posts: 33,530
    @WillyGalore, that's why the remake of the 'Evil Dead' was so great: they used so many practical effects, and even in the rare instance that they did use CGI, it blended with said effects so it wasn't noticeable. I loved it.
  • SharkShark Banned
    edited July 2013 Posts: 348
    DarthDimi wrote:
    Very effective score, too.

    With an ongoing fan debate as to who really composed the score. ;-)
    Interestingly enough, to my mind there are real compositional and stylistic similarities between the scores of The Thing and Christine. I sense Carpenter's fine hand in The Thing's score.

    Carpenter's musical collaborator in those years - Alan Howarth closed the case with the liner notes for his 2011 electronic re-recording of the whole score (using sample libraries and virtual instruments for both the orchestra and synths).
    The Thing marks the first time that John Carpenter hired an outside composer to score one of his films. He chose Ennio Morricone, the legendary Italian composer known for his scores for Westerns to write the music. “We couldn’t speak the same language, but he saw a cut of the film and he got some ideas from that, and then I told him about keeping the score to a minimum in terms of the amount of notes and very few key changes,” said Carpenter in a 2000 interview.

    Randall Larson describes:

    Morricone actually wrote a great deal of music for The Thing, but only a portion of it was used in the film. “I gave John much more music than he actually needed, and we then came to an agreement to choose one piece in particular to put in the film,” he said. Carpenter focused on placing Morricone’s throbbing Thing motif and the sustained string pattern of isolation throughout the film as the primary motives.

    “There are two different music styles in Morricone’s score,” Alan Howarth explained. “The first is the more traditional orchestral material that Morricone did on his first pass. After hearing that score, Carpenter actually played the Escape From New York music for Morricone and asked ‘can you give me anything like this?’ So he went back in the studio without the orchestra and created this synthesizer music. That’s when Morricone came up with this very memorable theme with that electronic pulse. It’s almost like Morricone doing John Carpenter.”

    There's less than 42 minutes of music in the film itself,and 25% percent of that is music composed by Carpenter/Howarth at the last minute before dubbing. The later includes the following bits of underscore:

    - Main Title/UFO flyover
    - Autopsy
    - Kennel attack
    - Burning of Bennings
    - Mac alone
    - Synth overdubs over Morricone's "Contamination" (when Mac blows up the tentacled thing)

    Plus various stingers.

    Here's Ennio's side of the story:

    "Carpenter flew to Rome and showed me his film," Morricone says. "He was very insistent, and I liked his movie, so I decided to do it. The thing is, though, we barely talked about what he had in mind. When I went to Los Angeles to record the score, I brought a tape along that contained some synthesizer music I had recorded here in Italy. It was really difficult for me to understand what kind of score he wanted, so I composed an array of totally different things, hoping he would find something of particular interest to him. Now, I have been in this business for 30 years and I think I know what my clients want, and guess what? He picked the piece that mostly resembled his own personal compositions. That is of course the main theme, which can be heard throughout the movie."
    Confirmation of this claim comes on the film's soundtrack, which contains a great deal of music which never made it into the film. The main theme is virtually the sole composition heard during the film, and collectors consider the album a rather peculiar one as a result. "I wrote an hour of music for The Thing, and I just can't believe the way it was ignored," he frowns. "So when they asked me what to put on the album, I recovered all the stuff we had previously recorded. You can't sell a soundtrack album with one theme only; it's like cheating your potential buyers!"
  • Posts: 2,469
    Thanks, Shark. That pretty well confirms my suspicions.
  • Posts: 135
    I saw this scintillating masterstroke of cinema last Halloween. The exploding dog was masterfully done. Scared me so, I haven't watched a Halloween film since.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 16,159
    I didn't want to start a whole new thread for a discussion of Carpenter's other works when I figured it could blend into this one...

    Yes, The Thing is truly his masterpiece IMO, but Vampires & Escape From NY are also outstanding. I absolutely love his f**k PC attitude. But strangely enough, I end up watching Big Trouble In Little China & Escape From LA more than any of his others- they're just so damn funny! :))
  • Creasy47Creasy47 In Cuba with Natalya.Moderator
    Posts: 33,530
    @chrisisall, ahh, a fan of 'Vampires'! I thought I was the only one. Great film, I loved James Woods in it.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 16,159
    @Creasy47 there is no better antidote to unrestrained PC than James Woods in Vampires. Scary flick, excellent Master, great music, the whole nine yards.
    Made me jump; made me squirm- can't ask for more than that from a vampire movie.
  • Creasy47Creasy47 In Cuba with Natalya.Moderator
    Posts: 33,530
    chrisisall wrote:
    @Creasy47 there is no better antidote to unrestrained PC than James Woods in Vampires. Scary flick, excellent Master, great music, the whole nine yards.
    Made me jump; made me squirm- can't ask for more than that from a vampire movie.

    Couldn't agree more. Such a fantastic movie. Some serious ass gets kicked in that film.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 18,295
    I love John Carpenter's movies. As with Rob Zombie and Kevin Smith, I know I'm dealing with an imbalanced and imperfect filmography. But Carpenter's many highs are films that neither Zombie nor Smith can come even close to. And even his weaker stuff still isn't too bad. Besides, there's always that great Carpenter score. Take Halloween III for example, which Carpenter produced and co-wrote (but without taking credit for that.) No matter how bad you think that film is, there's still that delicious score to have fun with.

    Furthermore, Carpenter is one of "my" people. He loves Lovecraft perhaps even more than I do. And he shows it, with The Thing, Prince Of Darkness, In The Mouth Of Madness and to an extent even The Fog. Those first two are among my favourite works of his; The Thing is even more than that in my my book, it's an absolutely excellent horror film, one of the greatest ever made.

    It goes without saying that Halloween is Carpenter's biggest hit, and it's a classic for sure. But let's not forget his intriguing though flawed giallo Eyes Of Laura Mars either, or Christine, his Snake Plissken films, or his delicious "off" ones, like Big Trouble, Vampires The Ward and Ghosts Of Mars. I'm even impressed with Elvis, Starman and more.

    Every once in a while, I tend to revisit Carpenter's films, the ones he directed, produced, wrote and scored. Close to 30 titles! It took me a while to become a hardcore fan, but for a decade or so now, I have been. I profoundly respect and admire Carpenter.
  • LeonardPineLeonardPine The Bar on the Beach
    edited March 23 Posts: 3,220
    Damn, i've only just come across this discussion!

    Carpenter is the one who piqued my interest in movies. Siting in the dark on my own as a young teenager watching Assault On Precinct 13 for the first time was quite an experience! I loved it! The dialogue, the action and the oh so cool music!

    As soon as i got my first VCR i rented all his films available and he became a firm favourite. Himself and Brian De Palma were my idols back then!

    Carpenter to me made really interesting genre films which had great ideas and stories. He didn't seem to be making them for a quick buck.

    His latter career output i've found lacking, but his body of work is still very impressive.

    My personal favourites;

    The Thing (His most accomplished film. Everything just works perfectly.)
    Halloween (The cinematography, the music and slow build. Just wow!)
    Assault On Precinct 13 (Loved it as a kid and still love it now)
    Escape From New York (A flawed but ambitious project that i just love. Wonderful characters and dialogue. Also has a seriously good set up.)
    The Fog (Not perfect, but a really cool ghost story with another great score)#
    Dark Star (Really funny and amazing what was achieved on a tiny budget)
    Prince Of Darkness (personally i think this is his most underrated film. A fascinating set up with some very original ideas. One of his best endings!)
    In The Mouth Of Madness (Another very underrated film. I must admit i only started to really appreciate this on a re-watch)

    So glad i got to see him perform in concert last year!
  • Posts: 2,882
    Damn, i've only just come across this discussion!

    Carpenter is the one who piqued my interest in movies. Siting in the dark on my own as a young teenager watching Assault On Precinct 13 for the first time was quite an experience! I loved it! The dialogue, the action and the oh so cool music!

    As soon as i got my first VCR i rented all his films available and he became a firm favourite. Himself and Brian De Palma were my idols back then!

    Carpenter to me made really interesting genre films which had great ideas and stories. He didn't seem to be making them for a quick buck.

    His latter career output i've found lacking, but his body of work is still very impressive.

    My personal favourites;

    The Thing (His most accomplished film. Everything just works perfectly.)
    Halloween (The cinematography, the music and slow build. Just wow!)
    Assault On Precinct 13 (Loved it as a kid and still love it now)
    Escape From New York (A flawed but ambitious project that i just love. Wonderful characters and dialogue. Also has a seriously good set up.)
    The Fog (Not perfect, but a really cool ghost story with another great score)#
    Dark Star (Really funny and amazing what was achieved on a tiny budget)
    Prince Of Darkness (personally i think this is his most underrated film. A fascinating set up with some very original ideas. One of his best endings!)
    In The Mouth Of Madness (Another very underrated film. I must admit i only started to really appreciate this on a re-watch)

    So glad i got to see him perform in concert last year!

    An excellent list, which I would probably go along with, apart the last one, which I admit I haven't seen!
    Assault On Precinct 13 and The Thing I have seen more times than is healthy. When I saw the latter in the cinema, I came away dazed, stunning atmosphere and as for Rob Bottins effects!..Wow!
    What did you think of 'Christine'?
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 18,295
    I have just gone through a complete Carpenter "marathon", including all his directed and/or written and/or produced films, both for cinema and TV.

    My favourites:
    1. The Thing, which is PERFECT and keeps improving with every next viewing!
    2. Halloween, which continues to thrill me, even after 25 years of personal fandom.
    3. Eyes Of Laura Mars, a really good American Giallo.
    4. Prince Of Darkness, which is a wonderful, deliriously underrated Lovecraftian horror flick.
    5. Christine, one of my favourite King adaptations.
    6. Fog, Assault, NY, Mouth and a guilty favourite of mine, for very personal reasons, Vampires.

    But heck, I love them all: Elvis, Dark Star, Big Trouble, Starman, They Live, ... The only truly disappointing ones, for me, are Memoirs, LA and Ghosts Of Mars.
  • LeonardPineLeonardPine The Bar on the Beach
    Posts: 3,220
    Mathis1 wrote: »
    Damn, i've only just come across this discussion!

    Carpenter is the one who piqued my interest in movies. Siting in the dark on my own as a young teenager watching Assault On Precinct 13 for the first time was quite an experience! I loved it! The dialogue, the action and the oh so cool music!

    As soon as i got my first VCR i rented all his films available and he became a firm favourite. Himself and Brian De Palma were my idols back then!

    Carpenter to me made really interesting genre films which had great ideas and stories. He didn't seem to be making them for a quick buck.

    His latter career output i've found lacking, but his body of work is still very impressive.

    My personal favourites;

    The Thing (His most accomplished film. Everything just works perfectly.)
    Halloween (The cinematography, the music and slow build. Just wow!)
    Assault On Precinct 13 (Loved it as a kid and still love it now)
    Escape From New York (A flawed but ambitious project that i just love. Wonderful characters and dialogue. Also has a seriously good set up.)
    The Fog (Not perfect, but a really cool ghost story with another great score)#
    Dark Star (Really funny and amazing what was achieved on a tiny budget)
    Prince Of Darkness (personally i think this is his most underrated film. A fascinating set up with some very original ideas. One of his best endings!)
    In The Mouth Of Madness (Another very underrated film. I must admit i only started to really appreciate this on a re-watch)

    So glad i got to see him perform in concert last year!

    An excellent list, which I would probably go along with, apart the last one, which I admit I haven't seen!
    Assault On Precinct 13 and The Thing I have seen more times than is healthy. When I saw the latter in the cinema, I came away dazed, stunning atmosphere and as for Rob Bottins effects!..Wow!
    What did you think of 'Christine'?

    Christine is a perfectly well made and entertaining film, but as an adaptation of the book it's kind of a pointless empty excercise. Same with the adaptations of Cujo, Firestarter and lord knows how many others...
Sign In or Register to comment.