The film was originally banned when released in Finland.
The original movie, The Thing from Another World (1951), took place at the North Pole. This version takes place at the South Pole.
Donald Pleasence was the original choice for the character of Blair. Pleasence was unable to perform the role due to a scheduling conflict.
At the beginning of the film the Norwegian with the rifle is the second unit director and associate producer as well as Kurt Russell's (then) brother-in-law, Larry J. Franco. According to John Carpenter, on the commentary track, Franco is not speaking Norwegian but making up the dialog. "Schmergsdorf" as Carpenter puts it. The subtitles, however, give the impression he is speaking Norwegian. The words spoken are actually understandable for Norwegians. Albeit broken Norwegian, the line goes: "Se til helvete og kom dere vekk. Det er ikke en bikkje, det er en slags ting! Det imiterer en bikkje, det er ikke virkelig! KOM DERE VEKK IDIOTER!!" This translates to: "Get the hell outta there. That's not a dog, it's some sort of thing! It's imitating a dog, it isn't real! GET AWAY YOU IDIOTS!!"
The Norwegian dog in the film was named Jed. He was a half wolf/half husky breed. Jed was an excellent animal actor, never looking at the camera, the dolly or the crew members. Jed, however, is NOT the dog seen in the beginning chase scene, where the Norwegian is trying shoot him. Per Carpenter's commentary, this was another dog painted to look like Jed.
To give the illusion of icy Antarctic conditions, interior sets on the Los Angeles sound stages were refrigerated down to 40 F while it was well over 100 F outside.
In the close up shot of the United States National Science Institute Station 4 sign, a 'Smokey the Bear' sign can be seen.
The Norwegian camp scenes were actually the charred remains of the American site from the end of the film. Rather than go to the expense of building and burning down another camp, Carpenter re-used the destroyed American camp.
This is the first film in what John Carpenter calls his Apocalypse Trilogy. The other two are Prince of Darkness (1987) and In the Mouth of Madness (1994).
The opening title exactly duplicates the original Howard Hawks film. To create the effect of the title, an animation cell with "The Thing" written on it was placed behind a fish tank filled with smoke that was covered with a plastic garbage bag. The garbage bag was ignited, creating the effect of the title burning onto the screen.
Based on the classic short story "Who Goes There?" by pioneering science fiction editor John W. Campbell Jr., he is not credited in the DVD version until the end credits.
This film is considered a benchmark in the field of special makeup effects. These effects were created by Rob Bottin, who was only 22 when he started the project.
The flesh-flower that attacks Childs is actually an incredibly detailed effect. Its petals are 12 dog tongues complete with rows of canine teeth. Effects designer Rob Bottin dubbed it the "pissed-off cabbage".
The female voice on MacReady's computer was performed (uncredited) by the wife of director John Carpenter, actress Adrienne Barbeau.
While discussing the character of MacReady, director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell discussed having MacReady be a former Vietnam chopper pilot who had felt displaced by his service in Vietnam. This ultimately did not make it into the finished film.
In August 2003 a couple of hard-core fans, Todd Cameron and Steve Crawford, ventured to the remote filming location in Stewart, British Columbia and, after 21 years, found remains of Outpost #31 and the Norwegian helicopter. The rotor blade from the chopper now belongs to Todd and rests in his collection of memorabilia from the film.
John Carpenter and Kurt Russell both admit that after all of these years they still do not know who has been replaced by the creature and when.
In the shot of MacReady holding the dish of Palmer's blood right before he tests it, the hand that holds the dish is fake.
The sound effect of the Antarctic wind was actually recorded in the desert outside Palm Springs.
There are no female characters in the film. The only female presence in the movie is in the voice of MacReady's chess computer and the contestants seen on the game show that Palmer watches. A scene containing a blow-up doll was filmed and then left on the cutting room floor. According to John Carpenter, only one crew member was female but she was pregnant and this forced her to leave the shoot; she was replaced by a male.
This is the first of John Carpenter's films which he did not score himself. The film's original choice of composer was Jerry Goldsmith, but he passed and Ennio Morricone composed a very low-key Carpenter-like score filled with brooding, menacing bass chords.
The tentacles that Clark sees in the dog cage are whips being maneuvered by Rob Bottin.
Much of the creature work in the scene inside the dog cage was done by Stan Winston and his crew as Rob Bottin was suffering from exhaustion at the time due to his immensely heavy workload.
There is a character name "Mac" and another named "Windows"; since the film was made in 1982, this is purely coincidental.
On the 20th anniversary of the film, Sony released a video game continuation for the "PS2" console, in 2002.
At a horror convention Q&A session in 2008, Keith David (Childs) was asked if he ever knew who, at the very end of the movie, was infected with the alien. He smiled and said, "Well, I don't know about (Kurt Russell), but it sure as hell wasn't me."
One of the few Universal films that does not begin with the Universal logo.
"The Thing" came out in the early days of home video with stereo sound. It also came during the time videophiles began to learn how to decode the matrixed surround track encoded on Dolby Stereo films by use of a left minus right decoder with delay applied. The Thing was one of the main films that were recommended to test out the setups due to the aggressively directional surround stereo mix, especially in the opening helicopter chase. The Thing was among the first movies to advertise that it had a "matrixed surround track" on its packaging for the stereo soundtrack versions.
Vintage "making of" special contains scenes that never made it to the theatrical or TV versions, such as the tentacles from the "Dog Thing" starting to attack the dog, seen later partially digested in the final cut.
Poster artist Drew Struzan created the poster for this film basically overnight and without having seen any publicity photos.
HERE BE SPOILERS (but everyone's seen this, yeah?)
SPOILER: For a scene where Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) arms are severed, a real-life double amputee stand-in was used wearing a mask in the likeness of Dysart. The audience focuses on the bloody stumps while the mask goes unnoticed.
SPOILER: Kurt Russell was almost injured in the scene where he blows up the alien Palmer with a stick of dynamite. Apparently, he had no idea exactly how big of an explosion it would produce, and the reaction that he has in the movie is genuine.
SPOILER: Nauls' death was originally filmed with him being attacked by a "Box Blair" creature. Director John Carpenter was unsatisfied with the effect and left Nauls's death ambiguous.
SPOILER: In the scene where Norris' (Charles Hallahan) head separates from his body, special-FX designer Rob Bottin used highly flammable materials for the construction of interior of the head and neck models. During the shoot John Carpenter decided that, for continuity reasons, they needed some flames around the scene. Without thinking they lit a fire bar and the whole room, which by now was filled with flammable gases, caught fire. Nobody got hurt, but the entire special effects model, on which Bottin had worked several months, was destroyed.
SPOILER: Carpenter comments that one of the bush pilots used on the film offered to crash one of the helicopters for money. The scene when MacReady and Dr. Copper go to visit the Norwegian camp via helicopter, the bush pilot actually turned the controls over to Russell once the chopper was off the ground. If you watch the shot you see the 'copter actually wobble, that's Russell taking the controls.
SPOILER: An alternative ending was originally shot showing MacReady rescued and a blood test proving he was human but it was done as a precaution and never used even for test screening and not part of John Carpenter's original vision for the film.
SPOILER: In the end, Dr. Blair no longer wears his eyeglasses. This meant he no longer needed them-after being took over by the Thing-and killing Garry.
Ace film, still think the special effects in this are much better than most of the modern day horror films that are about now. Who needs CGI when you can have gross-puppet-mutated-dog-monsters and heads that sprout legs?