Ennio Morricone

The Thing (Varèse Sarabande)

Sci-fi Platters

Ennio Morricone

The Thing (Varèse Sarabande)

"It came down from space, driven and lifted by forces men haven't discovered," wrote John W. Campbell Jr. in the 1938 short story "Who Goes There?" Second-in-Command McReady, "a figure from some forgotten myth, a looming, bronze statue that held life, and walked," continues for the men of this doomed Antarctic mission: "So it crashes, and this guy, whoever he is, gets thrown out, and ends up freezing," he explains in the final-draft screenplay to John Carpenter's The Thing (1982). Frozen in the ice, for millions of years, before roaring back to shape-shifting life "weird and pissed off." ("I just can't believe this voodoo bullshit," grouses Keith David in the film.) Carpenter's update of Howard Hawks' equally bughouse The Thing From Another World (1951) also advances Dimitri Tiomkin's frenzied original score by employing Roman soundtrack emperor Ennio Morricone, recipient of an honorary Academy Award in 2007 for "his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music." Morricone's titles tell the tale: "Humanity," "Shape," "Contamination," "Bestiality," and finally, ashes of an American flag, "Despair." Opening with funereal violins and piano, horns sweating ice-blue angst as strings stoke panic, "Humanity" and its tuba embodies menace without rationalization. "Contamination," a contagion of string-plucked hysteria that succumbs to pre-Re-Animator sawed violin, feeds the overpowering "Bestiality." Employing the single-note piano ploy of Carpenter's score for Halloween, "Solitude" leads to "Eternity," which descends with a Phantom of the Opera cathedral organ. Crescendos of string stretch above a coagulating pool of bass on "Wait," prior to "Humanity (Part II)," which both opens and closes Carpenter's remake, its organic pulse of inevitability as taut as a German synthesizer, woodwind warning crowning sustained red organ agony. An Internet bootleg of the soundtrack adds 25 minutes of film score sequenced to the movie. "We came out two weeks after E.T.," reveals Carpenter to his MacReady (Kurt Russell) in the director's commentary on The Thing DVD. "Theirs was sweet; ours was mean."

****

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