Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

TMT: “You gotta be f*cking kidding.”

This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. There are movies that you know instantly are great as you watch them, and then there are those that literally leave you slack-jawed and stunned. The latter landed on me with this one — so much so, it took me awhile to realize that it belonged with the former.

Childs: “What do we do now?”
MacReady: “Why don’t we just wait here for a little while… see what happens… “


The Century Plaza Cinemas:



June 19, 1982: What a year this was for films — especially the science fiction and horror variety. I mean E.T., Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Tron for sci-fi, and Creepshow, Halloween III, and Butterfly for horror (sorry, couldn’t resist). So, when I was given the opportunity to preview John Carpenter’s new film, this time a big-budgeted piece for Universal, the weekend before its scheduled launch, I jumped at the last-minute chance.

I went all by myself, too. Made so by my steady (she-whose-name-is-not-to-be-uttered) working the evening shift that Saturday at a med center in nearby Culver City. Still, to see the pre-release screening of The Thing at Century City’s Plaza Cinemas, the same place I saw JAWS years before, wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The theater was packed and my single ticket status really helped me to find a seat.

Back then, this theater received a fair amount of studio previews — the 20th Century studio lot was literally a block or two away. Plus, the crowd that night was decidedly more mixed than I would have expected. Middle-aged and older couples (likely out-on-the-town folk trying something new with a preview showing). Having these interlaced with the groups of young people (those you’d more likely expect at a horror movie, mind you), made it so.

The memory of it all remains indelible. I swear, every single breakout moment of gore and/or jaw-dropping scenes (like the iconic runaway alien head sequence) had dozens literally jumping out of their seats to leave the theater. And when the film ended, those left sat in total silence. This horror film opened officially six days later, to scant business. Which happened to be within days of another one-of-kind science fiction film‘s debut (which will be up next in the series).

The entire series can be found here. If you’re interested how it’s put together, click here.

15 Responses to “TMT: “You gotta be f*cking kidding.””

  1. Novroz

    It’s amazing how you still remember things like this.I don’t even remember what movie I watched in 1990.


  2. Naomi Johnson

    I’m a coward, I’ve never seen it. Your memory of it makes me curious but I’m pretty sure that I haven’t the stomach for it.


    • le0pard13

      The Thing is a must for John Carpenter or Kurt Russell fans. It’s a great film. But, you do have to have a strong stomach for some of the scenes. I understand your hesitancy, though. I recommend watching it with friends if you’re going to give it a go. I could bring it to St. Louis ;-). Thanks, Naomi.


  3. The Sci-Fi Fanatic

    Gosh, I implore Naomi to see it. It is an experience and as frightening as it is, it is not the kind of experience you have found in these torture porn films today. Worth your time Naomi. It’s a rewarding experience for the script, the acting, the story. It’s much more than a shock film found in today’s cinemas.

    Another fine entry Michael.

    It’s funny, I used to tell my father he lived in a time warp. He loved his Westerns and he loved Roy The Boy Orbison. But, I understand now where I get my nostalgia gene from. I’ve also grown to love westerns which I never fully appreciated when he was around. In some ways, my immense affection for the western is a bit like channeling my father now. Funny. Not sure how I got on Westerns.

    Anyway, another thing about your posts makes me remember my childhood and the places I frequented to see the latest in films. I remember where I saw the Terminator and Warlords Of Atlantis.

    Do you know the Drive-In and the cinemas are all gone. These were cinemas filled with character certainly not state of the art, and much tinier than today’s film houses. Sadly they are all gone. Thanks again for the memories and sharing your own Michael.



    • le0pard13

      An absolutely thoughtful and splendid comment, SFF. First, I think you’ve nailed why Naomi (and others who are hesitant based on its reputation and/or genre) should give The Thing a try. The film has become so influential on later filmmakers over the decades — fans of the film can spot scenes or vibe from it in some of today’s movies [there was one specifically from last year’s The Crazies that is a direct homage].

      Second, your memories of your father and the western genre are spot on. It’s funny how parents turn out to be so pivotal in our taste in film and television later in life. I remain a big fan of the western genre (as John Carpenter is, as well). I understand why it is not as popular today as it once was, but it remains a versatile medium for storytelling. The western will never die, at the very least in this country. The genre has just gone underground. Many stories you would have seen in an oater, are disguised and exist as other kinds of movies and shows (certainly the police procedural has it roots in the western). It is the ultimate morality play.

      Sadly, many of the venues (theatres and drive-ins) are a thing of the past. Although, some cling to life — supported purely by the love of such things in film fans (old and new). This summer, a friend and I are going to venture out with our families to Montclair, CA to take in the venerable drive-in in these parts, the Mission Tiki Drive-in. My wife and kids have never experienced one. It should prove to be very eye-opening.

      Thanks so much for your comment, thoughts, and memories, my friend. They help to keep this going.


  4. John D

    I’m a big fan of the 1951 original, but I absolutely loved this movie. It was much closer to Campbell’s novella, as special effects had evolved to a point where the story could be done properly. Carpenter did an excellent job of setting the mood, brilliantly using the Antarctic location to instill a sense of claustrophobia. And the cast was excellent, especially Russell, Keith David, and Wilford Brimley. The Thing is one of those movies I can watch several times a year.


    • le0pard13

      You covered it very, very well, John. I do so love both versions, even being so very, very different. Great to hear you are another great fan of John Carpenter’s film. Thanks, John.


  5. Kevin (Col. Mortimer)

    Awesome TMT for an awesome film. Wow Century City looked a lot different then (a lot less cluttered!). I actually went to this theatre once when I was visiting my uncle, and saw Hot Shots! I remember when I returned home to the bay area I saw one of those commercials where they interview people coming out of the theatre for Hot Shots and it was the same theatre I saw it in!

    And 1982 was an amazing year for summer films!


    • le0pard13

      That’s great you saw a film at this theatre, Kevin. It was a splendid entertainment venue, and it’s sad the entire facility was later leveled and replaced. I’m sure many people have a good amount of recollections with this place. And yeah, 1982 was an amazing year for summer films. Thanks for the comment and adding that wonderful memory of yours.



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