Ennio Morricone and John Carpenter: John Carpenter’s The Thing and Lost Cues: The Thing (Waxwork/Sacred Bones) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Ennio Morricone and John Carpenter

John Carpenter’s The Thing and Lost Cues: The Thing

Waxwork/Sacred Bones

Jun 25, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Ask any number of movie buffs for their favorite John Carpenter flick and you’ll find there’s not one single, go-to answer. Much like within Stanley Kubrick’s filmography, there’s a Carpenter film to match every cinematic taste. Unlike Kubrick, though, whose movies spanned a wide range of genres, Carpenter works primarily within the arenas of horror, sci-fi, and action, usually blending the three, which perhaps makes his appeal even more impressive: even people who don’t typically like genre movies can usually tell you their favorite John Carpenter movie. Halloween? They Live? Big Trouble in Little China? Escape from New York? Assault on Precinct 13? The Fog? Vampires? Starman?

My favorite, no question, is his remake of The Thing.    

In these days of COVID-19, the 1982 film has taken on an all-new poignancy. The idea of a parasitic monster that hides in plain sight, and that could look like any one of the people closest to you, strikes close to home. Hearing the constant media talk of the testing required to track the virus, the image of Kurt Russell’s Macready standing over petri dishes full of blood with flamethrower primed nearby takes on new meaning. This is a horror movie that echoes the fears we’re feeling through this pandemic far more than any zombie movie.    

Atypical for one his films, The Thing featured a score that wasn’t recorded by the director in his now highly-influential synth style. (Well, not a complete score, but more on that shortly.) Desiring a more European sound for this particular movie, Carpenter turned to the esteemed Ennio Morricone—composer for many, many films, and perhaps most famous for his iconic “Ecstasy of Gold” and the whistled main theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Morricone’s score is a lavish set of orchestral pieces full of tension-raising strings, lending the movie a grander, cinematic scale than a synthesizer alone could ever be capable of—where it was used, at least. Carpenter famously only used bits and pieces of Morricone’s recordings, as the Italian maestro had written them without seeing the film and the director, in the editing room, felt they didn’t match the movie’s tone. Most of Morricone’s music found its way to soundtrack releases for The Thing, even ones that weren’t hear in the movie. Separate from the film, it’s a gorgeous and evocative suite of music, and one that Carpenter probably felt gutted to leave on the cutting room floor—but, in the end, he was correct about not being fully right for the movie.    

Needing music where he suddenly found himself without any, Carpenter entered his own studio to lay down a very minimalist set of tracks on his trusted synthesizers: cold, frightening, and ever-pulsing like a heartbeat echoed ceaselessly on a bass cabinet. These were added where the movie’s soundtrack needed to provide tension in ways Morricone’s strings just couldn’t. Carpenter considered these pieces to be closer in relation to sound effects than film score, and they were left off the soundtrack releases which favored Morricone’s luscious compositions. That is, until now.    

The new EP, Lost Cues, collects these fill-in compositions from the film, having faithfully been re-recorded by Carpenter with the collaborators from this latest, rock star period of his career, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. Like the Lost Themes records and his score for the new Halloween, the music is unmistakably Carpenter’s famous style, yet embellished and updated in ways that will sound even better on your stereo system. The release only features four tracks, but to be frank it’s probably the first music that comes to mind of any fan when they think of The Thing. It only takes a few seconds of Carpenter’s iconic “Main Theme” before the images of an infected dog, being pursued through the snow by a rifleman in a helicopter, are conjured into your mind…    

At the same time, the folks over at Waxwork have given their deluxe vinyl treatment to Morricone’s beloved score for the film—both the pieces that made it into the movie, and those that didn’t. Like most of Morricone’s work, it’s a score that’s well-suited for heavy vinyl, and this pressing sounds remarkably clean to the ears. You can imagine throwing this on when the weather turns cold, and instantly being transported to an Antarctic outpost on the brink of alien-provoked implosion. The cover art foregoes the original poster—which, as blasphemous as it feels to say about an illustration by Drew Struzan, never seemed to properly evoke the film’s content—with a new piece by Phantom City Creative that better recalls the movie’s setting and theme.     

Both records are pressed on colored vinyl and have beautiful gatefold artwork that complement one another—they’re clearly designed as a pair. (And, when available, are being sold as a bundle or separately.) These releases are easy, easy recommendations for fans of Carpenter, Morricone, or of horror movies in general. The first pressing sold out faster than any in the label’s history, but re-pressings are on the way in the near future. (www.waxworkrecords.com)

Author rating: 9/10

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