From right to left : John, Myself, Production Manager Robert Brown, Associate Producer Larry Franco. The Juneau Ice Field. Location Scout April, 1981

Friday, October 26, 2012


                   At one point during production on THE THING John Carpenter was approached by legendary Universal Studio Producer, Executive, and Impresario Jennings Lang to see if he could come up with an idea for a movie to go along with a new "gimmick" Lang  was very excited about.

              Lang had recently been involved with the introduction of SENSURROUND, which created a massive low end bass rumble to go along with its debut motion picture EARTHQUAKE. I remember, as this film was initially mixed at the sound department and the bugs worked out, the premises regularly being evacuated by scared looking employees - the building literally felt as if shook itself apart right down to the foundation, an uncomfortable feeling for those living in Southern California who had experienced the real thing. Things usually abruptly subsided as one or more of the massive woofers were blown halfway across the mixing stage floor... 

Director Mark Robson and Jennings Lang on the set of EARTHQUAKE

               The new companion process Lang was developing was called LIGHTSURROUND, and was being designed to simulate the visual effects of a full scale thunderstorm including lightning. With the film ideally in 3D, he explained, the physical apparatus in the theatre would consist of two elements : (1)  a large, silver metallic ball suspended from the roof at the center that would rotate on cue, splaying bright light around the theatre and, most importantly, (2 ) a machine positioned in the projection booth that on cue would shoot a real bolt of lightning directly over the audience's head and onto a graphite "dot" located in the center of the screen. Exciting stuff this, he said, but he didn't have a story to go along with any of it - he wanted to get something underway quickly, wasn't interested in science fiction, or anything too horrific - did John have any ideas?

           Asked by John afterward for my thoughts, all I could come up with was some sort of John D. McDonald-esque murder mystery set in the Florida Keys during a hurricane...

                     ... but we didn't get much of a chance to flesh any of this out. Word came back from testing in the field that the lightening bolt itself was a little unreliable - seems that it would hit the dot on the screen most of the time, but would occasionally veer off short of its target and strike the nearest metal object - a seat back, an audience members wire rim glasses, say... despite the creator's assurance that he would work to make the process 100 % reliable, Lang reluctantly consigned the idea to the dustbin of motion picture history... 

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