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MacReady (Station Survival)

The Thing
by yo go re

At the time of its release, The Thing was a critical and commercial flop, but that really isn't its fault. It opened on June 25, 1982, the same weekend as Blade Runner. Two weeks before that, E.T. had come out. And a week before that, both Poltergeist and The Wrath of Khan. Then, a short two weeks later, Tron opened on July 9! So what we're saying is, the summer of 1982 was apparently an amazing time to be a sci-fi/horror fan.

MacReady, a top helicopter pilot; worked for Hughes Aircraft as a test pilot, until he got into a confrontation with top management and resigned to take this assignment.

When The Thing was broadcast on TV, a lot of scenes had to be cut down to avoid being too gory for basic cable; the movie's already only 109 minutes long, so axing the content left the runtime too short (even after jamming in way too many commercials). The solution they came up with was to add back in a bunch of deleted scenes and craft an alternate ending - one that's even bleaker than the original, if you can believe it - but that still wasn't enough, so they also cut in a bunch of character introductions. Those were just extra narration over scenes from the film when people would first appear, but that meant small moments had to be held longer to accommodate them. They were based on otherwise-unseen notes from Bill Lancaster's script, and that's where that bio we just quoted above comes from.

Kurt Russell was not a household name in 1982, but he'd just been Snake Plissken the year before, so John Carpenter didn't want to use him as RJ McReady (the same way George Lucas and Steven Spielberg didn't want Harrison Ford to be Indiana Jones so soon after being Han Solo), but no other actor considered was as good, and Russell finally got the part.

This figure includes two heads, both sculpted by Trevor Grove: one with the hood of his blue parka up, the other with it down. It took Kurt a full year to grow the long hair and beard the character is known for, so hiding that away is a shame! The bare head has a look of surprise, while the hooded one is squinting in determination. This is the second Ultimate MacReady NECA's released, and while the previous one also had similar heads, their expressions were different.

Mac is wearing his usual outfit: dark boots, green pants, and a brown leather jacket over his parka. There's a lighter brown gun belt around his waist, and he's wearing thick gloves in the package, though the set also includes alternate gloveless hands for him: two with the pointer finger extended, and three for holding various accessories. This part was sculpted by Alex Heinke, who did a fine job duplicating the way the different materials would bunch and wrinkle when worn.

The biggest question when it comes to a NECA toy's articulation these days is whether the elbows will be one joint or two. One, here, because leather jackets are thick. He moves at the head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, thighs, knees, boot tops, and ankles. The elbows were initially a bit stiff, but not to the point of breaking when I used force to get them moving - this is 2022, not 2012, and NECA toys don't shatter like glass all that often anymore. Swapping the extra bodyparts is easy, with the hair on the long head shaped to fit inside the collar of his jacket, and the upper edges of the gloves being separate pieces that slip off when you want bare hands.

The accessories that came with the first Ultimate Macready (Outpost 31) were not great, which is why there's no review of it. This one (Station Survival) is a ton better, giving us things you actually think of when you think of MacReady. Okay, not the ice axe so much, or even the Colt Trooper Mk III that fits in his holster really, but an M2A1-7 flamethrower? That can slide onto his back and has a removable flame effect? A bundle of dynamite? Yes please!

The best, though, is a combo of three different things that let you re-create the famous blood test scene. A master class in building suspense, the scene sees MacReady reasoning that every little part of a Thing is an autonomous unit, so he takes blood samples of everyone else in the base, then begins testing them, heating up a length of copper wire and poking it into the blood. Time after time he does it, with no reaction, until shockingly somebody's blood screams and leaps away from the heat and pain. So this toy includes the spool of wire, a petri dish of blood, and a geyser of red plasma spraying into the air. If you freeze-frame the movie at just the right time, you'll see the blood monster appears to have a mouth and tiny arms, but this is just a big, tendrily plume. Still awesome, though.

The first MacReady figure just had Drew Struzan's iconic movie poster on the front of the box, while this one gets a new piece of art by Paul Shipper. It's very obviously reminiscent of Struzan's style, with only the signature and the 2021 date making it apparent this is a new illustration. It depicts MacReady in front of a snowy blue background, illuminated by the yellow glow of his flamethrower, and features the half-wolf malamute, Jed, who was so pivotal to the plot. Since both packages are mainly blue and white, you may see this one on the shelf and assume it's still the older version; I know I did, but then, as I keep telling you, I'm really rather dumb.

Long ago, McFarlane Toys did Movie Maniacs of The Thing in a few of its monstrous forms. SOTA did a Now Playing box set of MacReady at the kennel. Despite earlier efforts, NECA is the first company to make Mac in his most iconic form. Their first effort was so-so, but changing the accessories is enough to make this the more appealing version.

-- 05/15/22

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