John Carpenter Might Not Have Made The Thing If It Weren't For Howard Hawks

John Carpenter's "The Thing" was by no means a success when it was first released. It under-performed both at the box office and critically. Carpenter was no newbie to the filmmaking scene, either, with successes like "Halloween" and "Escape from New York" under his belt. The failure of "The Thing" was a big blow to his surging directorial career.

Fortunately for Carpenter, history has viewed "The Thing" extremely favorably. The film has become known as a cult classic, a quintessential science fiction horror movie. People love its excellent practical effects and the absolutely chilling atmosphere of paranoia and fear it cultivates. It even recently returned to theaters for its 40th anniversary, a clear sign that it has stood the test of time.

Carpenter is certainly a unique filmmaking talent. He writes the scores for (almost) all of his movies, and he has an understanding of the horror genre that allows him to elicit raw emotions from viewers. Even with his unique, against-the-grain style, Carpenter isn't afraid to credit his filmmaking inspirations.

According to an interview, one of the directors that Carpenter admires the most is Howard Hawks. Hawks, known for such works as the 1932 "Scarface," "Bringing Up Baby," and "Seargent York," is not exactly a household name, but he possesses a film repertoire that spans many genres and has influenced a variety of famous directors.

A master at work

Hawks' work has been cited as an inspiration by some of the most prolific directors of all time, including Martin Scorsese. It's no wonder that his work also made an impact on John Carpenter, who believed him to be a true master of his craft, according to an interview.

"Howard Hawks was the kind of ultimate hero, to me. And I saw his movies as a kid, but I wasn't familiar with some of the older ones and the scope of his work until I went to film school at USC... ...Howard Hawks is invisible. You don't really understand what he's doing when he does his technique and works it on you. And you think you're just watching a movie and watching the actors, and in reality you're watching a master at work."

According to Carpenter, a Hawks movie that particularly impacted him was one he saw as a child, "The Thing from Another World." The movie terrified him as a kid, and even from the title it's obvious how it likely influenced "The Thing."

Despite its lack of initial success, "The Thing" may be Carpenter's greatest work as a director. It is horrifying and impactful, beautifully shot and directed. The ending, which is at once ambiguous and completely fatalistic, is beautiful and thought-provoking (this is ignoring the fact that he almost used another, worse ending). If you, like many, love "The Thing," then we all owe Howard Hawks a debt of gratitude for inspiring it.