The Defibrillator Scene from 'The Thing (1982)'

A gif of a man getting his hands bitten off by another man's chest which has turned into a mouth

One of my favorite practical effects comes from John Carpenter’s The Thing. In this scene, Copper (Richard Dysart) is trying to restart Norris’ (Charles Hallahan) heart with a defibrillator. Norris’ chest opens up like a mouth, Copper’s hands falls in, and his arms get bitten off.

So how did they do that? Well, that’s Charles Hallahan’s real head, shoulders, and arms coming up through the operating table. The rest of the body is a made out of fiberglass and foam-latex. It took 10 days to make the fake body, because of the intense attention to detail. They even made sure that the chest hair patterns matched Hallahan’s real hair. The chest is a hydraulic mechanical device, that can snap open and closed. Meanwhile, Richard Dysart is replaced by body double Joe Carone, a double-amputee who is wearing prosthetic arms, made out of wax bones, rubber veins, and a bunch of red jell-o. He is also wearing a realistic mask of Dysart’s face, because he is still playing Copper in the shot immediately after the chomping. So the teeth really do bite down on the arms and tear them off!