Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Horror, The Horror: Neil MacGregor recalls The Shock of The Thing

Some of us never fully recover from horrific experiences, nor indeed from the more gory horror films.

Hitchcock's Psycho made an indelible impression on me as a youngster and I still flinch whenever I see that little bald-headed organism come snarling out of John Hurt's chest cavity in Ridley Scott's masterly Alien. But I shuddered even more when I watched John Carpenter's 1982 chiller, The Thing.

Little did I realise at the time that the film was actually based on real-life events experienced by British Museum director Neil MacGregor. It seems Mr MacGregor is still suffering nightmares after surviving that alien invasion while working as a young archivist at the British Museum's Antarctic Research Laboratory in the 1970s. Acclaimed film director John Carpenter turned those stomach-churning events into The Thing.

"Give us back our Things"
Mr MacGregor has now bravely agreed to revisit the terrifying time when he and a group of trainee universal museum directors found themselves trapped in an inhospitable environment, invaded by grotesque extraterrestrial parasites (right) demanding the return of their cultural property from Universal Museums.

He will be recounting his experiences in the inaugural Robert Hughes Memorial Lecture entitled The Shock of The Thing at the National Gallery of Australia on 13 November.

It is clear from Mr MacGregor's glassy stare in the pre-event publicity flyer (above left) that he is still suffering inner turmoil, ever fearful that the aliens, infected by the deadly Cultural Property Restitution virus will return to attack his institution and take back their "Things". One can only sympathise.

Kurt Russell as a young Neil MacGregor in The Thing
Unresolved childhood traumas don't last forever, but denial will only make matters worse. Better to take the same course of action as Kurt Russell, who played the young Neil MacGregor in the film (left) —sit down, open a bottle, and accept your fate — the aliens are can run, but you can't hide.

Neil MacGregor, Director, British Museum, London, will present The Shock of The Thing, the inaugural Robert Hughes Memorial Lecture at the National Gallery, Australia on Tuesday November 13.
Venue: James O Fairfax Theatre
Price : $20, $15 members (Bookings essential)
Booking: Bookings

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