- Michael Jackson’s 1982 Thriller Album
Thriller was Michael Jackson’s most popular album; released on 30 November 1982, it stayed at #1 for 37 weeks on the Billboard Chart. At its peak, the album was selling a million copies a week worldwide. In just over a year, Thriller became—and currently remains—the best-selling album of all time. Sales are estimated to be between 47–109 million copies sold worldwide. An estimated 60,000 units continue to be sold every year in the U.S!
Thriller Zombies and Michael Jackson
Micheal Jackson and Thriller Zombies
Director John Landis
When the time came to create a music video for the album’s title track, Michael Jackson had been so impressed with the film An American Werewolf In London‘s (1981) special effects he asked its director, John Landis, to direct Thriller – a 14-minute music video that also acts as a short horror film.
Special Effects Wizard Rick Baker
American Werewolf’s creature effects whizz, Rick Baker, was hired to create the monster Jackson turns into in front of his girlfriend — before it’s revealed Jackson and his girl (former Playboy model Ola Ray) were only watching themselves in a movie.
There is narration from horror icon Vincent Price which heralds the arrival of zombies… which Jackson proceeds to dance with, quickly transformed into one of the undead himself!
Horror film Legend Vincent Price
Created for $500,000 ($1.4 million today – which, in 1982, made it the most expensive music video ever), Thriller was an instant smash-hit. Today, over 25 years later, it continues to top most polls as the Best Music Video. At the time, Thriller‘s video was even released as a separate VHS tape, that included a making-of documentary, and sold 9 million copies just by itself!
Rick Baker's special effects makeup turns Michael Jackson into a creature for Thriller video
Jackson, who was a Jehovah’s Witness at the time, even added a disclaimer at the start of Thriller, saying:
“Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult.“
GoreMaster's Guide to Makeup Special Effects 101
The album won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards at the 1984 Grammys.
Earlier this year 2009 there were reports that Jackson was partnering with the respected Nederlander Organization to create a Broadway show that expands the landmark 1983 Thriller video into a full-fledged stage extravaganza.
With the news of Jackson’s death today it does seem fitting to remember the amazing talent that he was and happier times when doing the “Thriller” dance was all the rage. R.I.P. Michael.
Thriller Dance Zombies
Thriller Video Trivia:
1. When Michael leaves the cinema, an announcer says “see you next Wednesday” (a recurring in-joke used in many of John Landis’ films, taken from a line in 2001: A Space Odyssey.)
2. The reason Michael’s face isn’t always that of a zombie during the dance sequence is that he found the make-up too uncomfortable.
3. Grape jelly was used for all the gory effects.
4. Famous composer Elmer Bernstein did the incidental music for the video.
5. The sound of the growling animal, used for Michael’s transformation, is the exact same sound Landis used in An American Werewolf In London.
6. The music video qualified for an Academy Award nomination, because it debuted before a screening of Fantasia — with most audiences leaving once Thriller had finished!
7. At the time Jackson’s record company didn’t want to pay $500,000 to make a video for an album that they thought had hit its peak. So Landis and Jackson made the video off the profits of a one-hour “Making of Thriller” documentary they made and sold to cable channels.