Monday, June 16, 2014

MR The Thing from Another World

Where Did It Come From?

How Did It Get Here?


Movie: The Thing from Another World also known as simply The Thing or The Thing (1951) nowadays
Directed by Christian Nyby 
Release date 1951
Genre Science-fiction/Horror B-movie 
Country USA

Loosely adapted from a 1938 short story titled "Who Goes There?" written by renowned science-fiction author John W. Campbell, The Thing from Another World is one of the earliest examples of science-fiction/horror film, produced by the legendary Howard Hawks.

Hawks didn't direct it directly though, and instead had Christian Nyby fill in the director's chair. But he did co-script and co-direct several bits (although remaining uncredited for so).

The Thing (1951) starred Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan and Robert Cornthwaite who were all relatively unknown at the time. The "Thing" itself was played by a very young James Arness.

Campbell's story was written before flying saucers became a common thing (no pun intended!) in pop culture. As such it was a precursor to The Day The Earth Stood Still or the radio drama or film version of War of the Worlds as well.

Howard Hawks' classic black & white film was produced early on during the Cold War, at a time where the media used to talk about UFOs sightings all the time, it kind of launched the Golden Age of the science-fiction genre in a way.

As for the film itself, some changes were made from the book to better suit the means at the time and Hawks' own vision of the story. Hawks made a change of location from Antarctica to the Arctic, believing it would bring more suspense as it would be closer to the US, the alien threat would therefore feel more immediate over it taking place in some remote location in Antarctica.

The film is kinda slow paced, which sort of dates the film mostly in its later final act.

Our story takes place in Alaska.

A group of American scientists found something during an accident. The crew in this polar research facilty discovered something deep buried beneath the ice. Lead by a certain Dr. Carrington, the team decides to call in the nearby Air Force base to send in some help to deal with their discovery.

These men arrive at the research facility to find some kind of unknown spacecraft crashed beneath the frozen land. A local reporter joins in as well hoping to find a news-worthy story to print.

They find this giant circular imprint beneath the ice surface, and the edge appear to draw some kind of ship.. A flying saucer? They use thermite explosives to uncover the surface but it unexpectedly blows up this mysterious vessel. The entire craft explodes... It would have been a big loss for science, that hadn't they found something else. They locate and free a strange entity thanks to Geiger counter readings firing up. They bring it back to the camp in a block of ice which appears to encase a body or a human-like shape. The Captain thinks they should have left it alone, frozen. Nothing good will come out of that...

A guard is left standing, watching "the thing". The guard was feeling uneasy so he decides to cover the block of ice with a blanket - only it turns out it was an electric blanket! It melts the ice and frees the creature which immediately breaks out and escapes into the compound. It attacks the sled dogs. This dangerous being is not from this world!

What I always liked is how this was a pretty smart intelligent creature for a change. They deduce it's a plant-like living form from outer space. This vegetable life also appears to require to feed off blood (or organic material?) for that matter.

Using Geiger counters they are able to sort of-track it down. It roams and lurks around the base. They try to locate and capture it. The creature seems to go back and forth to the green house regularly, they find one of the dead dog there, drained of its blood. They manage to get the Thing outside.

A couple days pass while bodies of the scientists pile up, always around the green house. The doctor was pretty busy lately, he had been trying to grow more things feeding them organic matter from the blood plasma found in the medical storage. They can multiply like plants, it's really more vegetable than man!

The monster is immune to bullets. They trap it, setting it on fire. The set and this entire scene were particularly impressive for the time! The burning creature escapes out the cold outside. The crew burns everything in the lab. They get some new orders through the communication, this Thing needs to be contained alive and not destroyed!

The creature sabotages the fuel line and the temperature drops below zero... They're going to freeze to death!

They decide they won't even bother trying to keep the Thing alive. They come up with one final trap to kill it. The current provided by the generator power goes out, the doctor is now trying to save the Thing! He shuts it down... But they manage to trap the Thing between the Tesla coils' electric bolts. It burns and shrinks to a pile of ashes.

The reporter broadcasts one final warning to the outside world   "Watch the skies, everywhere! Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!" - which in retrospective was probably the most clear Cold War message to come out of this entire film.

The Thing from Another World is a perfect example of a genre that would slowly dominate movies all the way though the 1950s.

The shapeshifting monster from the original novella was changed to something a bit simpler and easier to understand at the time.

It was also made into a much down to Earth (as far as scifi goes) pretty straightforward story where the audience could get everyone's role and understand all these characters in a single look. There's a captain, a reporter, a doctor.. As such the film probably lost part of what could have been used as an anti-communism paranoia, strangely. Also we get one single female aboard the station played by Margaret Sheridan, a pretty though female character aboard this all male crew which was not that common at the time.

What could have ended a pretty generic alien invasion film from the 1950s turned into a pretty smart movie. While it was more of a B-movie popcorn flick about an alien invasion kinda fared a bit farther from its science-fiction/horror roots in the original story - which is what the series would be known for decades later.

But we do get some great bits including people using Geiger counters as an alien detector not unlike Alien would do years later. I also like how the dogs get used in the actual plot.

We do get a great ensemble cast. Some great frozen landscapes.

The Thing itself comes off more like a "Frankenstein monster" than anything else like its counterpart in the book, really. Hawks's take on the creature is pretty original. A sort of what if humans didn't evolve from mammals but instead from plants, probably on the planet it came from.

There's an interesting conflict between the pursue of science and basic common sense.

No surprise here, the film was a huge hit at the time.

It was deemed one of the biggest and best science-fiction films at the time. And it usually always ranks pretty well amongst all those classics that came later on.

The film has a great atmosphere. The very limited sets really help.

As it was usual at the times, the film had some Cold War undertones (although probably to a lesser extend than most films the following years), and the creature here is clearly confirmed to be out of our world.

The film also featured great atmospheric music by Dimitri Tiomkin.

The Thing from Another World is one of the greatest science fiction films of the 1950s, easily one of the best all-time classics.

Overall, it's a recommended classic!

The film was intelligent and had a great feel with its moody atmosphere.

Despite all these years long gone by, it still has a certain charm.

It might have been forgotten over the time, with all the other classics that followed, but it inspired whole generations for years to come.

It went on leaving a very important impression on a young future film director, John Carpenter. One of his favorite classics from the 50s, he referenced it in his 1978 Halloween film before he ultimately went on remaking it.

I'm personally probably more of a fan of the 1982 Carpenter film. They're entirely different styles of horror film despite covering the same basic plot, but the 1951 classic is easily just as good.

We shouldn't forget where it all began.The Thing from Another World!

I give it:
2 / 3 UFOs!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks!

      If you're fan of the Thing, you'll like the next review I have scheduled for today!