THE THING (FROM ANOTHER WORLD)
Kenneth Tobey, James Arness, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer, Robert Nichols
1951, 87 Minutes, Directed by: Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks
Watching this movie one cannot help but marvel at what
had passed as scary back in 1951 - especially considering the gruesome remake the film
would get in 1982 (simply as The Thing) at the hands of cult
director John Carpenter!
Back then it was sufficient to simply hint at the presence of a blood-sucking alien
prowling along the corridors of a far-flung research base in the arctic. Wisely, the
director choose not to fully reveal the alien in question, so if you're put off by the
hokey-looking creature no doubt displayed on covers of this film on video, then don't be.
The alien is wisely never fully revealed - and when we do get to see it in full (albeit in
a dark corridor) - one realizes the wisdom of this decision. James Arness (later of Gunsmoke
fame) dressed up to look like a huge Nosferatu-like figure (replete with pointy
ears) simply ain't scary . . .
Mystery Science Theatre 3000 types hoping to poke fun at the
movie's hokiness will probably be disappointed. It isn't really all that
hokey and Thing
from Another World is definitely one of the better sci-fi efforts of the 1950s.
However, I'm afraid that that doesn't necessarily make it good.
"A 'walking carrot' (as one character calls it) that needs human or
animal blood to survive!"
It starts off promisingly with researchers in the arctic (cut off from
the outside world due to a heavy snowstorm) discovering an alien which
has been frozen in ice.
When the alien is accidentally thawed out, it
escapes and starts killing off members of the research station. Interesting
to note is that none of the killings actually occur on-screen and their
deaths are only mentioned by the movie's characters. Later it transpires
that the alien is actually a vegetable (as in a "walking carrot"
as one character remarks) and needs human or animal blood to survive.
The creature can also procreate at an incredible rate
- after all, it only needs to sow a few seedlings and water (or, er, rather blood) them.
Thus the entire planet is in ultimate danger of being taken over this creature or rather
its seedlings. The problem is that this aspect of the plot is never properly dealt with
and the movie never really holds together as it lurches to its end. Maybe a longer running
time and more of a sense of urgency would have helped. Who knows? Or maybe it's because
what counted for as scary back then no longer does - and I'm not just talking gory special
effects here . . .
Based on the 1938 Who Goes There? story by John W. Campbell, The Thing
from Another World doesn't feature the alien mimicking its human victims plot of the
1982 remake and thus lacks that added sense of paranoia that made the Carpenter movie that
much more interesting.
Luckily none of the cast members drift off all by themselves like
they do in those Friday the 13th and other movies - "there's a
homicidal monster around killing us off? Mmmh, then how about I go off wandering by
myself? What's in this dark empty room here? Mmm . . ."
It would seem that people in
the 1950s were cleverer than people nowadays . . .
Incidentally, although the movie's
official credits has Christian Nyby as its director, pundits consider it to be a film by
the legendary Howard Hawks - who served as producer; a bit like Steven Spielberg being
considered as the real director of Poltergeist and not Tobe Hooper.
Top 100 Sci-Fi
of all time