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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Thing From Another World (1951)

1951 brought the world- and horror fans, one of the greatest sci-fi/horror classics of all time, even influencing one of the greatest horror film makers of all time.  I'm talking about, "The Thing From Another World"...

After an unidentified flying object crash lands near an Arctic research centre, the military and scientists recover what may very well be the body of an extraterrestrial.  Soon, however, the small group is besieged by an almost unstoppable alien... and alien that needs their blood...

"The Thing From Another World" is actually based on John W. Campbell, Jr's short novel, "Who Goes There?", and took advantage of the American public's distrust of science after the horrors of the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  It sets the stage for future movies featuring the conflict between scientists and the military- though later films would depict the military as being the sinister party.

When it was released, it actually made more money than other classics such as, "The Day the Earth Stood Still," and "When Worlds Collide".  It also came to influence young John Carpenter- who would slip several scenes from the movie into his first feature film, "Halloween".  Later, he would do his own remake, titled simply, "The Thing".  Carpenter would add the element of shape-shifting to the story, which was actually part of the original novella.  One of the most obvious homages to the original, was the inclusion of the opening, "burning title" sequence.  October 2011 will see the release of a prequel to this version, bearing the same title.

As far as I'm concerned, this movie rightfully deserves to be called a classic.  The movie is about an hour and a half long- but you don't notice the time passing.  The editing, camera work, dialog, and action sequences make for a smooth, quick paced, and even exciting ride.

The acting is great for the time.  Each of the characters are unique, interesting, human and consistant in their personalities.  The humour is witty and fun, and even subtle at times, without being ridiculous.  It felt as if the characters (and actors) had known each other for a long time.  Margaret Sheridan was both beautiful and confident as Nikki, and her scenes with Captain Patrick Hendry (played by Kenneth Tobey) were witty and enjoyable. Tobey did a great job as the Captain.  His take action manner contrasted nicely with Robert Cornthwaite's character, Dr. Arthur Carrington.  Douglas Spencer as the reporter, "Scotty" was both humorous and likeable as well.  I even enjoyed the performances by the supporting cast in their roles.

For a movie of that time, the make-up for "The Thing" was actually pretty well done, if not stupendous.  James Arness, you played "The Thing" later went on to become famous with the TV series, "Gunsmoke".  The prosthetics looked seamless, and plausible, though would be seen as primitive and simplistic when placed next to what is created these days.  Despite that, I was pleased and impressed.  The other visual effects were equally good- especially the scene of "The Thing" on fire, and the climatic confrontation scene.

The camera work showed a lot of thought and made good use of the cleverly designed sets.  Using mostly tight corridors and small rooms, you got the impression of being trapped.  Shadows were used to great effect in a few scenes- the most memorable being at the beginning of the burning Thing scene.  Quick cuts and smooth scene transitions helped the story flow and kept the pace moving.  This film is a great example of visual story telling.

Given all of these things, "The Thing From Another World" sits proudly in my collection as a classic, and at the top of "The Good".


  1. I think this is a great film,but even as a child I thought the alien was a big let down - " It's just a guy wearing a showercap!"

  2. A sci-fi classic that still packs a thrill or two. And you're right, Beladraculalugosi, it's too bad they couldn't do more with monster. That's something Carpenter really ran with.

  3. I thought they were good for the time period. The prostethics for the hands were the best part. I'll agree that the headpiece could've been a bit more... alien, but wasn't bad.