The Thing from Another World

08/26/2021 08:40

Film: The Thing from Another World

Year: 1951

Director: Christian Nyby

Writer: Charles Lederer

Starring: Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan and James Arness



This is a movie that I didn’t realize existed until I got into podcasts. It is interesting since I’d seen Halloween, where this movie is being shown on the television. I knew about the remake that was done by John Carpenter, but the deeper I got into movies, I realized this one existed. This movie has been on a list to see for some time. I’m now getting to it as I’m working my way through 1951. I’ve been excited to check out this classic. The synopsis is scientists and American Air Force officials fend off a bloodthirsty alien organism while at a remote arctic outpost.

We start this movie off in a bar for military personnel. It is in Anchorage, Alaska. Ned Scott (Douglas Spencer) goes to a table where some guys are playing cards. Amongst them is Capt. Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey). Ned is looking for a story, but there doesn’t seem to be much going on. Pat gets called into his superior’s office and told he has to go to the outpost near the North Pole. A plane crashed and they need his crew’s assistance.

Capt. Hendry gets Lt. Eddie Dykes (James Young), Crew Chief Bob (Dewey Martin), Lt. Ken MacPherson (Robert Nichols) and Cpl. Barnes (William Self) together to head with him. Also joining is Ned as there could be a story here. As they approach, Tex Richards (Nicholas Byron) reaches out that they need to use a different type of compass. There is a magnetic field of sorts that is messing up the more advanced equipment so they need to use more simple ones to navigate properly.

They arrive and learn from Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) about what happened. He is in charge with some other doctors and scientists. Before they check out the crash site, Pat goes to see Nikki Nicholson (Margaret Sheridan). It appears that she mocked him when he last saw her, but he still has a crush on her.

An expedition is set up to check out the crash. Before going, they knew something up was different about it. When they arrive, it turns out to be a flying saucer. They use thermite bombs, but it destroys the ship. There is a space man frozen in the ice though. Using axes this time, they’re able to chip it out in a block. They return to the base.

Dr. Carrington wants to get started immediately on researching this creature, but he is shut down by Pat until they get the proper clearance from his superiors. The problem is the magnetic field seems to be over this base now and they can’t call out. They can only receive messages from more powerful equipment. The block of ice is accidentally thawed and it becomes a fight for survival when this thing from another world wakes up.

Now I’ll be honest about something here. I’m not as familiar with the Carpenter remake as many are. I’ve probably see parts of a handful of times and seen it all the way through twice. It is great. I do want to get that out there. I don’t have the nostalgia that a lot of people have for it though. What makes this nice, they are following a similar set up and feature an alien. Both take place in a location that is isolated due to the weather. It also affords them the opportunity to destroy the menace before it reaches civilization. Which if it does get there, it would wipe out the human race.

The alien being is what I want to break down first. For this version, we are getting a humanoid one. It spooks some of the soldiers that are tasked to look over it. Once they study some of this creature, they discover it has cell set up like a vegetable. I’ve heard the joke on podcasts about it being a giant carrot and didn’t realize it is a line from the movie. It doesn’t have blood in the traditional sense, but has sap. It does live off blood though. It can also reproduce by having these seedpods that come from it. This idea was altered for the remake, but we are getting the implications that if any of this alien gets back to civilization, it could wipe out the world. The alien is portrayed by James Arness and I think he has a good build for it. I also like these barbs that it has, like other plants. It is also stronger than humans and able to regenerate lost limbs, making it difficult to kill.

Where I think I’ll take us next is some of the social commentary this movie has. First there is the government not wanting Ned to report on this. It makes sense. He is a newspaper man and they want to report everything. The problem is that this could cause panic if it gets out without them knowing. I’m still a firm believer that the government hides stories like this because the public isn’t smart or equipped to handle some knowledge. We have Dr. Carrington bumping heads with Capt. Hendry. This is military vs. scientists. Going back to my previous point, you could even have this be military vs. citizens. In this movie I side with the military though, as Dr. Carrington is willing to allow this thing to wipe out humanity to study it. Being that this is the 1950s, the alien can be read as communism or beliefs different from our own. The military needs to stop it and the citizens want to study it, allowing it to get to civilization.

I feel that is enough for the story to delve into, so I’ll go next to the acting. Sheridan is top billed and this is interesting. I’m not the biggest fan of how she is referred to from the beginning, even before we meet her. They make it seem like she is just a pretty woman, but it seems she has a fairly important position at the research facility. I like how she can manipulate Pat though and I thought she was fine in performance. I liked Tobey as our hero. Seeing him bump heads with Cornthwaite is good. Speaking of him, I think he fits well as Dr. Carrington. Spencer is funny to me as he literally just mocks the military and scientists for being inept. What happens with his character in the end is fitting. I’d say that the rest of the cast rounded this out with special props to Arness as the The Thing, despite him not being satisfied with his performance/look.

Then the last things to go into would be the effects, cinematography and the soundtrack. I’ve already said that I liked what they did with the creature design. I thought it looked good. What works in its favor is that we see it from a distance or just get a glimpse so we can’t critique it too much. The dead dogs look real as well. The cinematography gets credit here for how they frame things as well. The soundtrack also fit the movie for what was needed without standing out.

In conclusion here, this movie holds up today in my opinion. We have an interesting story that doesn’t go too heavy handed and is still relevant with some aspects. The social commentary can be altered still to make sense for things we deal with even now. The acting is good across the board. I like the look of The Thing and the rest of the effects are solid as well. The cinematography helps there. I don’t have any glaring issues with the movie. For me, this is a good movie. If you like 50’s horror or want to see where the basis for the classic from the 1980’s is from, give this a viewing.


My Rating: 8 out of 10