1982’s The Thing is one of my all time favorite sci-fi/horror movies, ranking right up there with the original Alien for the best such movie ever. However, as much as I loved the movie, it would be years before I learned that it was not the first such movie and was actually a remake…to a degree. After learning about this, I always wanted to watch the original movie but the only time I had a real chance, I only caught about 5 minutes of it. Still, I had always heard that the movie was an incredibly well made movie so I finally found a way to watch it today. So let’s sit back and enjoy today’s movie, The Thing From Another World.
The plot: Journalist Ned Scott arrives at a military base in Anchorage, Alaska and heads to the officer’s club, where he meets up with his friend; Lt. Eddie Dykes. Eddie introduces Scott to Capt. Pat Hendry and Ken “Mac” MacPherson andwhen Scott tell them he is there to try and find a story, Eddie tells him he should try writing about a research station up in the arctic, Polar Expedition Six, that is led by Dr. Arthur Carrington. Pat is summoned to see the base commander, General Fogarty, who tells him that Carrington had radioed about a strange aircraft that had crashed close to their base. Fogarty orders Pat to take a dog team up there to investigate the crash and allows Pat to take Scott with them. When the group arrives at the station, Scott is introduced to some of the scientist and crew while Pat goes to see Nikki Nicholson, Carrington’s secretary and whom he had a romantic interest in. After the two talk about what happened the last time they were together, and Pat asking her for a chance to start over, Nikki takes him to see Carrington. Carrington explains the situation to Pat and they soon leave to locate the crash site, eventually finding it almost 50 miles from the station. After landing, they find the ship has crashed down and been buried under some ice and after some initial observations, they realize that they found an alien flying saucer. As they work to clear the ice away from the ship so they can look inside, Pat and Scott argue over whether Scott would be allowed to publish anything he sees there. As the team attempts to free the ship from the ice, they inadvertently end up destroying it with their thermite explosive but discover that an alien being had attempted to leave the ship after the crash and had ended up being frozen in ice as well. The team manage to cut out the ice containing the creature and fly it back to the research station just as a storm moves in on them. Pat assumes command of the station and refuses to let Carrington and the other scientists study the creature until he gets further orders from Fogarty. Pat orders a watch set up on the creature but during the night, Barnes, the man on duty, covers the ice with an electric blanket so he doesn’t have to look at the creature, unaware that the blanket is plugged in and begins melting the ice. When the creature is freed, It attempts to attack Barnes but he manages to get away and alerts Pat and the others. When they head back to the room, they find the creature has escaped, killing two dogs in the process but losing an arm as well. Carrington and the scientists begin studying the arm and determine that the creature is some sort of alien plant life. Pat leads a search to find the creature and they find evidence that was in the station’s greenhouse but find no sign of it. As Pat and the soldiers move on, Carrington and three scientists, Vorhees, Stern, and Laurence, stay behind and find more evidence that the creature was there when they discover another dead dog with all of it’s blood drained. As Pat and the soldiers return to the station, a wounded Stern arrives and tells him that the creature had returned to the greenhouse and killed Vorhees and Laurence. Pat leads the men to try and kill the creature but instead are forced to barricade the creature inside the greenhouse. Pat then chastises Carrington for not reporting what he had discovered and allowing the two scientists to die, then orders him confined to his lab, quarters, and the mess hall. In the lab, Carrington tells Nikki and the other scientists that he had planted the seed pods they discovered in the arm and fed them some plasma from their supplies, causing them to rapidly grow. Later, Pat goes to see to find out what happened to the plasma that was supplied to the base, as he wanted to use it to help treat Stern, and Nikki lets him see Carrington’s notes that she took. Pat goes to confront Carrington about his actions and as they argue, they receive a communication from Fogarty, telling Pat to keep the creature alive and contained until he arrived. Some time later, as Pat and the other soldiers discuss what they can do to defend themselves against the creature should it try to attack them, they notice the Geiger counter lighting up and realize the creature is on the move. When it breaks into the room, they use kerosene and a flare to set it on fire and the creature runs back out into the snow while they take cover in the mess hall. After regrouping with everyone in the station, Pat decides to try and secure their position when Nikki notices that she can see their breath, indicating that the heat is off in the station. Realizing that the creature had sabotaged the furnaces in an effort to subdue them, Pat orders everyone to the generator room, which is the only place they can still get some heat, while also arranging to make a trap in the corridor leading to it to try and kill the creature. As they work on setting their trap, Carrington argues with Pat about his plan to kill the creature and when the creature finally appears, Carrington turns off the generator. Carrington is subdued and Pat orders the generator turned back on and Carrington rushes past Pat and the others and attempts to plead with the creature. The creature back hands Carrington and continues advancing on the others and Pat throws the switch and manages to electrocute the creature, reducing it to ashes. Later, as they work on regaining contact with Anchorage, Nikki begins giving Pat a hard time about settling down. When they make radio contact, Scott gets on the radio and tells the reporters in Anchorage a brief summary of what happened, warning them to “Keep watching the skies.”
The Thing From Another World was well received by the critics when it was released and currently holds an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “As flying saucer movies go, The Thing From Another World is better than most, thanks to well-drawn characters and concise, tense plotting.” There is debate as to who was actually the director of the film; Christian Nyby or Howard Hawks, with several actors have stated their own opinions and reasons as to who was the actual director. During an interview, Nyby said that he was the director, though did admit that he did consult Hawks often on how to do particular scenes. The movie would end up making $1.95 million at the domestic box office, making it the highest grossing science fiction film of 1951 and is considered one of the greatest films of the genre to come from the 50’s.
I can see what all the fuss is about this movie because it really was a great movie to watch. The acting was pretty good, with Kenneth Tobey (Pat), Margaret Sheridan (Nikki), and Robert Cornthwaite (Carrington) all doing good jobs in their roles. The story was pretty good and I can see the similarities between this movie and John Carpenter’s interpretation. The only thing I feel worked against it is that they had too many characters, which didn’t allow them to do as good of a job developing them than they could have if there were less people. There wasn’t much in the way of special effects outside of the creature design, which was good from a story telling aspect because it led to them relying more on tension to carry the movie, which was done exceedingly well. Definitely a movie that is worth watching if you ever get the opportunity.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5