The Thing from Another World – USA, 1951

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The Thing from Another World is a 1951 science fiction horror feature film directed by Christian Nyby from a screenplay by Charles Lederer, based on the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell.

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There is debate as to whether the film was directed by Howard Hawks with Christian Nyby receiving the credit so that Nyby could obtain his Director’s Guild membership, or whether Nyby directed it with considerable input in both screenplay and advice in directing from producer Hawks. Nyby only received $5,460 of the $50,000 director’s fee that RKO paid and Hawks kept the rest, yet he denied that he directed the film.

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The RKO movie stars Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Robert Cornthwaite and Douglas Spencer. James Arness played The Thing, but he is difficult to recognise in costume and makeup, due to both low lighting and other effects used to obscure his features.

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The film took full advantage of the national feelings of the time to help enhance the horror elements of the story. It reflected a post-Hiroshima skepticism about science and negative views of scientists who meddle with things better left alone. In the end it is American servicemen and sensible scientists who win the day over the alien invader.

The Thing from Another World will be released on Blu-ray – newly remastered in high-definition – on November 20, 2018, as part of the Warner Archive Collection. Special features:

  • Theatrical trailer (SD)
  • Theatrical re-release trailer (HD)

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In 1982, John Carpenter’s more faithful film adaptation of Who Goes There?, re-establishing the alien as more animalistic rather than vegetable-like, was released as The Thing. A belated prequel – also entitled The Thing – appeared in 2011.

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Reviews:

“Memorable scenes easily terrified many who saw this on TV growing up, including where a greenhouse door is opened to reveal the unsuspected creature, only to have it slammed on his arm and barricaded by the frightened military men. The narrative is tight, while the dialog is busy and witty, with the characters almost speaking on top of each other.” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In

“This version is lean and mean, with lots of claustrophobia and a wonderful sense of approaching dread. Unlike House of Wax say this is a film that has more than just nostalgia value to offer modern viewers.” Steve Biodrowski, Hollywood Gothique

“Ignore some of the corny banter and political rhetoric, and you get a decent suspense flick with an intriguing premise. The Thing today is probably best viewed as a historical document, its shock value having been diminished through time and repetition.” John J. Puccio, Movie Metropolis

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“It moves far more tightly and more excitingly than any other 1950s science-fiction film. The script is incredibly slick – there is nothing to spare, nothing of excess. The film is also notable for its willingness to go out and shoot on what look like convincing Arctic locations, unlike almost every other 1950s science-fiction film, which kept indoors.” Richard Scheib, Moria

“Hawks’ trademark rapid-fire dialogue is in full effect here, perfectly fleshing out the characterizations of Hendry, his men, and especially gal pal Nikki (Sheridan). The snowy setting is claustrophobia personified, and the action sequences are vibrant and electric.” The Terror Trap

Cast and characters:

  • Margaret Sheridan … Nikki Nicholson
  • Kenneth Tobey … Capt. Patrick Hendry
  • Robert Cornthwaite … Dr. Arthur Carrington
  • Douglas Spencer … Ned Scott
  • James Young … Lt. Eddie Dykes
  • Dewey Martin … Crew Chief Bob
  • Robert Nichols … Lt. Ken Erickson
  • William Self … Cpl. Barnes
  • Eduard Franz … Dr. Stern
  • Sally Creighton … Mrs. Chapman
  • James Arness … ‘The Thing’

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3 Comments on “The Thing from Another World – USA, 1951”

  1. The most amazing sci-fi ever made! My favorite horror of all time, nay, of ANY genre. Slick, scary, sophisticated. It oozes with class all these years hence. It still draws me in, gives me chills, terrifies me , no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Bravo to Hawks and Nyby, Tiomkin, and the original writer, John W Campbell.Indeed John, this IS as good as it gets.

  2. Howdy Arctic Film Fans,

    To me, this is one of the ten best science fiction films ever made, regardless of decade.

    Even though the remakes hold much closer to the novella “Who Goes Their?”, this is
    the best.

    Acting – great.

    Plot line – great.

    Atmosphere – extra great.

    Banter between characters, high end 1950’s style.

    I think you’re right Captain Hendry.

    The gag that Mac plays on Barnes in the cockpit – superb.

    The byplay between Hendry and Nikki in her office – really superb.

    And no Scotty, the creature will not hop into a parboiler.

    This is about as good as it gets.

    By the way, I saw a colorized version of the film – poop.

    Keep yer generator running at full speed, yer rubber boots on, and an eye on
    the geiger counter.

    John

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