Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Movie Appraisal: The Thing From Another World (1951)

The Thing From Another World is a horror and science fiction classic film directed seemingly jointly by Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby that was remade by John Carpenter into The Thing (1982). That's all you really need to know. The opening title sequence is pretty much the same as the remake to this film, which tends to be the better known movie. The Thing happens to be one of my favorite films of that genre, so I was very interested to see how this movie holds up.

It's pretty good actually, but also very different from The Thing. I had known this before seeing the movie, but it is kind of weird seeing just how different they both are, even with many elements remaining the same. They both take place in the Arctic. They both heavily involve sled dogs. They both go to a crash site. They both fight the alien off with fire.

Now, I'm not going to say that this film is better than The Thing. It isn't. It's very good for the film it is. It's actually quite good for a science-fiction horror film made in the early 1950s, much better than I would have ever thought. I can see the kernels of good ideas all around this film, but without the technological know-how as to how to execute a lot of those thoughts, the movie comes off as sometimes awkward, and not even a little scary.

This is something to remark upon actually. This film is not exactly scary, but it can be unsettling in points, especially when the audience cannot see the alien. Once the audience gets a good look at the alien and sees he's a guy in a suit who looks a little confused, it really takes away from any horror within the film. The unsettling mood of the movie before that point really changes once that alien gets his first big appearance.

This film also has a big deal of tell, don't show, which is frankly exactly how most of these early horror movies are. They describe dead men in great detail, or the horror of the alien, and that works. They didn't have the technology or desire to show off gruesome bits and I thought it worked out well. The alien, once melted out of the ice block, is simply not as scary as they describe. I know in the theaters back then, it would have been a huge payoff, but today the alien simply does not stand up well. He looks a little silly.

The acting is okay, but it's always okay in these early sci-fi horror movies. It would not ever blow me away, and certain characters seem incredibly awkward when they're not supposed to. Margaret Sheridan (playing Nikki Nicholson) is the biggest example of an actor/actress in this film simply not seemingly knowing her lines, or not acting correctly or something. Most of her lines, especially her early lines in the film, come out awkward and hesitantly, and it really did not work in connection to who her character was supposed to be.

The story itself is quite interesting, and the film is actually worth a watch if you enjoy classic sci-fi or horror films. If you're into those films already like I am, you kind of know what to expect. It's better than most and the science parts of it are actually remarkably well-done. I liked them a lot. It was a thoroughly entertaining movie.

As for characters, most of the main characters are fantastic.They all have their own personalities and are quite well acted. The scenery is also well-done, as in the portrayal of the cold they constantly have to be aware of. I liked that when the plane came landed the few times it did. It looked awesome and felt like something epic. Also the landing site of the flying saucer was well done and a great scene as well.
All together this film is a very well done classic that should be watched by any kind of enthusiast for films such as these. If you enjoyed the remake, you'll more than likely enjoy this one too, even without Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, and Keith David. Just don't expect any body horror, although there is some amazing scenes with fire to watch out for.

"Watch the skies, everywhere, keep looking! Keep watching the skies!"


  1. This is a solid movie, but John Carpenter and the effects team spoiled me at an early age. I always have a hard time buying what Hawks is selling when he doesn't have movie-star charisma to fall back on.

  2. Yeah, that's basically what I thought about this movie. It was pretty good for the movie it was, but Carpenter will always be the master of this story.