Written by: Matt Molgaard
It’s likely that at this point in time more genre fans have seen John Carpenter’s, The Thing than Christian Nyby’s (or Howard Hawks, who reportedly handled the bulk of directorial duties, though he chose to have that credit omitted for fear of the stigma that “B Movies” carried in the ‘50s), The Thing from Another World. Don’t let that birth any misconceptions, this is a brilliant pic that still holds up 62 years after release.
The story sees a group of soldiers and civilians tangle with a monster from another planet after its frozen body is unearthed from the icy planes of the North Pole and inadvertently thawed. There’s a delusional doctor in the group, as well as an extremely charming Captain, a wise-cracking reporter and a cute little lady by the name of Nikki. Together, these four, along with an assortment of other colorful characters, frantically work to find a means to end the alien’s existence before they’re either drained of their blood, or frozen solid.
This isn’t a very faithful adaptation of John W. Campbell Jr.’s beloved tale, Who Goes There? but it is a legitimately enthralling feature. And to Nyby (and Hawks’) credit, we’re probably eyeing the closest thing manageable back in the early 1950s. Technology wasn’t remotely near as advanced as it is today, and creating a monster that mimics any life form it encounters probably wasn’t the easiest of feats. So, what’s a good alternative? How about a killer vegetable.
It may sound astoundingly goofy, but believe it or not, the whole vegetable approach actually works. It works because Charles Lederer pays the concept enough attention to catch, but refuses to really dwell on that specific angle. It’s not a major focal point, but a means of brief explanation. What the film really boils down to is a matter of man versus beast, and in this case, man versus beast is sincerely frightening. The first time we see the alien enter full frame it’s terrifying. Subsequently, each time the hulking freak stomps across the screen, goosebumps sprout on the flesh. This thing is chilling, plain and simple.
There’s a measure of magic in this classic adaptation. And that magic is manufactured – primarily – by the cast. There’s a level of synergy and connectedness present in this production that goes missing in many others of similar nature. But it’s definitely alive and well in this instance and that’s because there’s a truly top notch crew affixed. Kenneth Tobey is absolutely brilliant as Captain Hendry, the ultra-believable hero of the picture; Douglas Spencer is pitch-perfect as Scotty, the jokester reporter eager to get a shot of the creature; Robert Cornthwaite is absolutely despicable as Dr. Arthur Carrington; Dewey Martin rocks as the unassuming sidekick; and Margaret Sheridan leaves the salivary glands working overtime. This is a stellar ensemble, plain and simple.
The Thing from Another World is one of the finest science fiction/horror hybrids ever filmed. It’s engaging, humorous and freaky as all hell. It’s also got the kind of replay value diehards should flip for. This one just doesn’t get old, and it loses no steam whatsoever with repeated viewings. If you haven’t seen it yet, change that, right away.