Director: Christian Nyby
Writer: Charles Lederer
Cast: Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer, James Young, Dewey Martin, Robert Nichols, William Self, Eduard Franz, Sally Creighton, and James Arness
Composer: Dimitri Tiomkin
Release Date: 4/27/1951
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Discovering a flying saucer submerged in ice, United States Air Force Captain Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) and his crew work with Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite)—leader of an arctic research team—to uncover the frozen remains of an alien pilot. When released from his frosty confinement, the creature—a vegetal humanoid that feeds on the blood of animals—wreaks havoc on a science outpost at the North Pole.
A loose adaptation of John W. Campbell’s science fiction novella Who Goes There?, The Thing from Another World generates an eerie, claustrophobic atmosphere that few movies (e.g. John Carpenter’s 1982 remake) have since managed to parallel. Fans of the sci-fi/horror crossover genre will therefore enjoy this offering, which exploits fear of the unknown (a relevant social message at the time of release) in order to produce and later heighten suspense around the alien monster.
By revealing only small glimpses of the Thing, this production relies on the power of suggestion to produce a thick layer of tension leading into the electrocution sequence. Specifically, dim-lit corridors and obscuring angles work to conceal the features and physical size of the eponymous creature, prompting the audience to speculate on the grotesque, inhuman properties of an alien whose physiology more closely resembles that of a carrot than a flesh-and-blood organism.
Accentuating the clever cinematography of Russell Harlan, Dimitri Tiomkin’s creepy musical arrangement (reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann’s “Gort” theme from The Day the Earth Stood Still) embodies the mysterious, otherworldly essence of the Thing—an aspect that serves to enhance the apprehension of the viewer.
Despite facing an existential threat, the protagonists—especially reporter Ned Scott (Douglas Spencer)—maintain a sense of levity throughout their predicament; much in contrast to the group members featured in Carpenter’s aforementioned remake, which conveys an air of dread, hopelessness, and impending doom through character emotions.
Choosing to destroy the alien instead of attempting to reason with it, the characters in this film exemplify the fear, paranoia, and preemptive aggression typical of the anti-Communism movement in early 1950s America.
The Thing from Another World is a chilling, atmospheric alien invasion film that employs horror/sci-fi tropes to offer commentary on the Second Red Scare. Worth noting in particular is the humanoid creature played by James Arness, whose towering height and foreboding presence will leave a lasting impression on those of a weak or sensitive disposition.
Overall Quality: 9/10
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