The Thing (The Thing from Another World)

Year: 1951

Production: Winchester Pictures / RKO

Director: Christian Nyby

Starring: Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer, James Arness

Screenwriter: Charles Lederer

Based on "Who Goes There?" (1938) by John W. Campbell Jr.

86 minutes; B/W

The Thing was by far the most influential of the films that sparked off the sf/monster-movie boom of the 1950s, and remains one of the most powerful of that decade. The film was actually dir Howard Hawks, who arranged as a favor that Nyby (an editor on previous Hawks films) should receive the directing credit. It is full of Hawks' trademarks: fast pace, overlapping dialog and an ability to elicit relaxed, naturalistic performances from the cast. It describes the discovery of a UFO in the Arctic ice, its retrieval, and the subsequent series of attacks on a military/scientific base by its thawed-out occupant, a humanoid, vegetable alien, searching for blood. Hawks wisely kept the Thing (Arness) off the screen for most of the film; when seen it is disappointing - and not at all like an "intellectual carrot", as it has been described. The best things in The Thing are the increasing tension (every time a door is opened the audience jumps) and claustrophobia; the gusty performance by Sheridan as the wisecracking woman who gives as good as she gets, especially in the astonishing bondage scene; and the convincing sense of a nervous group under siege. Typical of adventure films made during the Cold War, there is a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later morality (the scientists who want to communicate with the Thing are seen as fools); the Cold-War feeling is heightened by the famous last line, "Keep watching the skies!"

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