The Thing from Another World (1951)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Thing from Another World</strong> (1951)

(On Cable TV, July 2018) As far as reputations go, The Thing from Another World is most famous for being the predecessor to John Carpenter’s The Thing—both adapted from the same John Campbell short story, both about finding a murderous alien encased in ice. But whereas Carpenter’s 1982 movie was a conscious exercise in terror, The Thing from Another World is a far gentler affair, a thriller in which a man-in-a-suit is electrocuted before posing too much of a threat. But a softer version of the same story doesn’t necessarily mean that the film is without its own merits. From the surprisingly effective opening title card, The Thing from Another World is a surprise example of good execution. The technical details ring true, there are a few scenes of substantial impact (the overhead shot of the melted ice being one) and the pacing is more effective than expected. While the nearly all-male-and-white cast isn’t particularly distinguishable, there’s an amiable sense of teamwork to the story (quite a contrast with the 1982 version!) and Margaret Sheridan brings a touch of warmth and humanity with her banter with protagonist-pilot Kenneth Tobey. It’s not all good (the parallels with Soviet invasions and the mad-scientist shtick have not aged well), but The Thing from Another World is generally better than most of the alien-invasion SF movies of the fifties. Christian Nyby reportedly directed, although many agree that legendary producer Howard Hawks played a large role in the film’s production. This may explain the sophistication of the end result despite a trite premise—and a film that still works reasonably well even today.

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