Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Thing from Another World (1951)

I have mixed feelings about The Thing from Another World, but it is a classy production with some sensational scenes of action and thrills. But I would say that Carpenter succeeds better telling the story of “Who goes there?”. I guess my main problem is that it’s way to narrow and conservative. Science is something bad and women are only reduced to serving coffee and being pretty. I guess that was a normal thing in 1951, but it felt like an obviously smart movie like this could have done better in that department. I’m not saying that other movies from the same time and later in this genre did it better, but it’s a very obvious thing and it’s stated very clearly several times that, for example, science and thinking just causes problem. Kill is the best opinion, not communication.

But now I’m whining too much, The Thing From Another World is a great monster film, a wonderful slice of fifties sci-fi and has so many good things to, because what we expect from a movie like this is monsters and mayhem and it really deliver a lot of that using the claustrophobic and atmospheric sets as a background.

It’s quite different than Carpenters The Thing and gone is the excellent paranoia, just a classic and well-made monster movie with some really cool ideas. A few scenes here and there is brought over to the eighties by Carpenter, but his movie very much feels like a sequel to this one – which makes the upcoming prequel even more interesting, because it will probably be closer both to the original movie and the original short story at the same time.

James Arness as the monster is both silly and cool at the same time, and thankfully they let him stay far from the camera and often slightly in shadows or with clever editing making us have problem looking at his face to long. One scene that’s excellent is when they open the door to the greenhouse and the monster is standing there, close to the door, trying to grab them. This reminded me of the door-sequence, and the first kill, in Tobe Hoopers The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Another scene that is very impressive and looks damn dangerous is when the actors are throwing gasoline all over the place and trying to set “the thing” on fire. This is in the same class as the fire scene in the remake! I wonder if someone got hurt, but it’s a very risky sequence!

One thing that makes this film stand out compared to other genre movies is the extremely witty and fast dialogue, which is non-stop. This could be a damn Tarantino-movie for what I know, because people are talking constantly and often interrupting each other, changing subjects in mid-sentence, utter just one or two words before getting distracted. It’s like a dialogue-ballet, very carefully written and makes the scenes move fast like the lightning. Never seen anything like this actually, and it was a pleasant surprise.

Maybe the hype took the movie down a notch for me, and my love for Carpenters version (one of the best movies ever made) made me love this movie less and made it easier for me to see the faults, but it’s still a magnificent sci-fi classic and a must for fans of the genre. I hope to see it out on blu-ray someday, to be able to enjoy the black & white photo even more.

4 comments:

Wes M said...

I think one of most significant aspects of The Thing from Another World is that it was one of the first films to really fuse sci-fi with horror. It's very much a film made during the Cold War - the creature represents Communism, and its interesting that the military guys are the ones who take charge of the situation, rather than the geeky scientists - this kind of thing is a real rarity nowadays !

Christian Nyby is the credited director but Howard Hawks called the shots throughout the production. Nyby was Hawk's editor on Red River and I think The Thing from Another World is his only feature film credit...

Well said also about the dialogue, the screenplay was written by Ben Hect who also wrote the rapid-fire dialogue from Howard Hawk's 1940 film His Girl Friday...

Jesper said...

It's fun to read your reviews on the classic monster movies from the 50's. Both this one and Beginning of the End are 2 movies I for some reason still havent watched eventhough I own them both on dvd. Now is a good time to do so!

Wes M said...

It's one of those movies that's great to see late at night, when there's a storm blowing outside ! I usually only revist the John Carpenter film in the wintertime...

smallerdemon said...

"One thing that makes this film stand out compared to other genre movies is the extremely witty and fast dialogue, which is non-stop. This could be a damn Tarantino-movie for what I know, because people are talking constantly and often interrupting each other, changing subjects in mid-sentence, utter just one or two words before getting distracted. It’s like a dialogue-ballet, very carefully written and makes the scenes move fast like the lightning. Never seen anything like this actually, and it was a pleasant surprise."

Well, it's Howard Hawks, after all. Look up my favorite movie ever, HIS GIRL FRIDAY with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russel. This is a Howard Hawks film in which it has been clocked in at 160 words per minute spoken. It's basically a newspaper comedy with some sneaky social commentary thrown in about the use of the death penalty as a instrument of political gain, but it's a stellar gender comedy between Grant and Russel. If you haven't seen HIS GIRL FRIDAY you can find it on YouTube or nearly any streaming site. If you loved the way dialogue worked in THE THING here you'll love Hawks' HIS GIRL FRIDAY. As said, it's my favorite movie ever.