I usually get looks of exasperation when I tell people I’ve never seen any incarnation of The Thing. Sure I’ve heard great things about the John Carpenter version, and the 1951 Thing From Another World for that matter. So in honor of the release of the latest remake/prequel of The Thing, coming to theaters October 14th, I figured I’d finally acclimate myself to the world of The Thing and cover all three films!
The first version is the aforementioned The Thing From Another World, released in 1951. The film follows a group of Air Force officials and scientists who travel to an Arctic research facility and find a flying saucer embedded in the ice. What they finally unearth is some type of human embedded in the ice who, once thawed, needs human blood in order to survive. The Air Force pilots want to destroy it, but Dr. Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) wants to study it.
I’m usually a fan of 1950’s sci-fi, The Blob starring Steve McQueen being a particular favorite of mine, but I just didn’t find myself connecting to this movie. Sure the themes of science vs. survival are played out great here. The scientist wants to study the alien and “reason” with it, while the other doctor Dr. Chapman (John Dierkes) says it can’t be understood. 1950s movies always had that struggle between scientists vs. the everyman and here you see it from the first scene. The film also explores the concept of “the other,” the titled “Thing” that usually symbolizes Communism or conformity in other films of this genre and time period.
As fascinated as I was with this on a film theory and historical level, I just wasn’t immersed in the story. The characters all seemed pretty bland, the action wasn’t thrilling and the Thing itself (James Arness) didn’t look that frightening. To add to this I kept getting characters confused considering there’s at least three different doctors and a slew of Air Force personnel. The journalist Scotty (Douglas Spencer) was probably my favorite character, and utters the infamous “Watch the skies” line that this movie is most famous for. There are moments of genius in this film, and then there’s head scratching moments like a forced romance involving Dr. Carrington’s secretary Nikki (Margaret Sheridan). The love story just seemed shoe-horned in for the drive-in crowd and didn’t add to the story.
After watching this I’m assuming I’ll probably enjoy Carpenter’s version which I’ve been doing doesn’t personify the alien and has more complexity in the story. The Thing From Another World is definitely a product of its time, and an okay sci-fi picture, but I wanted more and just found myself counting down the short runtime.
Next Week: The 1982 John Carpenter version of The Thing!
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.