The Thing From Another World (1951)
WRITER: Charles Lederer
DIRECTOR: Christian Nyby
STARRING: Margaret Sheridan as Nikki
Kenneth Tobey as Captain Patrick Hendry
Robert Cornthwaite as Dr. Carrington
Douglas Spencer as Scotty
James Arness as The Thing
QUICK CUT: A typical boring night at a military base in the middle of nowhere Alaska becomes increasingly less boring when they stumble upon an alien spacecraft. Sadly, less boring means more killy.
Captain Hendry - Our hero. Pretty much your typical army guy circa 1950. We were big on soldiers, and he's no exception. Put him in a Captain America uniform and be done with it.
Scotty - A newspaper reporter somehow posted to Alaska and looking for something exciting out of Anchorage. He's very persistant, and probably the main driving force behind information in the movie.
Dr. Carrington - A man who puts science and exploration above all else, to a fault. He comes dangerously close to selling out humanity just to see what happens.
Nikki - Hendry's love interest, and Carrington's secretary? I'm not entirely sure what she does at the research station. But the movie needed some eye candy.
THE GUTS: Ooh, finally! Two years in, and we finally come to classy black and white movie time!
We open up on an offcier's club in Anchorage, Alaska, and I'm not sure if that's snow, or film grain blowing around. We meet a dorky newspaper guy named Scotty who's looking for a story, and stopping by to meet an officer and a gentleman he knows from elsewhere. Hendry introduces him to the rest of his card-playing buddies.
Eddie suggests Scott try and get down to Seattle if he wants a story, and he and his friends would be more than happy to fly him down there. Not just because it's warmer than Satan's icebox! But then another officer blabs a little too loudly about some scientists doing something of interest at the North Pole. So much for a summer vacation.
Captain Hendry gets called away from poker to be read in on a situation up at said North Pole research station. Turns out something is hinky, and it just might be those damned Canadians!
There's a cute running gag here with the door to the corporal's quarters being opened and the harsh, winter blast of air that comes in every time being followed by a gruff order to close the door! It's maybe a bit hokey, but it feels real at the same time.
On the way there, the soldiers are informed to adjust their course, because of strange magnetic anomolies. Well, Magneto does have a penchant for his frozen bases. It's a good thing they made sure to point out this magnetic anomaly, since it never really comes up again.
I really like the snappy, quick dialogue in this movie, but when Scott, Hendry, and everyone arrives at the research station, it comes almost TOO fast. I'm losing names, and there is just a mash of talking that just blurs all together. It's like watching an Aaron Sorkin movie on fast forward.
Hendry heads upstairs to meet...oh holy crap, run! It's Molly Keller! This is going to be a dream sequence!! None of its real! No no, false alarm, it's just Nikki, an old friend of his and...actually, I have no idea why she's here other than eye candy. Anyways, they head back downstairs where Dr. Carrington is waiting for them.
Carrington, with Nikki's help since she has the script, tells Hendry about a crashed...something about 20 miles away. It sounds like a crashed meteorite from the size of it, although the doctor reported a downed aircraft. But when he shows the captain the object's trajectory, and never shows us the slides, it's clear that it is not a meteorite. At least, to them. We get diddly.
They head out to the crash site, and discover a frozen patch in the shape of a bottle, and its notable from every other frozen patch in Alaska, because it's recently refrozen. The group heads out onto the site to investigate further, spreading out over the shadowy mass beneath the ice to determine the shape.
Their investigation reveals a saucer like shape to them, and the movie's music crescendos hilariously at people standing in a circle. And so of course, it must be a flying saucer, an alien, and everyone is terribly excited at this. It feels a bit like leaping to conclusions, if you ask me, but a fair enough leap.
Scott starts asking a lot of questions like a good reporter, and Carrington tells him they'll be easier to answer once they actually get down to the craft. And they're not freezing their nuts off at the North Pole, I'm sure.
The soldiers spread out and start planting thermite bombs to melt the ice, and say it'll be unfrozen in 30 seconds. The downside being, in the arctic, it should be REfrozen once again in 12...
Unfortunately, while the explosion is quite impressive, the vessel reacts poorly and also explodes. Bummer. A craft that can travel through the rigors of space, through who knows how many millions of miles, and can't take a few bombs not quite near its surface. I smell a design flaw.
The good news is, there may have been a fragment that survived. If they had destroyed enough of the craft to not even have a piece left, I would have been either impressed with our own explosives, or very depressed in the building techniques of our alien overlords. What did they use, balsa wood?
Underneath the ice, again, they discover something, and it looks like a man. Or so they say. This movie isn't big on showing us what they're talking about, are they?
One guy says he can see it, but again they can't be bothered to share with the rest of the class, so you'll just have to take my word taking their word for it.
One of them suggests using more thermite to get the creature free, because that worked SO well not two minutes ago. Fortunately someone has the better idea of hacking out the block of ice he's in and taking him back to the base to thaw out.
Ahh, a brief moment of intelligence from someone in a horror movie. Once they get the creature's ice brick inside, rather than letting it thaw out or chipping away at it, Hendry makes sure the room is kept cold to keep the thing frozen, until further notice. That is a smart thing to do.
They check communications, which are getting steadily worse as the oncoming storm draws near. Scott is banned from releasing any story until they investigate further, and Carrington asks to be allowed to make a full examination when the time comes.
While Hendry gets ready for the a date with the Ripper, one of the soldiers comes up to clue him in on what's happening with Iceman downstairs. Turns out the ice has cleared up, if not melted yet, and they can see the thing inside, and he describes a hairless man like thing with strange hands, and that it feels like they're being watched. Hendry chalks it up to just nerves, but the soldier reassures him that it truly does feel like the creature is watching them. At least someone is watching.
Things slow down for a bit while Hendry and Molly have their date, such as it is, and they discuss what this all might mean. Nikki, it only means that the government will cover up alien involvement with our nation for the next sixty plus years. Don't worry about it! It will be like nothing ever happened. BECAUSE NOTHING DID, GOT IT??
And the movie gets surprisingly kinky for 1951, as Hendry is tied to a chair by Nikki. Granted, it's just to feed him drinks, but it still feels like something unexpected for this time period. But we learn that Hendry untied himself some time ago, so let this be noted; don't have Nikki tie the creature up once it's loose.
Meanwhile, the guards change shifts on the creature, and rather than have it staring at him, the newest watcher decides to cover up the block of ice. Unfortunately, the blanket he used was the electric blanket he should be using to keep warm. Well, the creature will make use of it once he's been thawed out. Oops.
Eventually, he hears the creature mewing, I kid you not, and he turns and fires his weapon at it. He makes a run for it, straight to the other people in the base, ranting hysterically about the creature being alive. He gets a glass of water thrown in his face to calm him down, and to keep him from going outside for the next few hours.
I gotta credit the movie for being very well paced. We are just about halfway through the movie, and we have spent this entire time with characters, building the situation, and making us wait. And I didn't really feel like my time was wasted. You knew the creature was coming, it was just a question of when, and the time leading up to this point doesn't feel wasted at all. I may not remember everyone's name as the dialogue zips by me, but I know them all the same.
They see the creature outside tossing around stuffed animals, and give chase. It runs away at the first sign of the humans, and all they find is an arm waiting for them, that one of the dogs must have gotten off the creature before it went all Bane on them.
Carrington examines the arm, and discovers no blood, no circulatory system, and surmises that the creature can't die, as we think of the concept. Which I guess makes sense, what with being trapped in a brick of ice for 20 hours or so.
Scott listens to the description, hearing what sounds like plant matter, and calls the creature a, snicker, super carrot. I hate to point this out, but plants die too, sometimes even by the cold.
They discover a seed pod in the hand, indicating the creature's ability to reproduce, and the way Doc Carrington goes on about the creature, I suspect he'd like to help it do just that. Sweet, sweet pollenation.
But the doctor's love affair is cut short when the hand on the table begins to move, having ingested the doggy blood it was soaked in. That's going to make watering the plants a bitch.
The soldiers sweep the base, securing each room in turn to make sure the creature isn't lurking anywhere waiting for them. Carrington begs for a chance to just talk with the creature, sure it is only frightened, what with everyone biting off limbs, or shooting at it.
The geiger counter goes nuts and they think they've found it, but it's just a room full of isotopes they keep handy for...I have no idea. It never comes up again. Maybe it's the cause of the magnetic anomaly.
Outside a locked door, there's a sign with yet another reminder to keep the doors closed, and this door leads to the greenhouse, which is kept locked so no one steals their food. This is overall, another nicely paced bit of cinematography, as they're very slow and methodical about clearing each room. You know that something is coming, but not when.
With a reminder that they'll have to report this to their superior officer back in Anchorage, things lighten up now that the base has been cleared. The scientists stay in the greenhouse, and Carrington notes some dead plants, likely killed by a sudden blast of air from an outside door that just so happens to have a busted lock. The creature was indeed there, but is gone now. They do, however, find something locked up in one of the storage bins.
Carrington opts to keep his discoveries secret for now, wanting his chance to talk to the blood-sucking killer carrot, rather than risk the military's shoot first and ask questions never policy. Not that he has much to worry about, as the soldiers are having zero luck finding the creature in the blizzard.
They get a message from Fogarty asking for information and specs on the ship and creature, concerned over their lack of communication. He must not have noticed the blizzard. But the communication is forgotten when one of the scientists stumbles in, mumbling about the greenhouse before passing out from some wounds. Well, that came out of nowhere.
Everyone arms up with their axes, and run to the greenhouse so we can finally see this thing. They split up so another group can seal off the outside door it escaped through earlier, dragging this out longer. I am a bit disappointed that the Thing is...a guy with no hair. Not the most inspiring or threatening of character designs.
And that's why you keep the doors closed! So perfectly played out. The actions make sense for the location, and by this point you're so used to doors opening and closing, that even though you know at some point a door will open and BAM there's the creature, you don't know when. And with so many doors, and so many openings, it literally could have come at any time. It really is well played and set up.
The door gets sealed up good, and Carrington gets chewed out for not reporting his pet dog sooner. He seems oddly unaffected by the news that two of his colleagues were hanging from the ceiling, dead, as well.
In Carrington's lab, he meets with others and finally does show some remorse, and tells them about an experiment he's been working on. Remember that seed? Well, he planted it. And watered it with blood. Blooded it? In just a matter of hours it began to sprout and take form.
They urge the doctor to get some sleep, but he insists he is thinking perfectly clearly. Says the guy feeding blood to blossoming space plants in his Arctic lab. Let that sink in a bit.
But all that plasma doesn't go unnoticed for long, and Handry asks Molly where it's gone to. She's pretty damned horrified by what Carrington is doing, and what they're growing, so she gives the doctor's notes to her boyfriend without any hesitation.
Hendry's also not happy about the science experiment and confronts the doctor about it. They realise the creatures feed off of, and grow from blood, and assume the creature will try to find more of it, and breed more. Nice of us to do the work for him, and use handy feeding bags of plasma, so he doesn't have to hang his own humans. They decide to burn the blossoms, and wonder if the same would work on the adult, much to the chagrin of Carrington.
The geiger counter starts to go off again while everyone is sitting around, its signal getting stronger. While I'm about to wonder if they really work like that, the plot rockets along and they already have kerosene and are plotting ways to cook their vegetables. That was fast.
Speaking of fast, the creature smashes through a door, and it's not long before he is actually set on fire. But that doesn't slow him down at all, as he starts trashing the place as he burns. If anything, it makes him that much more effective, as the room begins to burn with him.
Rather than burn to death, the thing defenestrates itself and runs into the snow. Stop, drop, and roll!! That leaves everyone back at the base to try and put out all the fires, and deal with broken windows. This plan probably seemed better on paper.
While trying to rig up some intercoms to keep the place better watched, the electrician suggests using electrical power as a better way to set the creature on fire. Probably better than tossing kerosene around, yeah. Everyone gets ready, and tries sending more messages out for reinforcements, and flame throwers, when Nikki notices the place is getting colder.
They realise the generator must be dead for some reason, all of them having to do with a giant, walking carrot having tampered with it somehow. It's going to freeze dry it's dinner!
Orders come in to protect the people there, but not to take any action against the creature. Carrington gloats and says they have to follow orders, but Hendry just doesn't care. He wants that thing dead. I'm all for advancing science, but that thing is a clear threat.
The creature is lurking around, and they don't want to give him time to think about the situation. Not the least reason being that they're slowly freezing to death. So Hendry and friends decide to lure the creature into their electrical trap using themselves as bait.
As the thing nears, the geiger counter goes crazy until the alien yanks open the barricaded door and...wait. They blocked up a door to stop it from opening, but it swings the other way?? What was the point? They didn't or couldn't stop anything with that!
Oh well. The creature smashes through the wooden hurdle, and the crew are ready to run away and electrocute it, when all the lights go out. The call comes down that Carrington disabled the power, and Hendry rushes to get things running again before the thing kills the distractions in its way.
They get the power back on pretty quick, despite Carrington having a gun to hold people back. He wasn't counting on his own people not wanting to be fed to baby plants, I guess. As the power comes back, he rushes up to the creature to at last try and speak to it, to reason with it, and find out what it knows, what it wants.
Which goes about as well as you'd expect. I'm a little disappointed it just smashes the doctor in the face and tosses him aside. The creature SHOULD be intelligent. It had a spaceship, it has clothes. It's technologically advanced and cunning. It should be more than just a grunting obstacle. Sigh.
So the creature finally gets electrocuted and is burnt to a small pile of ash. Thus ends its rampage, and things can start to go back to normal.
As Nikki and Hendry discuss getting the heck out of Alaska for someplace much warmer, they finally have access to the radio, and Scott calls out and tells the world their story, revealing the existence of aliens to the world. He even gives Carrington a moment of heroism, and doesn't reveal he tried to sell them all out, and...wait what? The existence of aliens just went out over the radio?? To everyone? Well, that's a weird ending.
Video: Very clean for a 1950s black and white movie. There's the expected grain, but overall the transfer looks like it came from a nice print, or was restored well.
Audio: A mono audio track, but it sounds good for what it is. The dialogue itself is more detremental to hearing what's going on as lines are run over, more than any bad recording.
First Blood: Puppies, nothing but puppies. Sad face.
Sound Byte: "So few people can claim they've lost a flying saucer and a man from Mars in the same day." Scott
Blood Type - F-: Nada, zilch, zero. We barely even see the creature's severed arm.
Movie Rating: For something from the height of 1950s era B movies, this is pretty solid. Well written, snappy dialogue, very well paced, and well thought out. The parts where the movie fails are maybe not going far enough. Everything seems pretty straightforward. The creature is a guy, and almost indistinguishable from anyone else. He's a complete cipher, and while he's capable of spaceflight, he's just a grunting thug. He may as well have BEEN a giant carrot. But for the era, for what it is, it is still a pretty interesting thriller where you're just waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it has some good action. Three out of five dead puppies.
Entertainment Value: I don't know if it's because it comes from the 50s, or because it's a pretty solid film, but it's a better movie than it is just something to laugh at. It has its moments, but it's actually just a solid movie from the 50s. It is still worth watching, for the nostalgic flavour of cheese and to watch a decent enough movie, but overall, not the greatest pile of goofiness we've seen. Make sure you close two out of five opened doors.
Keep watching the bad movies!!