Thank God it's Fun filled Friday! Happy Friday fun loving readers. Today I am going to review one of my favorite 50's horror films, The Thing From Another World. I love the genre, cheap 50's vegly scifi-ish. The "new" style of horror in that era. I'll be doing of my favorites from that era, Creature From The Black Lagoon, And Them! I'll get to those eventually. I first saw this as a kid, summer afternoon. One of our two best friends came over with a stack of comic books, we had pop cycles, we had swam in the morning and were settled back for an afternoon of comic books and "dialing for Dollars." That's the first time I saw The Thing From Another World (1951). It was great, exciting, suspenseful. Little did I know at the time it was also cold war hysteria. I'll get to that.
Directors: Christian Nyby, Howard Hawks (uncredited) Nyby directed a lot tv in the 60s and 70s including Maybery RFD.
Writers: Charles Lederer (screenplay), John W. Campbell Jr. (based on the story "Who Goes There?" by), 2 more credits »
Reporter Ned "Scotty" Scott (Douglas Spencer) has come to a military base at the North Poll because he's looking for a story and he's heard that a large group of scientists have gathered there for some unknown reason. It's sort of "hush-hush" but they take him along anyway. There is a major storm in the offing, communications are getting difficult. A sub plot is introduced in the relationship between Captain Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) and Nikki Nicholson (Margaret Sheridan). They have known each other in the past, it's implied that their relationship was based upon casual sex. They play coy with each other and hint that they might resume where they left off. Of course they didn't show anything because it was a horror movie back then that meant large part of the audience would be children.
The crew goes out into frozen waste land to explore the crash site of sn aircraft near by. This is why the scientists were there, they didn't know whose plane it was, they thought it be a meteor or it could be Russian. The see a craft under the ice. They don't see wings and they can't make out the shape so they stand over it and trace out the shape by linking arms. They notice they are standing in a circle. The craft is circular. There is a moment of stunned realization. They try to use bombs to free it from the ice but blow it up. They find the frozen body of the pilot freed from the ice by the blast.
Back at the base we have the first confrontation between the scientists and the hero (Patrick Hendry--like Patrick Henry--"give me liberty or give me death"). This is how we know it's a red scare movie. The main scientist, Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite), is a type I grew up with, I recognized the trope even when I did not know what it was about. Liberal do gooder, whimpy, doesn't ant to fight, placing absolute faith in science and peace and reasoning with the enemy, in opposition to the All American hero (like Patrick Henry) who knows the answer always lies in theatrical heroics. This type was so common I remember the first time I saw the movie I said to myself "O yea that kind of guy."The thing frozen in the ice really spooks them, especially after they clean it up and can see the face is not human. They don't know if it is conscious or not, of course the scientists want to defrost it. The hero says no and he puts a guard on it. It's locked in a store room, the windows broken so the ice wont melt. OK spoilers past this point.
Of course the ice get's melted. The guy assigned to guard it leaves a heating pad on it. Stupid mistake. He put the blanket over it because he didn't want to see it staring at him. Barnes, the idiot with the heating pad escapes with his life, as the creature breaks out. He locks the door from the outsides and alerts the base. They arm and come back only to find the creature has fled through the open window. Outside they hear and see in the distance a form fighting with the dogs.
Examining the dogs they find an arm torn off the creature during the battle. The scientists, upon examining the arm, find that he's s vegetable man. his cellular structure is like that of a vegetable. The arm starts moving when blood from the dogs gets on it. They theorize that the creature is made up of fiber and seed pod and can break into autonomous units. They all arm with guns and axes and barricade themselves from the storeroom. The sled dogs are all dead, the base is snowed in, and the communication is out.
Dr. Carrington notices several of the plants he was tending have died. He theorizes that the door was open long enough to let in cold air from outside; they search the place and find a dog dead and drained of blood. The creature had been there and is getting blood to speed up cell division and hatch his seed pods. The others are worried about surviving but weak-kneed liberal egg head Carrington expresses sympathy for the creature, isolated in the cold on a strange world and attacked by dogs. He wants the dead dog kept from Hendrey so he can communicate with the creature.
There is a missing blood supply. Nikki finds Carrington's notes and shows them to Hero Hendrey (hey it pays to snoop in a red scare). He has the major confrontation with Carrinton. Meanwhile they realize the creature got the blood supply so he's coming and going as he pleases. They barricade themselves in the mess hall. They prepare to fight to the death. Here comes the major spoilers.
The creature breaks in. They dowse it with kerosene and set it on fire. The things gets away he is just irritated and cuts off the oil supply. Now they are trapped and freezing. They still have power (oil heaters) but Hendry figures the creature will attack the generators. He wants to set up a trap but the fire didn't seem to hurt him. Someone suggests electricity. They rig up a thing to produce an electrical arch in the door way. On his way to the trap Carrington intercepts the creature warns him of the trap (just like those traitor liberals) and makes a little speech exhibiting all the liberal values about intelligent creatures working together. It's pretty clear by that point that the creature wants their blood to nurture the seedlings from his pods so the can raise an army. He bashes Carrington out of the way and goes on to the trap. See you can't reason with the commies, not even a vegetable man commie from another planet.
He bursts in the door, they turn on the electrical gadget, he's caught in an arching bolt of electricity and fried to a crisp. The sky clears, communication is open. Pat and Nikki decide to get serious and [plan their future together (the hero always get's the girl--when he fights commies). The film's famous ending shows the reporter phoning in his story and he says say we need to remain vigilant against further threats from outer space, he ends by repeatedly shouting "watch the skies! Watch the skies," getting louder, WATCH THE SKIES!" Film critics tend to believe that he is really saying to watch for Russian bombers.
The red scare was no j9ke it destroyed a lot of innocent lives. This film, in spite of it's true propagandistic motives, is fun to watch and it is exciting and fun to make fun of it.