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Keep watching the screen: “The Thing from Another World” is still buckets of fun

Updated: Dec 26, 2018


Will it work? Air Force Capt. Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) gets ready to flip the switch on the otherworldly visitor. (Frame shots courtesy of Warner Archive Collection)


Blu-ray, 1951, not rated

Best extra: There’s just one – a trailer (Boo!)

SEE IF THIS storyline sounds familiar: The members of a remote research/galactic expedition discover an unknown life form and, defying common sense, set out to study/exploit it. Before long, all hell breaks loose.

“The Thing from Another World” not only set the template for who knows how many movies, it’s still a corker – tight, tense and chock-full of the kind of 1950s, who’s-out-there? Saturday-night paranoia that demands big bowls of popcorn. Not too shabby for a celluloid senior citizen.

When word’s sent that a UFO has been spotted near a North Pole research base, the Air Force springs into action and sends a team headed by Capt. Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) to check it out. Joining them is reporter Ned Scott (Douglas Spencer), who’s looking for a story. He finds a doozy: a spaceship buried in the ice and, inside, a frozen …

Air Force Capt. Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey), clockwise, lower right, reporter Ned Scott (Douglas Spencer), Lt. Eddie Dykes (James Young) and Crew Chief Bob (Dewey Martin) head to the frozen north to investigate.

Members of a North Pole research team and an Air Force crew sent to investigate a UFO sighting discover a crashed spaceship.

Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite), left, the head of the research team, and others at the North Pole base discuss their findings.

Naturally, The Thing (pre-Matt Dillon James Arness) thaws out and goes on a rampage. Blind to the threat, Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite), the leader of the research team, insists that the creature can be reasoned with and, just before the shocking finale, tries to do just that. Guess how that goes.

Scott’s closing warning is timeless: “Watch the skies. Everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies.”

The title is the latest in the Warner Archive collection, and though it’s been given a 2K makeover, it’s not in the same league with other releases like John Ford’s “They Were Expendable,” John Frankenheimer’s “Seven Days in May” and the Robert Mitchum-Jane Greer noir classic, “Out of the Past.”

Shot in glorious B&W by Russell Harlan (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) on RKO’s soundstages, a Los Angeles icehouse, Montana, a set in North Dakota and the RKO Ranch in Encino, Calif., there are moments when the picture is razor-sharp – and others when that sharpness and the nuanced gray scale wash out, an indication that several sources were used. That said, it’s still the best print going.

Given the movie’s vintage, the audio is what you’d expect – funneled into the center speaker. No problem there. The dialogue and score by the great Dimitri Tiomkin (“High Noon,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”), one of the first to make use of the Theremin, don’t compete.

There’s still some debate as to who directed – Christian Nyby, who edited producer Howard Hawks’ “Red River,” or Hawks himself. Hawks told director Peter Bogdanovich that it was Nyby, but a few people who were on the set said Hawks was behind the camera most days. Whoever, “The Thing from Another World” is still out of this world.

The only complaint is the extras … make that, extra: a trailer. That’s too bad because, several years ago, John Carpenter, who’s 1982 remake “The Thing” does the original one better, did a commentary for a U.K. release. One reviewer who saw it wrote that it’s “a thing of beauty” in which he explains his “mad passion” to a new audience, breaks it down scene by scene and shares production details and the trickery that went into making it.

C’est la vie, but the trade-off isn’t bad at all. Just heat up extra popcorn.

- Craig Shapiro

A distress call goes out after a member of the team is injured by the rampaging Thing.

The team is confronted by the Thing (James Arness before he starred as Matt Dillon on “Gunsmoke”).

The Thing goes up in flames – or does he?


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