The Thing From Another World
is the first movie based on John W. Campbell
's novella Who Goes There?note
, directed in 1951 by Christan Nyby (and produced by Howard Hawks
The setting is one that will become familiar to viewers of horror films; A small group of people are cut off from the rest of humanity - in this case because they are at the North Pole and the weather is horrible, even interfering with radio communications.
Our hero, Captain Pat Hendry (Kenneth Tobey), and his aircrew along with a stray reporter, fly to the Arctic outpost manned by a scientific expedition under Dr. Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) to investigate an apparent air crash. It proves to be a Flying Saucer
that is accidentally destroyed when the crew attempt to recover it. However they do discover the body of the presumed pilot frozen in the ice. Needless to say he/it (played by a young James Arness
) is not dead, and once defrosted wreaks havoc until stopped by 'an arc of electricity'.
While Hawks' actual role in the film's production has long been debated, The Thing
exhibits his trademarked overlapping dialogue and assertive female characters who neither scream, faint or become hysterical at any point in the proceedings. All screaming, fainting and hysteria is supplied by the male cast - and with good reason. The script is a quick patter of wisecracks and one-liners with minimal exposition that keep the plot moving at breakneck speeds. For what it's worth, the cast members have offered conflicting reports, with some saying he effectively directed nearly all of it and others claiming he only supervised the production. Of course, it could just be that Nyby was so influenced by Hawks he merely imitated his style to the hilt.
Tropes contained within this work:
- Antagonist Title: The Thing From Another World is the monster.
- Artistic License - Gun Safety: Averted. When a panicked, shock-stricken Barnes comes running into the main room and tries to describe what he saw while gesticulating at Hendry's midsection with his sidearm, Hendry quickly takes it away from him.
- Billing Displacement: Margaret Sheridan (Nikki) somehow got top billing, despite having a less important role - and less film experience - than Kenneth Tobey (Hendry).
- Came from the Sky
- The Captain: Captain Hendry, of course.
- Deadpan Snarker: Everybody, but especially the reporter Scotty.
- Fainting: Scotty again!
- Follow the Leader: The Thing From Another World influenced John Carpenter in a big way, as well as Ridley Scott.
- For Science!: The cry of Dr. Carrington, who thinks it is the expedition's duty to die to the last man rather than destroy "a source of wisdom". The others dissent.
- Immune to Bullets: The Thing, of course; what self-respecting alien isn't?
- James Bondage: Nikki (the love interest) ties up our hero on their second date. Seems he grew octopus hands on their first.
- Jump Scare: Is anyone in the audience ready to see a fully regrown Thing standing right at the doorway when Hendry opens it?
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Dr. Carrington again. He knowingly puts colleagues in harm's way and tries to grow little Things. Nikki kindly suggests he is not himself due to sleep deprivation.
- Karma Houdini: Dr. Carrington
- Kill It with Fire: Hendry: "What do you do with a vegetable?" Nikki: "Cook it." Which leads to -
- Infernal Retaliation: They set a whole room on fire but the Thing gets away. The crew eventually decides to Kill It With Electricity instead.
- Mad Scientist: Dr. Carrington becomes one.
- More like Well-Intentioned Extremist: Carrington only sees a being capable of space travel and other advanced capabilities. Which is why even up to the end he tries talking to the Thing like it was capable of understanding English... or the concept of mercy...
- He starts off as a Mad Scientist. He wants to defrost the presumed-dead Thing right away. It's rather clear that they've not got the proper equipment for a necropsy, no less to preserve samples. Cold, meanwhile, preserves rather well.
- Man on Fire: The first time this particular effect was attempted in a movie.
- Man in a Rubber Suit: Probably the only disappointment about this movie for those who got introduced to the story in The Thing (1982).
- Mysterious Antarctica: Except of course this is the Arctic.
- Nothing Is Scarier: We rarely get to see The Thing, either hidden behind doors until it's time for a Jump Scare, waiting in the shadows, or running about in the snow with the blizzard covering the view. Making it scarier was that the only way you could tell The Thing was approaching was with Geiger counters (it was giving off a low radioactive buzz) that start clicking faster and faster...
- A good reason we don't get a clear view of The Thing is because the makeup effect was pretty obvious.
- Oh, Crap: Barnes, when he sees the shadow of the Thing emerging from the block of ice behind him.
- Plant Aliens
- Plucky Girl: Nikki keeps her head throughout the crisis.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The original novella used a shape-shifting creature that ate its victims and created copies of them that could then consume and alter others. The effects of the era made it impossible to film, so the producers changed the Thing into a blood-sucking shambling monster. The remake by Carpenter - when SFX was able to make effective-looking monsters - was more faithful to the novella.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: Thanks to John Carpenter being a huge fan of the film, the entire Serial Killer genre sprung from this film (thanks to Halloween (1978)), not to mention films like Alien and, of course, The Thing (1982).
- The Reveal: The scene where the rescue party fans out to get an idea of the shape of the crashed airplane... which they quickly recognize is in the shape of a Flying Saucer!
- The brief moment when we get a clear view of The Thing... when Hendry opens a door with it standing RIGHT THERE.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Or rather, Inhuman Popsicle evil.
- Shout-Out: Asked if he knows how to use a gun, McPherson responds, "I saw Gary Cooper in Sergeant York." (Producer Hawks had directed that earlier film.)
- Signature Line: "KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES!"
- The Squad: Hendry's gallant flight crew. It is however admittedly difficult to tell one from the other.
- Tagalong Reporter: Ned "Scotty" Scott.
- You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Scotty's reaction when Dr. Carrington informs them that 'the Thing' is essentially an intelligent carrot.