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Film / The Thing from Another World

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"Every one of you listening to my voice, tell the world, tell this to everybody wherever they are. Watch the skies. Everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!"
Ned Scott

The Thing from Another World, sometimes just known as The Thing, 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 premise is one that should be familiar to viewers of horror films: a small group of people find themselves 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, nor faint, nor 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:

  • Adaptation Title Change: The Thing from Another World is an adaptation of the novella Who Goes There.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Carrington's short story counterpart, Blair, does quickly realize that the Thing is a monster and can't be reasoned with. Although he takes it too far in the opposite direction by threatening everyone on the base, it's also implied that a combination of paranoia and guilt has driven him more than a little out of his mind by this point, while Carrington receives no such explanation for his behavior (Nikki suggests he's acting out of exhaustion, but this is clearly a weak defense). Also, it's implied that Blair's idea to thaw the alien was influenced by a telepathic suggestion from the Thing itself, while this version of the creature lacks the ability to influence Carrington.
  • Admiring the Abomination: Carrington's Fatal Flaw (such as it is) is that he is so enthralled by this that he jumps on the assumption that the Thing is an alien with great knowledge and wisdom and ignores what everybody else sees, which is that it's a murderous brute and performs a number of stupid and dastardly deeds for the sake of trying to contact it.
  • 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.
  • Beard of Evil: Carrington has a Lenin-like goatee.
  • Came from the Sky: The Thing from Another World has fallen down from it... But the expedition's cameras captured evidence that the ship hovered up and down for a while, first, which is the first sign that it's not a natural phenomenon.
  • The Captain: Captain Hendry, of course. The leader of the station and the group.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everybody, but especially the reporter Scotty.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The sled dogs begin barking just before the Thing emerges from the melted ice block.
  • Fainting: Scotty again!
  • 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.
  • Genre Blind: Dr. Carrington in spades. He refuses to understand that simply because a creature is older than man that doesn't mean it's wiser or more intellectually/morally evolved. Even after the Thing murders his assistants, Carrington still maintains that it was all an accident and even tries to warn the creature about the electric trap. The Thing responds by beating the crap out of him.
  • The Ghost: Doctors Olsen and Auerbach who are killed by the Thing while standing guard in the greenhouse never actually appear onscreen.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Just got a queer message from your picnic party up north, from Dr. Carrington himself."
  • Humanoid Aliens: The Thing, in contrast to its shapeshifter abilities from the novel.
  • Immune to Bullets: The Thing, of course; what self-respecting alien isn't?note 
  • Implausible Deniability: On returning from where they found the flying saucer, the characters have a lot of fun mocking an army report stating that UFO's don't exist.
    "They'll probably make you a general for destroying the evidence."
  • Infernal Retaliation: They set a whole room on fire, but the Thing gets away. The crew eventually decides to Kill It With Electricity instead.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Ned Scott, who is quick to request to go to the Arctic after hearing there's something important going on out there.
  • 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. Well, he did get his collar bone broken by the Thing.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: When Barnes sees the Thing wake up and come at him, while not recant at all to several bullet shots, he promptly runs from the room before it can get him.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the John Carpenter film and original novel. There's far less paranoia and people being hostile towards each other and no one dies except some sled dogs, the Thing itself, and two scientists who never appear onscreen.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Carrington 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.
  • Monster in the Ice: Arctic scientists discover a flying saucer buried beneath the ice, but accidentally destroy it with thermite trying to dig it out. They manage to retrieve the frozen alien inside, but it accidentally gets thawed out when a superstitious watchman covers it with a blanket, not realizing that it's an electric blanket that's plugged in. With the ice melted, the alien immediately revives and escapes.
  • Mundane Solution: When Hendry opens a door to find that the Thing is RIGHT THERE he very sensibly closes it again.
  • Mysterious Antarctica: Except of course this is the Arctic.
  • Non-Protagonist Resolver: The electrical trap which kills the Thing is worked not by Captain Hendry, but by the least talkative of the science team, and the only member of the air force crew whose last name is never mentioned.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We rarely get to actually see the Thing, which spends most of the film 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 is that the Thing's approach is heralded with Geiger counters (it gives off a low radioactive buzz) that start clicking faster and faster...
    • A good non-narrative reason we don't get a clear view of the Thing is because the makeup effect is pretty obvious.
    • We find out from dialog that the Thing had pulled a Predator, and hung two of the scientists from the rafters upside down and cut their throats to feed its offspring on their blood.
  • Oh, Crap!: Barnes, when he sees the shadow of the Thing emerging from the block of ice behind him.
    • Everyone when they realize the alien has disabled the heating system.
  • Plant Aliens: The alien is described as plant like on multiple occasions, both with its blood and some of its limbs.
  • 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.
  • Properly Paranoid: Hendry is perfectly right and practical to want to keep the thing frozen until further notice to avoid any unnecessary risks at that point.
  • 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.
  • Scientist vs. Soldier: With Dr. Carrington being the "scientist" and everybody within the base as the "soldier".
  • 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!"
  • Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: This movie falls into Type 3 (Pragmatic Adaptation).
  • The Smart Guy: Dr. Stern. He might not be quite as brilliant of a scientist as Carrington, but he's still quite smart and useful, and doesn't fall in with Carrington.
  • Smurfette Principle: Averted. In addition to Nikki, the expedition's physician is a woman and the wife of one of the scientists.
  • The Squad: Hendry's gallant flight crew. It is, however, admittedly difficult to tell one from the other.
  • Sweater Girl: Nikki wears a form-fitting sweater throughout the movie, although its justified given the arctic setting.
  • Tagalong Reporter: Ned "Scotty" Scott.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Hendry and Nikki have quite a bit of this, although they've dated in the past. They end the film as an Official Couple.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Scotty's reaction when Dr. Carrington informs them that 'the Thing' is essentially an intelligent carrot.