Part science-fiction, part horror and part psychological thriller, it tells of an isolated Antarctic research facility that discovers a flying saucer long buried in the ice. Investigation leads to finding the saucer's sole inhabitant not too far away and taking the BEM-sicle back to the Ice Station for analysis.
Of course, it escapes and this particular ET has a special talent—it can "pretend" to be anyone it has killed and "absorbed." Hiding in plain sight, the "Thing" starts picking off the scientists one by one, while the humans among them start to worry which of their (dwindling) number could be the wolf in sheep's clothing.
Paranoia strikes deep, but "The Thing" strikes deeper, able to replicate the men down to their blood-cells, which provides them with a nifty test to see who's genuine and who's a "Thing"-a-ma-job—take a blood-sample and dip a hot wire into it, and the alien-cells react and start to metamorphose, while the human hemoglobin merely sizzles.
Eventually, the alien is trapped by the scientists, while it is constructing an anti-grav ship to escape, forcing it outside into the cold, where it is torched by the scientists. Humanity triumphs that the alien has been thwarted from fleeing or spreading itself to another outpost. All's right with the world, especially considering that no other visit has occurred since the first ship crashed twenty million years before. No other invasion is expected anytime soon. The end.
From its origins in the August 1938 issue of "Astounding Stories," the tight, compact story was first adapted for the screen by Charles Lederer (with assists from Ben Hecht) and the film's producer, one of the great directors of American film, who put such a personal stamp on it that, to this day, there is debate about just how much work on it the listed director of record actually did. And that man's influence has taken over the DNA of his film's clones, so powerful is his influence and legacy.
|The researchers take a measurement of the saucer.
Hawksian team-work in The Thing (from Another World)
😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀👽😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀The Thing (From Another World) (Christian Nyby, 1951). Yes, it says "Christian Nyby" in the credits, but the film is such a prime example of Executive Producer Howard Hawks' style that folks just assume he had a hand in directing it as well. He almost certainly re-wrote the script, as it crackles with wit, banter, and includes the requisite "Hawks woman" who's tough enough to play with "the boys." In fact, the dialogue and human interplay are better than the film deserves and is more entertaining than the "monster movie" that is at its frozen core.
Hawks puts it in the arctic, then tossed out Campbell's psychological element—his military/scientific crew are Hawksian professionals and suspicions about each other would drive a wedge into that mix (it's enough that one scientist want to emphasize research over self-preservation to cause some heated exchanges*), fraying the team-spirit necessary to get through the crisis and the simple goal of staying alive. Nope. It's simple. The "Thing" is bad. "It" wants to kill us. We kill "it" before "it" kills us. Research? That's what autopsies are for!The Thing (From Another World) is much more of a monster movie than the study of paranoia the story is. Teamwork towards a common goal is emphasized—you can say that a lot of Hawks' films are analogies to the disparate gypsy-camp of film-makers working together to create a single film—and it boils down to survival. Besides the interplay of the characters, the film also boasts some iconic scenes: the Air Force officers and scientists spreading out on the ice to determine the size of the saucer; the sight of "the creature" (explained in simple unscientific jargon by one of the researchers as "an intellectual carrot") silhouetted in light as it kinetically bursts open the door of the room hiding the crew; the truly eerie scene of growing blood-sucking creature-clones like they were lethal daisies.
The Thing (From Another World) is a tough, no-nonsense monster movie with sides clearly drawn: us against them. But the only hint of the original tale's paranoia comes from the film's final line: "Watch the skies!"
|Braised carrots are on the menu at the arctic station tonight.
James Arness (in a role he hated) gets fried in The Thing (From Another World)
Bill Lancaster's script hews a little closer to Campbell's story, re-introducing the character conflicts and the assimilating alien (and eliminating Hawks' lone female character, making the station very much a "boys' club," comprised of Carpenter's "go-to" top-liner Kurt Russell—as chopper pilot McReady—and a "who's who" of veteran '80's character actors, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Donald Moffat, Keith David, and Richard Masur).
In the Hawks version it was "us against them;" with Carpenter, it's back to "we have met the enemy, and he could be one of us."
|Kurt Russell as MacReady in Carpenter's version
|Rob Bottin's creature creations for The Thing (1982) emphasize
a strange versatility when utilizing its human hosts.
The Thing (Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., 2011) A direct prequel to Carpenter's film,** but basically the same plot. Spaceship found. Creature in the ice. Thaws out. Starts absorbing people.
What's interesting is that van Heijningen also pays tribute to Hawks, by turning the sex-tables on the story, making paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead from Scott Pilgrim, who looks unnervingly like Zooey Deschanel and can rock a mean flame-thrower) the "guy-in-charge" after the official authority structure breaks down. Just as Hawks up-ended The Front Page by casting Rosalind Russell in one of the men's roles for His Girl Friday, van Heijningen provides an interesting dynamic by putting a woman in control of a station full of panicking men.2010 did for 2001).
|Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) rocks a flame-thrower.
* And we all know how disastrous heated exchanges can be at an ice-station!
** The film literally ends where Carpenter's begins, with a Norwegian helicopter and gunman chasing a dog over the Antarctic wastes.