Thursday, 6 October 2011

Movie Review: The Thing From Another World (1951)

The Thing From Another World

Director: Christian Nyby, 1951
imdb listing

Pros: decent suspense, some romance and lightheartedness, interesting characters, realistic reactions

Cons: not particularly scary, some overacting

A team of scientists in the Antarctic ask a local US military base for help when a spaceship crashes nearby.  They find and bring back an alien life form that ends up terrorizing the research facility.

This black and white film, *based on John W. Campbell, Jr.'s short story, "Who Goes There?"*, holds up remarkably well, retaining the suspenseful tension, interspersed with moments of romance between the military captain and a base secretary and jokes between the army flight crew.

It avoids cheesiness by only giving a few glances of the alien ship and creature, leaving most of the scares to your imagination and sudden attacks (think Jaws).

There are a few moments when the actors' expressions are a little too pronounced, but on the whole it's a well scripted story with some interesting characters.

There's a definite undercurrent of military good, scientists bad, as the head scientist argues with the captain about how he's handling the situation.  And by the end, the scientists are acting a bit like mad scientists, which is fitting in a way as we finally get to see the alien for several minutes, and it looks a lot like Frankenstein's monster.  *This fear of science was common in films of the era, when the atomic bomb had recently been used and the Communist U.S.S.R now had access to such.*

The explanation of the alien life form is very interesting, and creepy.

If you like suspenseful sf with a few chills, this is a good one.

The comments between *s are due to Steve's comment on the original post, that background information would be helpful in understanding the message of the film.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting that up.

I was a bit surprised that you did not mention the origin of the story the movie is based on - John W. Campbell Jrs Who Goes There?.

You also mentioned the conflict between the scientists (we can reason with it) and the military officers (kill it now), with no connection to the time period. Clearly this was a 'red scare' themed film and presenting scientists in a negative light is due to concern over nuclear war - which scientists created (by creating the bomb) and that the military was going to have to deal with; the film was made only a couple of years after the USSR acquired nuclear weapons and the attitude of 'kill them now' was not an unusual one.


Jessica Strider said...

@ Steve: Thanks for your comment.

I guess I assume that the date should tell people that there's an early cold war/ fear of scientists due to the a-bomb undertone to the film. I have the habit of assuming that if I know something that others must too, like that this was based on John Campbell Jr.'s story. And so I don't think of mentioning those things. Point taken. I'll try to remember to mention things like that in future reviews.

I'm planning on reading the short story the film was based on in the near future.