The Thing From Another World as Seen By College Students
by Andrew Granizo
The Thing from Another World is a 1951 Science Fiction Horror film set at the North pole. To be completely honest, this movie is not great, but even given that, I was still able to enjoy it, like how one might enjoy a flick like Sharknado. There are a few things I think stand out in this film, and more than a few that stand out for the wrong reasons.
To begin with, the good parts. The story of the film, taken at face value, is indeed pretty good. An alien UFO crash landing in the arctic containing a hostile, literally bloodthirsty alien, a mad scientist obsessed with said alien, and a raging ice storm that puts everyone in a position of uncertainty. The Thing in particular I think is a great villain for the film given its genre. Most people are used to cold and calculating sociopaths, or hyper intelligent creatures chasing them down. But this is Science Fiction Horror, the villain only needs to be intelligent enough to walk towards its target and really give that feeling of a relentless, unstoppable force, hellbent on destruction.
Speaking of unstoppable forces, I want to talk about the full body burn scene. Now, full body burns aren’t something that are unheard of in today’s day and age, stuntmen looking to do something crazy will do these things from time to time (though in the case of film, I don’t think they are done practically anymore, instead simply being edited in with CGI). However, for the 50’s, I think that this was a fantastic stunt in order to showcase the durability of the Thing, again, lending to the “relentless bloodthirsty force” feeling the Thing had, and also, a great technical achievement. Throwing buckets of gas (or whatever flammable fluid that was) onto the stuntman was pretty thrilling, especially knowing that it was a real person performing this stunt, since CGI was not yet a thing.
The secondary villain, Dr. Carrington, I think was also quite good, as he made the situation a lot worse than it had to be by developing his obsession with the Thing. He really added to the tension of the situation because as a viewer, it was hard to tell if his obsession would only lead to him being shut down by his superiors or if he would really endanger everyone simply to satisfy his own curiosity. He didn’t really pull that much focus from the main villain either, which I think is oftentimes a problem with secondary villains.
Now the bad. Despite everything I’ve said up to this point in praise of the film, it really was not that great from a purely critical perspective. To begin with, the worst sin this film commits in my opinion was costume design. Again, I realize this is an old film, CGI was not yet a thing and makeup and whatnot was still in its infancy, and especially so for Science Fiction which would have required a much more detailed costume or makeup. Still, with what they had I could not help but feel that the only word that could describe what the Thing looked like was
“Goofy.” Not just its plain look either, the way it walked and moved around in general was very clunky and goofy, which really took away from his menacing aura. This issue does not really get solved in future Sci-Fi for a while, as even the original Star Wars suffered from this to a certain extent (although its costume design is arguably a lot better).
Another issue the film suffered from was story. I realize I also praised this aspect near the start of the review, but you’ll realize I said, “The story, taken at face value.” On paper, it is in fact a good story, but translated into film, the story feels a lot flimsier. On paper basically everything is left to the imagination which can allow one to experience maximum dread, but in the film, a lot of things just happen off screen, such as a few character deaths and the dogs being bled dry by the monster. It’s good to imagine things in books, and sometimes it can be done well in film, but most of the time, the point of the film is to show the viewer what is happening, not tell them after the fact. This is coming from someone who does not greatly enjoy gore or slasher films. I imagine that the moral standards for what could be shown on films was a lot higher back then, hence why almost nothing truly graphic was shown.
To conclude, The Thing from Another World is a guilty pleasure type film. It really is not good, but I can’t help but like it for what it is, which is a fun ride through and through. The ending in particular was left open ended with a memorable quote, which while I typically don’t like to see, felt appropriate here.
by Laura Cruz
The 1951 film, The Thing From Another World, was directed by Christian Nyby and had many stars, among the most important being Kenneth Tobey, James Arness, and Robert Cornthwaite. The film tells the story of a UFO that lands in the North Pole and its passenger terrorizes scientists and Air Force soldiers as it tried to reproduce. I began watching this film a bit skeptical if I'm honest. I didn’t really enjoy Frankenstein so I was afraid that the monster aspect of this film would fall flat for me. However, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed various elements of this film. I' ll address more the creative choices of this film rather than the technical side of it.
What I think made this film more successful for me was that the movie didn’t focus on the monster aspect as much as Frankenstein, even though both movies revolve around a monster. However, I was expecting a little more of the monster in this film. He looked like a human with claws rather than an alien. He was also described in the film to be 8 feet tall but when he was finally shown he looks rather short despite the actor being 6’7”. I think this could have been fixed by having the camera be at a lower angle rather than having eye-level shots.
The title itself and the visuals used for it, I think, are clever. First being vague by calling it “the thing” allows the movie to focus more on the present of the situation rather than having to give the creature some sort of origin. It also intrigues the audience to learn more about what this "thing" might be. Second, the presentation of the title at the beginning of the film foreshadows what we would encounter and instills fear in the viewer. The script is also very clever in dehumanizing the creature and making it seem like an absolute danger. The science behind the monster's DNA is easy to follow and to some degree, it even seems possible. It also makes sure that the audience knows that the monster is bloodthirsty and feelingless which establishes a clear threat for the characters to act by.
One thing that this film does very well is using the ticking time bomb technique and creating tension within the audience. For example, the use of the device that measures how close the monster is. The fact that someone is always counting that down makes us hold our breath for when the monster appears. Also, we never really see the master until late in the film. We sometimes see its shadow and the look of terror in the victim's eyes but never the thing itself. This intrigues the audience enough to want to keep watching until they get to see what it looks like. I could imagine that especially in this era it must have been very exciting to watch.
There were two, sort of, technical things that did catch my attention. The entire movie is very well lit. There are as many as 5 to 7 characters in one room at a time and they somehow all have very even and soft lighting throughout the movie. After my Lighting class, I’ve seen how hard it can be to achieve good lighting so this is an element that I really appreciated. Second, when the monster is walking towards everyone at the end of the film they cut away from the master and when they come back to it it looks like he took a couple steps back and started again. It ruined continuity a little but for me but it was subtle enough that it still added tension to the scene.
Overall, I actually really like this movie. I laughed, I frowned, I was angry, and nervous in just over an hour. Towards the end, I was afraid that the end was gonna be a miss because they seemed to just be having a conversation. Nonetheless ending with a sort of warning gave it a very heroic and accomplished feeling which is very effective as a culmination.