Friday, November 25, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #67: "The Thing from Another World" (1951)

Movie Stats:
Released 1951 (USA)
American, in English
Directors - Christian Nyby & Howard Hawks
Stars - Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Robert Cornthwaite, James Arness

Plot Summary:
When scientists at a remote arctic research center report an unexplained aircraft crash, an American Air Force crew is sent to investigate. They soon find themselves up against a hostile alien. Tobey stars as the leader of the Air Force crew, Captain Patrick Hendry; Cornthwaite as the leader of the scientists, Dr. Arthur Carrington; Sheridan as Carrington’s secretary, Nikki Nicholson; and Arness as The Thing.

Violence; gore.

Bad Stuff:
It’s not exactly a thrill a minute. A bit boring.

I’m side eyeing a lot of the smaller details. I’m no scientist, but I’m not so sure a greenhouse would actually work in a place that doesn't get sun for large portions of the year. And geography isn’t my strong suit, but I don’t think you can just jaunt over to the North Pole from Anchorage like it’s no big deal. These are the things that distract me during films.

Ned “Scotty” Scott (Douglas Spencer), the persistent news reporter, was super annoying.

Good Stuff:
I liked what The Thing turned out to be. I thought that was pretty clever and unexpected.

I enjoyed the battle for control between the scientists and the military men. That felt like something that would happen in real life.

I have such a soft spot for characters that face adversity with bravery and wisecracks.

The special effects are surprisingly good. Clearly lacking a budget, they wisely chose to show The Thing as little as possible, and usually in dim lighting. Even so, they managed to do some really cool stunts. That fire scene was insane. I doubt modern-day moviemakers would get away with endangering their employees like that.

The Verdict:
Based solely on the cover, I thought this was going to be extremely cheesy, which is weird, because it isn’t at all. The cover doesn’t remotely represent the content. For example, it shows Nikki screaming in terror, something she never actually does in the film (in fact, at one point, she casually jokes about having been on fire). I figured it would just be okay. But I actually really liked it. I wish it had a little more action, but in general I found it entertaining. The acting is decent, the premise is interesting, and the soundtrack is fun. I also enjoyed the questions it raised mankind’s place and purpose in the universe.

I give it 4 stars.


Patricia said...

This strikes me as early Sci-Fi. What's the oldest film on your list?

balyien said...

The oldest is "Metropolis" (1927). But other than that and "Things to Come" (1936), all of the movies on the list are 1950s or later.