The Thing from Another World
With its modest special effects, lean plot, and small cast of lesser stars, this 1951 thriller remains a sturdy blueprint for fusing horror and science fiction. The formula has been employed countless times since, fleshed out with more extensive and elaborate production values, and manned by higher profiled marquee names, but the results have yet to improve on The Thing from Another World, Howard Hawks's lone foray into sci-fi. The story begins as military airmen are dispatched to a remote Arctic research station where scientists have detected the crash of a spacecraft. An effort to retrieve the saucer-shaped vehicle fails, but the team returns to the station with the frozen body of its sole occupant. When the extraterrestrial pilot is accidentally thawed, the crew, headed by a tough-talking pilot (Kenneth Tobey), grapples with a massive, chlorophyll-based humanoid (James Arness) thirsty for blood and in no mood for galactic diplomacy. Hawks takes only a production credit for this low-budget exercise, but his filmmaking style transcends Christian Nyby's nominal direction: rapid-fire, overlapping dialogue, an ensemble of comrades whose professionalism is tempered by wisecracks, and unsentimental female characters (embodied by feisty romantic interest Margaret Sheridan) recall Hawks's signature works, while propelling the plot over any potential gaps in credibility. It's hardly surprising, then, that The Thing from Another World remains among the most influential science fiction movies ever shot, or that it remains exciting entertainment a half century later. --Sam Sutherland
Director John Carpenter and special makeup effects master Rob Bottin teamed up for this 1982 remake of the 1951 science fiction classic The Thing from Another World, and the result is a mixed blessing. It's got moments of highly effective terror and spine-tingling suspense, but it's mostly a showcase for some of the goriest and most horrifically grotesque makeup effects ever created for a movie. With such highlights as a dog that splits open and blossoms into something indescribably gruesome, this is the kind of movie for die-hard horror fans and anyone who slows down to stare at fatal traffic accidents. On those terms, however, it's hard not to be impressed by the movie's wild and wacky freak show. It all begins when scientists at an arctic research station discover an alien spacecraft under the thick ice, and thaw out the alien body found aboard. What they don't know is that the alien can assume any human form, and before long the scientists can't tell who's real and who's a deadly alien threat. Kurt Russell leads the battle against the terrifying intruder, and the supporting cast includes Richard Masur, Richard Dysart, Donald Moffat, and Wilford Brimley. They're all playing standard characters who are neglected by the mechanistic screenplay (based on the classic sci-fi story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell), but Carpenter's emphasis is clearly on the gross-out effects and escalating tension. If you've got the stomach for it (and let's face it, there's a big audience for eerie gore), this is a thrill ride you won't want to miss. --Jeff Shannon
Both film versions of the sci-fi thriller based on a story by John W Campbell Jr in which an unidentified object crashes in the North Pole. The B-movie cult classic version directed by Howard Hawks, 'The Thing from Another World' (1951), stars Kenneth Tobey as Air Force pilot Captain Hendry. John Carpenter's special effects-laden update, 'The Thing', was made 32 years later in 1983.