The Thing from Another World (Christian Nyby, 1951, USA)

The Thing from Another World stands the test of time as one of the great entries into the 1950s sci-fi canon. The film was directed by Christian Nyby, but it has been suggested that producer Howard Hawks was largely responsible for directing the film. The film certainly bears the stamp of his influence, from its crackling rapid-fire dialogue to the romantic sparks between Nikki Nicholson (Margaret Sheridan) and Captain Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey). The film was based on the novella “Who Goes There?”, written by John W. Campbell Jr. in 1938. The film adaptation however makes some changes to the source material – notably in the story, the thing has a shape-shifting quality. In Hawks’ adaptation, the thing is a corporeal alien that feeds on human blood. It does have the ability to regenerate tissue.

             It is interesting to contrast Hawks’ adaptation to John Carpenter’s 1981 adaptation. Hawks’ adaptation has a much greater ensemble cast and a much greater sense of humor. The film is exciting, but there are ample moments of laugh-out-loud humor. The dialogue is excellently written, particularly the character of Nikki Nicholson. Notably, Carpenter’s adaptation did not feature any female characters.

               What is The Thing From Another World actually about? We can see this manifested in the figure of the scientist Dr. Arthur Carrington. Carrington is obsessed with science at the expense of humanity, and he acts as the film’s main adversary. He is willing to sacrifice the entire crew at the expense of saving the alien. His obsession with science over humanity is meant to represent fears over the atomic age as well as the clinical and cold Soviet obsession with scientific progress. That said, the film is not overtly political and can be enjoyed as a simple monster movie by those who wish to view it as such.

 

8/10


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