Friday, May 24, 2013

The Thing From Another World

When I was a kid, I loved staying up late on Saturday night to watch Creature Feature with Count Gore De Vol on Channel 20 here in DC.  I saw a lot of classic movies, but also some really bizarre movies, as well.  Between these late night viewings and the weekly Saturday afternoon sci-fi classics, I quickly became a big fan of these movies.  THEM! is a favorite, as well as WAR OF THE WORLDS (which led me to read the H.G. Wells, what a book!), THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, INVADERS FROM MARS, THIS ISLAND EARTH, FORBIDDEN PLANET, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS,  CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, THE BLOB, and, of course, GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, which started my love affair with Japanese giant monster movies.

My absolute favorite movie from the era, though, is THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, from 1951.  The movie, directed by Christian Nyby and produced by the great Howard Hawks, starred James Arness, who is best known for playing Marshal Matt Dillon on the TV show Gunsmoke, as the alien title creature.  The acting is very crisp with great, fast dialogue, a trademark of Hawks' films.  The movie is based on the book "Who Goes There?" by James W. Campbell, though it only loosely follows that story, and was remade twice, including another classic movie by John Carpenter, THE THING, in 1982, which actually followed the book much more closely, and is known for it's incredible special effects and make-up.

THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD is so atmospheric and eerie, set at a military outpost in the Arctic.  The remoteness of the facility and the cold, snowy weather make the actors appear to be secluded and even captive to their environment.  The base is used primarily for scientific research, so there is a mix of scientists and military types, along with one lone female who assists one of the scientists and provides a romantic interest for the military leader of the base.  The script provides a nice contrast of seriousness and concern with some comedic relief at the appropriate times, and this provides the movie with a good amount of charm.

Early on in the movie, an object is discovered stuck in the ice some distance from the base.  After measuring its size and shape, the scientists conclude it can only be a UFO.  While attempting to free the ship from the ice, it accidentally explodes, but then they discover a humanoid shape also trapped in the ice.  They cut out the block of ice containing the creature and take it with them back to the base.  You can probably guess what happens next.  The creature thaws out and goes on a rampage.  For the remainder of the movie, it becomes a game of cat and mouse, with the creature repeatedly attacking the base from outside, proving also that it is quite intelligent.  It is also discovered that the creature is part vegetable, though it feeds on blood, which is why it keeps attacking them.  A group of the scientists of course wants to protect and capture the alien creature for study, and they debate with the military types who want to protect everyone by destroying the creature, if necessary.  The alien seems to solve this dilemma by his continuous attacks, and the climax of the movie is epic.

The special effects for the time are very good, but it is the atmosphere of the setting, and the feeling of terror as the creature hides then attacks which makes for an intense thriller.  Watching the movie as a kid caused a few horrific nightmares, I'm sure, but it never diminished my love of this movie.  I can still watch it whenever it's on and not get bored with it.

The movie has been on my mind this week since I discovered it was playing at the AFI's Silver Theater in downtown Silver Spring last weekend.  I only found out after the fact, however, and I'm kicking myself for missing an opportunity to see it on the big screen.  My daughter recently discovered the movie during a recent trip after coming across it on my Kindle Fire.  I'm curious to see if she'll hold the movie in the same regard as her Daddy.

Anyway, if you're a fan of these types of movies, then check it out.  It's a classic!

Good night, everybody!

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