The Thing From Another World (1951)

Starring: Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey and Robert Cornthwaite
Universal Pictures
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 12
Available 19 March 2007

Scientists at an arctic research station track an object which deviates in its movements before crashing into the ice. Air Force personnel are called in to investigate the phenomenon. Flying between the station and the site in question, the compasses go haywire and they are forced to navigate by other means. What they discover is a large saucer-shaped alien craft under the ice. Attempting to blast it free proves unsuccessful but does reveal what looks likes a humanoid shape. The biped is flown back to the research station in a large block of ice. However, when the ice melts and the creature disappears, the weather isn't the only problem the personnel have to face. The Thing seems to be constructed of vegetable matter and needs the vitamins in blood to sustain itself. When it is discovered bullets have no affect, more drastic measures are called for...

There is a direct connection between this film and my favourite filmmaker, John Carpenter. Howard Hawks, who was the producer and uncredited director for this film, was a hero and inspiration for Carpenter in his early days. Some years back I attended a John Carpenter Masterclass at the National Film Theatre during which he demonstrated Hawks' film techniques, and included The Thing, which had quite an affect on him as a child in the fifties.

Of course, you would expect me to prefer Carpenter's 1982 remake of The Thing, which was much more true to the W. John Campbell, Jr. short story Who Goes There? - and you'd be right. But the point here is the impact this original had in its day.

The press blurb is correct in stating that it helped kick-start the sci-fi horror boom of the fifties. It's a long way from the many turkeys which followed in its wake. It doesn't play on the effects of the cold war, but just gets on with the story.

By today's standards this isn't going to scare anyone, and there are far too many scenes of group dialogue rather than tension-building. Where it does succeed is in its sheer style.

Some black and white films from the past are lent a certain atmosphere by the sheer lack of colour. The Thing is one of those. Therefore, I can see no sense in offering the alternative colourised version on this two-disc set, and can only imagine the purpose is to remarket the film for a modern day short-sighted viewing public. If you're tempted by this release, stick to the beautifully restored print version, also in this set.

At this point I would have scored the release a 7, but the icing on the cake for me is the optional commentary by none other than John Carpenter himself. Hooray!

Ty Power

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