Release Date: April 6th, 1951 (Cincinnati, Washington D.C. premiere)
Directed by: Christian Nyby
Written by: Charles Lederer, Howard Hawks (uncredited), Ben Hecht (uncredited)
Based on: Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr.
Music by: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Douglas Spencer, Robert O. Cornthwaite, James Arness
Winchester Pictures Corporation, RKO Radio Pictures, 87 Minutes
“So few people can boast that they’ve lost a flying saucer and a man from Mars – all in the same day! Wonder what they’d have done to Columbus if he’d discovered America, and then mislaid it.” – Ned “Scotty” Scott
This film would eventually be remade in 1982 as one of the greatest horror pictures ever made: John Carpenter’s The Thing. That is a movie that is in my personal Holy Trinity of Horror. This original version isn’t as good as the ’80s one but it is still a better than decent horror picture for its time.
The Thing From Another World was produced by the legendary Howard Hawks and put out by RKO Radio Pictures, who were mostly known for their plethora of film-noir movies. They did dabble in horror too and before this, put out some solid horror films under their in-house horror maestro Val Lewton. I’ve reviewed a lot of the Val Lewton produced horror films at RKO already. This came out after the Lewton era and isn’t as good as those films but it still kept the horror bug alive for RKO.
This version of the story is pretty different than the remake. It takes place in a similar location but it’s near the North Pole as opposed to Antarctica. Also, it isn’t as confined. Plus, there is a woman present, where the remake was a bunch of rugged manly men. The biggest difference however, is that this film just has a humanoid alien where the remake had an alien that was infinitely more terrifying and near impossible to detect until it was too late. Here, we have a hulking brute carrying a big stick: think Frankenstein’s monster cosplaying poorly as Theodore Roosevelt.
Regardless of a pretty straightforward alien killer, this film is still effective. The creature had a brooding presence, was rather large and looked cool for a ’50s film.
Compared to the other similar alien invasion type films of the decade, this one would be almost forgettable if it weren’t for the legendary remake. Yes, this is good. Yes, I like it. But I don’t think it is better than Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Pairs well with: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), War of the Worlds (1953), Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).