Based on John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella “Who Goes There?” The Thing from Another World (1951) tells the story of those at arctic outpost Polar Expedition Six dealing with a plant-based humanoid alien (James Arness) that feeds on blood, no matter if it’s human or animal. Understandably once the titular creature starts to kill, Air Force Captain Pat Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) wants the thing destroyed.
However, not only must he and his men battle against this powerful thing, which is immune to bullets, but also against head scientist Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite), who has different ideas on how to deal with thing, wanting to keep it alive to study it and possibly communicate with it. That doesn’t necessarily seem like a bad idea because it’s uncertain if the thing is an intentionally malicious scout of an eventual invading force or has it simply crashed landed, which led to it being trapped in the ice, and is not killing to eat and survive.
After World War II, the Soviet Union went from our ally to our enemy. During the time the movie was made, many were concerned about an ideological invasion of America by the Communists. Not sure if it was intentional, but the movie serves as a cautionary tale in that regard. Having been made by Howard Hawks, not only the film’s producer, uncredited co-writer, and possible director depending on what version of the story one hears about he and credited director / former Hawks film editor Christian Nyby, but also a political conservative, it certainly seems the subtext of the story.
The characters, while likable, are a bit generic and some are familiar for a Hawks film. Hendry is the strong, silent type flummoxed by aggressive Nikki (Margaret Sheridan), outpost secretary and former flame who wants to rekindle things. His men follow orders but don’t mind cracking wise and teasing their Captain as much as they can. Journalist Ned Scott (Douglas Spencer) is so verbose he should be in a screwball comedy helping his friend get the girl not fighting monsters. Carrington borders on mad scientist, willing to sacrifice everyone for the monster.
While not invested in any of the characters surviving, the filmmakers still did a great job creating suspense, trapping the characters in a small location and moving the movie along at a brisk pace. Russell Harlan’s cinematography and Dimitri Tiomkin’s score masterfully help set the eerie mood. Another standout element is the stunt sequence where they douse the thing in kerosene and set it ablaze.
Created from a new 1080p HD master and presented at an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, Harlan’s cinematography is showcased. Strong contrast is apparent early during the opening credits as the white titles on black backgrounds pop over the images. The whites are bright and the blacks inky. Fine details are on display from the textures of costumes and objects to portions of the elemental chart on the wall when when Hendry meets Carrington. Specks that appear are flaws since the picture looks quite clean, but are usually snowflakes flying around. The HD image reveals the backdrop on which the skyline was painted when they encounter the spaceship.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 elevates the soundtrack in comparison to other movies of the era. The dialogue is clear throughout. Tiomkin’s score delivers great bombast and there’s a clarity to the instruments. The track has a solid bottom end that supports the music as well as the effects, like the booming of explosions.
Available from Warner Archive, The Thing from Another World is an entertaining thriller that is equal parts horror and science fiction. The Blu-ray offers impressive high-def video and pleasing audio. Unfortunately, the only Special Features are a HD theatrical Reissue Trailer and a SD Theatrical trailer.
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