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The Thing From Another World on DVD

The Thing From Another World on DVD

Howard Hawks' 1951 production isn't particularly scary today, and may not have been that scary back then, but it's a wonderful science fiction movie that features a terrific ensemble cast and exquisitely believable human dialog.

And though it's more than five decades old, the movie is still as fresh today as it was when new, except for the obvious Cold War paranoia that was made obsolete by the fall of the Soviet Empire.

There's little resemblance between this tale of a "vegetable from outer space" and the John Carpenter "remake" about a horrible, shape-shifting alien, but that's okay. Both are based on J. W. Campbell's "Who Goes There," which while closer to the Carpenter version kind of splits the difference between them.

The story takes place at a remote Arctic research base where scientists track the falling to Earth of what turns out to be a large flying saucer. Now buried in the ice, they try to melt it out using special explosives, but instead they destroy the craft.

Fortunately for our story, a critter was ejected before the crash (or crawled out afterward) and it's also frozen - so our intrepid heroes chop it out and bring it back to base where it's kept cool while they await further instructions from the military brass back in Anchorage.

Or that's the plan, anyway. Alas, one of the alien's guards throws a plugged in electric blanket over it and the first thing we know the beastie's free and thereby begins wreaking the havoc on the earthlings that we'd expect in such a flick.

The story is intelligent, well told. And the cast is outstanding. Kenneth Tobey plays Captain Patrick Hendry, Army C-47 pilot and ranking military officer on the scene. He's a by the book officer, though he doesn't seem to mind a little friendly insubordination from his crew. He's also the military nemeis of Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite), a scientist who naively sees nothing to fear from the alien visitor and who ends up nearly costing the Earth its eventual and inevitable victory over the vicious Thing (played by James Arness).

Margaret Sheridan is the love interest, and the interplay between her and Tobey - and Tobey's crew - is marvelous. We loved the cast and the dialog, which make the movie so much more enjoyable and believable.

The DVD is very good, though we'd have loved to have seen a bundle of extras that would be in keeping with this supposed 50th anniversary (two years late) release. Alas, all we get is the trailer.

Oh well, we've said repeatedly that we'd rather have a well done DVD of the movie than a poorly done edition full of extras, so we get our wish here. The picture is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio, which unfortunately isn't 16x9 TV compatible so owners of today's widescreen TV's will have to stretch/zoom the picture to avoid eventual burn in.

Overall picture quality, however, is very good. The black and white image is nice and sharp and contrasty. Audio, not surprisingly, is Dolby Digital mono and is unremarkable though not substandard considering its genesis.

This, along with such other early 1950's classics as "The Day the Earth Stood Still," is a must have for every science fiction fan's library.

The Thing from Another World, from Warner Home Video
87 min. black and white, full frame (1.33:1, not 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital mono
Starring Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, and James Arness as the Thing
Produced by Howard Hawks
Written by Charles Lederer, Directed by Christian Nyby


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