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
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
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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