Biggest Story on the Planet
“We found a flying saucer!” Newspaper reporter “Scotty” Scott is overjoyed when the team of scientists and Air Force men he’s tagging along with discover a mysterious aircraft near their North Pole research base. The UFO is occupied by The Thing From Another World, an 8-foot tall “guy from Mars” who has “crazy hands and no hair” and extremely creepy eyes (played by James Arness of Gunsmoke). Even with a flying saucer and alien hanging around, the jovial crew manage to crack a lot of jokes and Captain Hendry engages in some flirting scientist secretary Nikki Nicholson.
After hauling the weird creature back to base headquarters for observation, the Thing makes a break for it, but not before losing one of its arms in a battle with a bunch of sled dogs. After analyzing the arm, it’s determined that the alien is a sort of Intellectual Super Carrot that feeds off blood.
Did it land on Earth with sinister purposes? Can it be reasoned with, or engage in an intellectual discussion? The movie takes on a much more serious tone once the team splits in two, with decidedly different approaches for dealing with the Thing. The end is pretty shocking!
Us Versus Them
Released in 1951, The Thing From Another World was based on the sci-fi short story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell (available in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume 2). Howard Hawks (Bringing Up Baby, The Big Sleep, Scarface) produced and guided director Christian Nyby through the making of the movie, which can be seen as a reflection on the political climate at the time. America’s reaction to the Cold War is reflected in the movie’s anti-invasion theme, references to nuclear fission, and overall paranoid atmosphere. The movie made Time magazine’s list of top 1950s “outer-space and nuclear-monster movies” and has an 86% rating at at RottenTomatoes.com.
John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), starring Kurt Russell, set in the South Pole, and pays homage to both the original film and the short story. This is the 30th anniversary of its original release!
Karen Choy has known an Intellectual Super Carrot or two in her day.