The Thing From Another World (Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks, 1951)
Scientists and American Air Force officials fend off a blood-thirsty alien organism while at a remote arctic outpost.
The Thing From Another World was the first directorial effort of editor Christian Nyby and it was produced by famous Howard Hawks. This blend of Horror and Science-Fiction is the only contribution of Hawks in both genres. Why I say that it was his contribution? Well, it is clear that he did more than just produce this film. Many elements of his “signature”, to paraphrase Jeffrey M. Anderson, are present. The overlapping dialogues, the smooth storytelling, the emphasis on the group of professional’s dynamics instead the Horror, the compressed time and space, and the typical female character portrayed by Margaret Sheridan.
In a station in the North Pole a group of scientists, pilots, and a newspaperman made a historical discovery from outer space. The interactions between the professionals, the scientists and the pilots brings back the old debate between science and action. An American paradox that populates movies of the 1950’s picturing scientists as madmen who could sacrifice everything in the name of Science. The opposition of Captain Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) and Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) represents a typical Hawksian conflict. While the Captain plays the secure paternal figure à la John Wayne in Rio Bravo, we see how Hawks was involved in the writing. Just as aforementioned, Nikki (Sheridan) represents with her strong repartee just like the boys a typical Hawksian woman.
It is more than you can actually tell one of the most important films of its time and genre. Influencing John Carpenter obviously with its remake of 1982, but also in the plot structure and the use of the subtle Horror. Appearing in Carpenter’s own Halloween while the kids are watching TV, Nyby’s film was one of the cornerstone of Sci-Fi meets Horror. Many critics and film enthusiast will tell you that Ridley Scott and his near masterpiece Alien was the first time Science-Fiction was blended with Horror, The Thing From Another World would be a much more important game changer.
In 2011, a remake of the remake by John Carpenter was released. I however haven’t seen the latest release, but as great as the 1951 movie is I honestly preferred Carpenter’s icy landscape of terror involving frightening special effects and Kurt Russell. It doesn’t removes the qualities of the Nyby/Hawks film.
Note: in my quest of the TSPDT 1000 Greatest Films I would have finished all the Howard Hawks pictures I had to watch with The Thing from Another World. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be the last time you’ll heard of Hawks here and definitely not the last of his films I will catch. But it felt kinda weird to say that it was finished with it. Same thing happened last week with Buster Keaton’s movies and I must say that every time I complete a director I admire I am proud and a little sad because I loved every moment of their wonderful deep films.