The Thing From Another World (1951): A Hundred Years of Horror…

Written by Hholloway92

Come the turn of the fifties, the classic movie monsters such as vampires, monsters and werewolves were all but spent.

Come the turn of the fifties, the classic movie monsters such as vampires, monsters and werewolves were all but spent.

Throughout the forties these horror icons were milked for all they were worth. Movie after movie was churned and come the end of second world war, people really didn’t find them classic ghouls scary anymore.

So rolling with the times, Hollywood turned their attention to the advent of the atomic age and the fifties became the decade of aliens, science experiments gone wrong and genetic mutations

Leading the way of this new breed of sci-fi horror was The Thing From Another World (1951)

Based on the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, The Thing From Another World follows a skeleton crew of scientists and airmen at an isolated military base in the arctic. In the ice they find a crashed alien saucer and a frozen creature. They bring the alien into the base, but after an accident the ice thaws and the thing awakens to go on a rampage.

With a theme of isolation and a barren arctic setting hemming the characters in, The Thing From Another World is a nail biting and immersive flick, buoyed by realistic and well paced dialogue. When the characters are talking to one another, it feels genuine and helps you connect with them and appreciate the tension that is simmering under the surface as they wait for the thing to make its move.

The whole film just has a sense of quality that is missing from the vast majority of atomic age sci-fi and horror films. During the fifties, Hollywood was churning out alien invader and mutant monster movies at a tremendous speed, shooting fast and shooting cheap. The Thing From Another World is a gem that shouldn’t be overlooked because of the stigma attached to the fifties and its reputation for B-movies.

Unlike the thirties and forties that were all about sequels and franchises, the fifties was about one-shots and as such The Thing From Another World stands alone. However, there was a remake with The Thing (1982) by legendary director John Carpenter of Halloween (1978) fame.

Carpenter’s film sticks closer to the original story and is a disgusting but also brilliant horror movie in its own right.
In The Thing From Another World, the alien is made of plant matter and feeds on human blood, almost resembling Frankenstein’s monster from the Universal films. But in The Thing, the alien is a nondescript mass of squelching body parts that it has assimilated from its victims.

As in the novella, whenever someone comes in contact with alien, it kills them and takes upon their likeness. Carpenter went on all out on the transformation scenes with full sequences of bodies being broken apart and turned inside out as the thing takes upon the form of its victim. Utterly gross but a testament to the virtues of practical special effects.
This major change to the creature works in the 1982 film’s favour, adding to the paranoia and isolation as none of the characters can trust each other as any one of them could be the thing. 

With the stakes raised and a gut-knotting level of tension and feeling of isolation, The Thing is a fantastic remake and is actually arguably superior to the 1951 picture.

But while the later film may be all round the better picture, and certainly a scarier one, the importance of the original cannot be overlooked.

As one of the first true sci-fi horror flicks The Thing From Another World is an unforgettable part of the horror history and a film with its own unique charm, ending with one of the most iconic lines ever spoken on film: “Watch the skies, everywhere, keep looking! Keep watching the skies!”

Make sure to check in tomorrow as we venture into the sixties, the return of the gothic-chiller and the first shambling steps of the zombies.