Watching this movie one cannot help but marvel at what had passed as scary back in 1951 - especially considering the gruesome remake the film would get in 1982 (simply as John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)) at the hands of cult director John Carpenter!
Back then it was sufficient to simply hint at the presence of a blood-sucking alien prowling along the corridors of a far-flung research base in the arctic. Wisely, the director choose not to fully reveal the alien in question, so if you're put off by the hokey-looking creature no doubt displayed on covers of this film on video, then don't be. The alien is wisely never fully revealed - and when we do get to see it in full (albeit in a dark corridor) - one realises the wisdom of this decision. James Arness (later of Gunsmoke fame) dressed up to look like a huge Nosferatu-like figure (replete with pointy ears) simply ain't scary...
Mystery Science Theatre 3000 types hoping to poke fun at the movie's hokiness will probably be disappointed. It isn't really all that hokey and Thing from Another World is definitely one of the better sci-fi efforts of the 1950s. However, I'm afraid that that doesn't necessarily make it good.
It starts off promisingly with researchers in the arctic (cut off from the outside world due to a heavy snowstorm) discovering an alien which has been frozen in ice. When the alien is accidentally thawed out, it escapes and starts killing off members of the research station. Interesting to note is that none of the killings actually occur on-screen and their deaths are only mentioned by the movie's characters. Later it transpires that the alien is actually a vegetable (as in a "walking carrot" as one character remarks) and needs human or animal blood to survive.
The creature can also procreate at an incredible rate - after all, it only needs to sow a few seedlings and water (or, er, rather blood) them. Thus the entire planet is in ultimate danger of being taken over this creature or rather its seedlings. The problem is that this aspect of the plot is never properly dealt with and the movie never really holds together as it lurches to its end. Maybe a longer running time and more of a sense of urgency would have helped. Who knows? Or maybe it's because what counted for as scary back then no longer does - and I'm not just talking gory special effects here...
(Based on the 1938 Who Goes There? story by John W. Jr Campbell, The Thing from Another World doesn't feature the alien mimicking its human victims plot of the 1982 remake and thus lacks that added sense of paranoia that made the Carpenter movie that much more interesting. Luckily none of the cast members drift off all by themselves like they do in those Friday the 13th and other movies - "there's a homicidal monster around killing us off? Mmmh, then how about I go off wandering by myself? What's in this dark empty room here? Mmm..." It would seem that people in the 1950s were cleverer than people nowadays... Incidentally, although the movie's official credits has Christian Nyby as its director, pundits consider it to be a film by the legendary Howard Hawks - who served as producer; a bit like Steven Spielberg being considered as the real director of Poltergeist and not Tobe Hooper.)
Review by James O'Ehley from The
Sci-Fi Movie Page.