The Thing from Another World! — B-Movie Blastworks
***“B Movie Blastworks” is a regular column published on Primary Ignition, written by Mark Leja, staff writer and Connoisseur of Crap, in which he scours the bowels of the internet for unsung B-Movie gems.***
TITLE: The Thing from Another World!
STARRING: Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite
DIRECTOR: Christian Nyby, Howard Hawks (uncredited)
STUDIO: Winchester Pictures Corporation
RUN TIME: 85 min
RELEASED: April 29, 1951
Everyone knows The Thing, but how many people have seen the original film that it was based on? Well, in this installment of B-Movie Blastworks, I give treatment to the Howard Hawks original.
It seems that in order to have a great 50s alien film you need a badass opening title card. Go see it yourself, I won’t describe it, it’d take too long. The film sets us in the cold frozen tundra, of…somewhere north. Scott, a journalist, walks into a bar full of army men waiting out the storm. This is where we meet Pat and some other minor guys. They meet up with their General, and he tells them something has crashed up north and to go investigate.
Pat does just that, he brings along Scotty and the minor guys. They fly up to a research facility and character introductions abound. Pat tries to sort out what I gather seemed like a date rape situation he had with female human Nikki Nicholson, which doesn’t get sorted. Then we meet 1950s Alien movie doctor professor man. 50s Alien movie doctor introduces himself with random science talk like usual and Pat is once again airbound, heading towards what could be believed as something FROM ANOTHER WORLD!
After investigating the site, they concluded that it was a flying saucer that landed. Ecstatic, they do what America does best: They blast the damn thing out. The group heads out to check the crater and discover something most horrid, a man from Mars, presumably. Taking off with the pilot as their cargo, the research station awaits them. The pilot is left to defrost because, hell, they want to have a beer with the dude from Mars. Everyone goes around asking question discussing what to do with him next. Everyone has fun talking about things and how they’re going to do things once they leave. Pat keeps trying to fix things with Nikki. Things get really, really slow here, right about until the time the Mars Man thaws out.
I don’t hate characters talking or anything, but the quicker we get to the meat and potatoes the better. The Mars Man thaws out, a military man gets the shit scared out of him and tries to kill THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, but it was to no avail. The Military guy gets everyone to the room where Mars Man was and they watch in horror as he attacks their dogs. Why? ‘Cause fuck dogs! He leaves behind an arm, no biggie, and 50s Alien film scientist man examines it. Turns out The Thing is a type of plant, I’ll buy it I guess. The men arm themselves and prepare to fight the most terrifying piece of fauna ever combated by the United States military.
It turns out the Thing is now absorbing the DNA of other creatures as evident by the deceased canine. They surround the greenhouse where they believe the Mars Man is and right when they’re about to spring the ambush, this…Thing bats the doorway open. A solider fires away, stopping The Thing. Pat sees inside the room, a scene of people strung up like a slaughter house. The only problem, we don’t. Mr. Scientist has discovered Mars Man is more intelligent than humans and we are completely defenseless against him. Sucks to be human! Oh wait. The Mars Man is reproducing asexually and soon his species will overwhelm all humanity and worse. This will probably lead to mass hysteria. Everyone confronts the scientist and they need to kill the creature, but 50s alien movie film scientist won’t stand for it; it’d be a crime against science to destroy it. He’s a 50s alien movie film scientist, I’d expect it.
Pat tries to figure out a way to kill Mars Man, it’s a plant. Dude, seriously? Well Nikki’s brain starts up and gives suggestions as to what to do with a giant vegetable. They’re going to burn the Thing. Mars Man hears of their plan and storms in on them, he gets lit on fire and stumbles around for a bit like a human/plant candle. It only results in the Thing escaping and the humans now having to rebuild the room. Fire bad, but can’t kill Thing. What next? An electric fly trap…hey, if it works it works! The Scientist continues his rant about not killing the Thing, for science I suppose? But they shoot him away.
The trap is set, now they wait. Wait, and wait. I’m going to turn on John Carpenter’s The Thing while we wait. So Mars Man finally makes his appearance and grabs a wooden board, trudges slowly towards them. Then the science dude kills the power, killing their electric fly trap. The scientist man tries to reason with Mars Man, but I think he’s failed to realize the dude is just a big plant. Mars Man throws the scientist away (he dies?) and continues his charge. The trap is sprung and the Thing — Mars Man — gets nicely toasted to death. And everyone lives happily ever after. Enjoying hot cocoa and coffee, they make contact with another station and soon they’ll get help out there. Scotty gives the general staff a story and a warning. Tell the world, tell this to everybody. Watch the skies everywhere keep looking, keep watching the skies.
Comparing Carpenter and Hawks’ respective visions is night and day; they’re completely different films. With different tones and characters, only the idea of the monster has stayed the same. The one thing that links the two is that they are very representative of their respective decades. They are like decade case studies. I prefer Carpenter’s version, but that’s because I like gore and I am a Carpenter fanboy. That’s a whole different article though. Watch both of them, see what you think. As for me, I’m going to go search the depths of hell for more films.
Front page image from silverscreensaucers.blogspot.com, movie stills from dvdbeaver.com.