With its modest special effects, lean plot, and small cast of lesser stars, this 1951 thriller remains a sturdy blueprint for fusing horror and science fiction. The formula has been employed countless times since, fleshed out with more extensive and elaborate production values, and manned by higher profiled marquee names, but the results have yet to improve on The Thing from Another World
, Howard Hawks's lone foray into sci-fi.
The story begins as military airmen are dispatched to a remote Arctic research station where scientists have detected the crash of a spacecraft. An effort to retrieve the saucer-shaped vehicle fails, but the team returns to the station with the frozen body of its sole occupant. When the extraterrestrial pilot is accidentally thawed, the crew, headed by a tough-talking pilot (Kenneth Tobey), grapples with a massive, chlorophyll-based humanoid (James Arness) thirsty for blood and in no mood for galactic diplomacy.
Hawks takes only a production credit for this low-budget exercise, but his filmmaking style transcends Christian Nyby's nominal direction: rapid-fire, overlapping dialogue, an ensemble of comrades whose professionalism is tempered by wisecracks, and unsentimental female characters (embodied by feisty romantic interest Margaret Sheridan) recall Hawks's signature works, while propelling the plot over any potential gaps in credibility. It's hardly surprising, then, that The Thing from Another World remains among the most influential science fiction movies ever shot, or that it remains exciting entertainment a half century later. --Sam Sutherland
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