Thursday, August 16, 2012

THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (Christian Nyby, 1951, USA)


Cold War paranoia as a foreign invader attacks a small research facility, a minor conflict indicative of a growing menace whose malignant seeds could take root and destroy the World. A frightening metaphor concerning the Korean War, as this tiny plot of land becomes the battleground where the future of our world hangs precariously in the balance. 

Though Christian Nyby is credited as Director, this has the pulse of a Howard Hawks film with overlapping dialogue, quick-witted sarcasm and a strong feminist romance. Ben Hecht is uncredited as a screenwriter; his innuendo and double entendre adds spice and flavor to the characters, helping to define each minor participant as an individual. The film begins with a wink and a nudge as Captain Hendry must re-supply an isolated research outpost and confront Nikki, a brief encounter (Re: one night stand) who drank him under the table a few weeks prior. But the joking quickly turns towards fear as the soldiers discover a crashed spaceship and its frozen occupant. Science and morality quickly clash and the military’s bumbling orders puts the entire crew at risk. Though very little violence is shown, the allusions to butchered men hanging from the rafters, their blood feeding the spawns of this alien creature is truly gruesome. 

Hawks films mostly indoors and in medium close-up, packing each frame with multiple characters creating a claustrophobic sense of fear, as the narrow corridors and tight spaces are now prison walls while the creature walks free. The Geiger counter’s clicking alerts reminds me of the device used in ALIENS to heighten the tension as death stalks the base; their brief lives ticking quickly away. The vegetative alien is far more advanced than we are but it still shambles about like a Frankenstein’s monster and acts rashly rather than intelligently…even though it does turn off the heat. Dr. Carrington attempts to communicate with the beast but he is violently ignored while the resourceful soldiers ultimately save the day with lightening quick ingenuity. The story ends with a blossoming romance and a fried vegetable…and this dire warning: Watch the skies, everywhere, keep watching the skies! 

Final Grade: (B+)

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