The Thing From Another World, 1951. 10/10

Probably the best science fiction movie of the early atomic age, and one of the best sci-fi movies ever. Even performances from the cast, a suspenseful, well-written plot, and an iconic man vs. (alien) Nature conflict add up to amazing entertainment.

I’ve seen The Thing From Another World many times since the early 1960s, and it never fails to hold my interest throughout. This time around I noticed some ‘Things’ that hadn’t really occurred to me before. The Thing clearly influenced another classic sci-fi thriller, 1956’s Invasion on the Body Snatchers. The little pepper-shaped alien pods growing in the greenhouse, with the implicit threat of limitless aliens taking over the Earth, is the core premise of Body Snatchers.

The remote location for The Thing also resonates with other monster/alien movies; the difference here is that we never leave the polar outpost, as the alien is destroyed before he and his potential replicants can wreak more havoc. The more interesting strand in The Thing isn’t what it influenced, but the horror genre that influenced it.

Some have found tracings of film noir in the claustrophobic setting, with the stark black and white lighting adding shadowy depths to the unfolding mystery. But I see the alien as a Frankenstein monster/Dracula figure. He has the lumbering menace of the Frankenstein monster–his fight with the dogs during a blizzard seems very much like a scene from a Frankenstein movie. And then, the alien seeks dirt, and lives on blood: Dracula’s exact habits. The dimly lit passageways of the base look as much like gothic caverns and the hallways of decrepit castles at least as much as the dark corners and alleys of noir.

So I think it’s this blending of horror and sci-fi scenes and motifs that gives The Thing its abiding power; it takes old myths and recasts them with a modern, quasi-scientific veracity. 10/10.

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