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Which version, Hawks or Carpenter? There's a lot of talk about which
one is better, etc. I do agree with many that they both are very
different films, very different viewing experiences. I love most good
sci-fi. Some of 50's sci-fi can be dated after viewing. I do not think
The Thing is one of these films which suffers from time . It holds up
splendidly. If you like dialogue, you'll love this movie. If you like
innuendo, fast paced overlapped dialogue, great characters - and I
don't use that word lightly - you'll love this movie.
If you want more suspense, a lot more blood, and a much more gloomy setting, certainly John Carpenter's remake is better in these areas. I own and enjoy viewing both films.
Certainly, the creature in Carpenter's version is much more frightening, and truer to the John Campbell short story from which the story is based. His shape shifting would have been impossible to show in the 50's version with the believability that is possible in today's F/X field.
Carpenter gives us a setting which is darker, colder, and more foreboding. A feeling of hopeless, and nameless dread pervades the camp. Certainly, the notion is clear that this could be the end of all of them, and of the world. There's both a lot less thinking, and a lot more action to be had here in the Carpenter 80's version than in the Hawks' 50's approach.
Hawks, by contrast, created a feeling of "whistling in the dark", which dominates the setting. The characters, and they are many and varied, all have their own particular take on what is happening and what should be done about it. There is a sense of hopeful, "We can do it. We can solve this problem" attitude throughout the entire film. This feeling of "let's keep our heads" is contagious and very quickly the audience finds itself rooting, rather than running.
One more point, and I think it's a big one. The characters in the Howard Hawks' 50's film are all likable, including the "heavy" - the wonderful Dr. Carrington. All the characters are capable, and in many cases, quite resourceful and ingenious. Each, always maintains a humorous, dry wit angle of attack on the situation without resorting to camp or parody seen in most comic film writing today. The military crew members, very quickly in the story, each displays a comical personality ribbing both the captain and the civil service nature of the military with natural ease. As someone once said, a complaining soldier is a happy soldier. So true. This is certainly no "military has all the answers" flick. The mistakes they make are roundly criticized by all in attendance, including the co-pilot's not so subtle comment about the splitting of the atom, "yeah, and that sure made the world happy, didn't it?" (laughter). Add to that, Ned Scott the newspaper man, and you've got a non-scientist, non-military chronicler character to round out the story, and give the audience someone with comparable skepticism about what to do next. Ned is the outsider who is now, like us, on the inside.
The John Carpenter version, by comparison, has mostly losers populating the story, I have to say. From the camp leader, Gary, on down to the radio operator, Windows, most of the characters seem more suited as inmates in a minimum security prison than manning a research science station. (maybe a reflection of the lack of students going into the field of science in recent years? (chuckle) And to make the point even more ironic, there is no military, the usual scapegoats, in the Carpenter version. (Gary, as leader, carries the gun, and we assume has some military/policing role, though it is never made clear in the film.) These are all scientists with the exception of the helicopter pilot, played by Kurt Russell, who seems to be the only clear thinking member of the entire bunch. Why none of the actual scientists approach the problem as clearly, and logically as the rogue washed-up helicopter pilot is also a mystery and in large part, a flaw.
In Hawks' version, Captain Hendry solicits advice from all in attendance, frequently asking the scientists and his crew technical questions for which he has no background to answer. This also gives the non technical audience member another "way in" to the technical side of things. (no pun intended)
Why Carpenter chose to have most of the characters unredeeming, lazy, and in most cases, quite stupid and ill behaving, is a mystery. I find the characters in the Hawks version much more true to life.
With all that said, I enjoy both films, each for their strengths and for their weaknesses. If you want blood and gore, more realistic sets, and are not discouraged by fairly shallow characters, the Carpenter version is for you.
If you want fast paced dialogue, memorable characters, and you enjoy a "can-do" attitude in dreadful circumstances, all done with a minimum of visible gore, then Hawks' The Thing awaits you.
While I love the remake very much I was finally able to see the original
the way thru without the colorization on TV. It is a truly awesome movie.
Comparing the two is not really fare or easy as Carpenter's version has the benefits of modern movie magic. But that is in my opinion the only place it excels. It seems in the remake all the characters are derelicts and for the most part not very likeable. In the original you had a sense of these people liking each other and sticking together.
Kenneth Tobey is a very good and believable leader of his men. He also shows a very human side in that he realizes he is not the smartest of men. He is what he is. A captain of a small band of Air Force Soldiiers simply doing their job.
Robert Cornblaithe is excellent as Dr. Carrington. He comes of snootish yet still likeable enough because you can see that deep down he really admires Captain Hendry (Tobey) though he can't see eye to eye with him on their situation or dealing of his "Thing From Another world."
Every character in the movie is well played. They all look like they belong in their roles. Their look and attire fit their characters and when one guy is called Professor so and so or whomever, you believe it unlike many movies in those days where they picked anyone to play the supporting actors. There is one thing though, Margaret Sheridan's pants pulled up almost to her neck line (exaggeration...but close) I could have done without. I realize it was a style of the times but I think they could have given her something a little better to show off her figure when you first meet her. Especially since she was the only female love interest and was tagged as "a pinup girl" in earlier scenes. She looks better when her hair is down and she is in different clothes. I know that is being picky but I just had to say it.
The creature is better presented in the original as far as being frightening. You hardly ever see him. When you do it's only for brief periods at a time and usually in the dark. That frightening sound of "The Thing" is very original in that it's not just a growl but sounds like a cat meowing at times. Very eerie!
The story is well known and both are similiar although I must admit the remake is closer to the actual Campbell JR.'s short tale. But the original still gives it a good account and in many ways surpasses the short story because it is easier to identify with the creature since he's humanoid.
It boils down to suspense, drama and mood versus gore, F/X, and fast paced action. Both movies are top notch. I am proud to own both and would not try and say one is overtly better than the other. The remake has the benefits of the then modern movie technology. The original had the benefit of black and white to add to the suspense and utter danger they are in. The choice is yours. I myself enjoy the original a little more as it holds up today probably better than any other Sci-Fi movie from that era.
"The Thing" without a doubt is one of the finest science fiction films ever made. A group of scientists and air force officers at an Arctic station discover something in the ice and that something sees them as dinner. The battle goes on in the claustrophobic station in a scenario that without a doubt was the model for the original "Aliens". The cast is a very fine ensemble and the direction is crisp and on the edge. Conversations overlap and at times runs simultaneously but the direction is so good that you miss nothing. Best of all is that this is one of those films where what you don't see is what scares you. There is no splatter or graphic detail but tantalizing hints that lets your mind conjure up your worst nightmare. A great one for a dark and stormy night.
Let me get my two (minor) complaints out of the way first: the attempt
to get the UFO out of the ice felt rushed (as in the filmmakers wanted
to get to the rest of the film) because I saw the result coming a mile
away . . . it just felt soulless and obligatory. Second, the scientist
Dr Carrington, rubbed up with the 'mad scientist in pursuit of
knowledge risking everyone's life' cliché a bit too much for me . . .
and I was trying to be forgiving since this was 50 years ago and far
less cliché then.
All right, now . . . I have to say, I loved The Thing from Another World. I loved the dialogue in this movie. It's been a long long (Jesus Christ, a loooong) time since I had this much fun listening to exposition. Yes, exposition. The obligatory plot details that no one cares about that some poor sap spells out? Yes, that exposition! Thing from Another World actually gains momentum with its exposition whereas your typical film slows down and comes to a screeching halt for it.
Nyby spreads the exposition across about half a dozen characters, and they have real conversation with overlapping, quick fire, back and forth, dialogue, and in brief instances multiple conversations going at the same time. The result? Five minutes of exposition becomes one minute of exposition. Will the audience catch every single detail of their plan? No, but the audience doesn't need to either. Thank you Howard Hawks!
Lace this exposition with characterization, inside jokes amongst characters, hints at their history together, and friendly pranks, and The Thing from Another World not only knocks out exposition with one blow, but develops their characters simultaneously, yielding a wonderfully complex and realistic relationship between the characters and plot. No spot light and overdone Shakespearian aside with melodramatic boo-hoo backstory that brings elicits yawns and groans, no little nerd with all the answers getting to explain everything while everyone asks stupid questions--nope--the Thing from Another World is above that drivel.
Nyby and Hawks sold me on the characters from the get go, placing emphasis on how they introduce the characters and not so much in what their character backstory is. I salute the filmmakers for this decision, and in response was more than willing to suspend my disbelief for the sake of the film's needs.
Follow it up with well lit and well staged action sequences--the fire scene was perhaps one of the most beautiful and glorious moments caught by b/w photography--and the Thing from Another World delivers with all its 1950s charms. I'll take a film with narrow corridors and electrodes over all out war with CGI bugs/machines any day of the week.
THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD...the title conjures up lurid images from the
countless 'B' SciFi flicks of the 50s, but as many SF, Howard Hawks, and
Classic Cinema fans can attest, this is no sleazy schlockfest, but one of
the most entertaining and exciting films ever made, by one of Hollywood's
Yes, the credits list Christian Nyby as director, but Howard Hawks was on the set nearly every day, each scene has elements of style unique to Hawks, alone, and even the cast members, when interviewed, have said Hawks ran the entire show. Perhaps, as Science Fiction films were not highly regarded in the early 50s, he felt his reputation might suffer if he acknowledged his contribution; perhaps he thought it might help Nyby's credentials if he were given credit for this masterfully crafted tale. Who knows? But rest assured...this IS a Howard Hawks film!
The story, based on John Campbell's short story, 'Who Goes There?', is a nifty, claustrophobic tale of a group of soldiers and scientists in the Arctic, discovering a giant 'flying saucer' under the ice. When the ship blows up during the excavation, the 'pilot', a huge green chlorophyll-based humanoid (played by a young James Arness), is recovered, frozen in a block of ice. Bringing the ice-encased figure back to the base, it is then accidentally thawed out...and all Hell brakes loose!
While the cast lacks big-name stars, each actor is wonderful, delivering wryly funny Hawks' dialogue at a breakneck pace. The military commander, Capt. Hendry (Kenneth Tobey), is a no-nonsense boss, respected and lovingly chided by his men, led by Dewey Martin, who constantly try to 'set him up' with a pretty scientist he had 'struck out' with, on leave in Anchorage (Margaret Sheridan). She is now at the base, assisting brilliant yet blissfully naive Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite), who, naturally, assumes 'the Thing' is only homicidal because he is misunderstood! As the truly frightening potential of the creature reveals itself, it becomes a race against time to destroy it, before it kills everyone, leaves the base, and reproduces countless seedlings of itself to conquer the world!
The FX are low-budget, but very effective, as is the extensive use of light and shadow, sound effects, and an eerie Dimitri Tiomkin score. Unlike the benevolent 'visitors' of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, this alien doesn't warn of total annihilation as the final option, should we carry our nuclear weapons into space; it's ONLY agenda is to kill!
This is a truly amazing film, one that has aged little, and is every bit as enjoyable today as when it was released.
As the tag line to the film warns us, "Look to the sky..."
One of the best science fiction pictures from the fifties, and one that helped define the genre, The Thing holds up remarkably well today. There's still considerable debate over whether producer Howard Hawks actually directed the film or credited director(and former editor) Christian Nyby. It's a Hawks production either way, and one of his best. The story of an alien invasion near the arctic circle, it builds slowly, relying heavily on the excellent, slangy dialogue of Charles Lederer, and the casual, jokey relationships between the various characters. This is lean, solid, old-fashioned moviemaking. There's not a wasted moment in this one. Hollywood in the studio era was especially good with stories of isolation, and this one's about as isolated as it gets. The monster is rarely seen, as we catch him only in horrifying glimpses, as the characters in the movie do. There's a standard brains versus brawn subtext in the film, but it's not emphasized to the movie's detriment. That the cast consists mostly of relative unknowns give the picture an almost documentary feeling at times, as if one were watching an actual event. Dimitri Tiomkin's spooky score helps spur the action on. This is a fine piece of commercial film-making, with everyone doing his job, and no "star turns". Nobody gets the upper hand here, not the actors, director, writer, cinematographer or alien. Everything comes together in the end. This is a perfect movie of its kind.
The Thing From Another World is one of the top ten science fiction movies of all time. The original version feeds on our paranoia of the times as well as the fears of the atomic age and invasion from outerspace. Remember Mr. Arnold first saw what was called flying saucers only a few short years earlier. The acting and storyline are tight and first rate. The claustraphobia from being confined inside the North Pole with an alien running amoke is done very well. The cast rounds out the movie quite well with great performances of all of the characters. Granted to soem the movie may seem dated and lack special effects of the remake, but the remake does not capture the times and the fear of the so called Reds that this does. The Thing From Another World has to rank in the top ten. As a kid I thought it was one of the better, not to mention more frightening science fiction movies, up there with War of the Worlds and The Day The World Stood Still. This stands up story wise. Not all science fiction needs to have effects on the order of Star Wars. Sometimes, like horror, it's what you don't see that can get to you. This is a timeless classic. IT has to be in the top ten sci-fi films of all time. If you don't rent it, buy it. You will love it!
This fast paced thriller set in an Arctic research outpost has the familiar
elements for the 1950's sci-fi movie: a hideous monster unleashed upon
mankind, the U.S. military trying to cope with it, and the ever present
scientist who wants a chance to glean the "wonders of the Universe" from
said creature, all at the same time.
Howard Hawks' adaptation of John Campbell Jr.'s short story, "Wh o Goes There?" may not be completely faithful, but nonetheless, the suspenseful plot about an Arctic research team's discovery of a recently landed spaceship embedded in the ice, and more importantly, it's lone occupant is still gripping today.
When this frozen alien carcass is accidentally thawed out back inside the research station, all hell breaks loose. As soon as the Air Force contingent(led by Kenneth Tobey) realizes that their visitor from space is bent on "feeding" on the human residents there, a "cat and mouse" situation is set up.The Thing is first repelled out into the Arctic blizzard, giving the lead scientist (Robert Cornthwaite) enough time to theorize that it's a highly evolved vegetable from outer space, and therefore, MUST be advanced enough to impart the answers to all man's questions if given a chance to communicate.
Therein lies a major conflict between the Air Force personnel and this scientist... the military sees The Thing as a threat, and the scientist sees The Thing as a fountain of knowledge in disguise. Some disguise! James Arness plays the E.T. visitor which appears at key moments through the film as a menacing humanoid with unusual claw-like hands, and though it is inferred that it is vegetable rather than animal, you're left to your imagination as to what exactly the creature is composed of. The brief encounters with the Thing as it returns from the unseen depths of the storm to feed on human blood is heralded with the ominous ticking of the crew's Geiger counter. Tension mounts as it draws nearer and nearer to the vulnerable wooden buildings of the outpost.
Once it has been revealed that Science wants to "protect" the Thing (as the Dr. Carrington has planted seedlings from the Thing's tissue remains into their greenhouse lab for an eerie result of reproduction), the military binds together with a plot to destroy It.
Although lacking in modern sophistication and effects, this film allows the viewer to be marooned with the hapless research and Air Force crew to face an Unknown, a common enemy... a theme so highly epitomized by the McCarthy era of anti-Communism that engulfed the nation at that time. I say this will always be a classic unto itself, and though not in any way comparable to John Carpenter's 1982 re-make in terms of gore, horror and psychological perspective, it still carries its own due to the snappy script and sense of foreboding.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
AKA The Thing (From Another World)
By Tom Fowler
The Thing is over 50 years old now and remains one of the all time great science fiction films. Released in 1951 and ghost directed by Howard Hawks, (Christian Nyby being the credited director), The Thing holds up well even by today's standards of shock and graphic violence. A mysterious craft has crash landed in the ice of Antarctica. A team of scientists and soldiers fly to the crash site and find a strange vehicle imbedded in the ice. The vehicle is tragically destroyed by temperature bombs in attempt to thaw the ice and free it. Even so, an alien trapped in a block of ice has survived the blast and the team returns to base camp with it for further examination. This is when the psychological aspects of the find and the terror that James (Marshall Matt Dillon) Arness' monster brings to the screen merge into a great story. (The Thing is loosely based on John W. Campbell, Jr.'s `Who Goes There?'). The scientist, ably portrayed by Robert Cornthwaite, is dangerously misguided in his attitude toward the creature, a creature that he knows no more about than any of the others stationed at their lonely outpost. Cornthwaite believes the creature to be man's superior `in every way,' a mistaken opinion he would almost lose his life for. Kenneth Tobey, who we would see often in this kind of film throughout the 1950's, portrays the officer in charge of the camp and represents the opposite view from the scientist, that of fear and suspicion. We see just enough of the creature to make him impressive and all of the gore is off camera and well within our overactive imaginations. The creature, who was thawed by accident underneath an electric blanket, is finally slain at film's end, but not without tremendous cost in lives and, particularly in the case of scientist Cornthwaite, emotional devastation. There are some frightening scenes in The Thing, most of them including the monster. The site of Tobey slamming the greenhouse door shut after discovering almost too late that the monster is standing behind it is very effective. (A friend has said the site of the monster attempting to wriggle it's hand free generated nightmares for several days). The last scene of the film, when the monster runs amuck and attacks Cornthwaite, is one of the most atmospheric of the genre. But, perhaps the most frightening scene of all to thoughtful viewers is the picture of Cornthwaite's lab, where we see alien spores being fed human blood intravenously within the confines of a common wooden box / garden planter. The Thing is indeed a classic and, I believe, benefited from being shot in black and white. The Kurt Russell remake many years later was done in color and, although a fine film in its own right, did not offer the sense of isolation and bleakness the Hawk's version did. The running time for The Thing is 87 minutes and if you choose to rent or buy it on DVD or VHS, be wary of 81 minute versions. Oh yes, as the reporter at film's end said, be certain to `Keep Watching the skies!' Not a bad idea, for The Thing packs quite a wallop even today.
In a remote arctic location, a military unit gets a call from a research
unit to come and investigate a reported plane crash. On arrival the unit
travel out to the site to find that the plane is actually a disk shaped
craft of unidentified metal. However, on trying to remove it from the ice
they destroy the craft but salvage it's frozen pilot. Back at base the
`thing' defrosts with violent results and the survivors are faced with
destroying man's only contact with alien life or being destroyed
Like many people (I assume) I saw the 80's remake before I saw the original, so I came to it with an idea already formed about what the `thing' meant to me. So it was good to step back to the original and see what made this film stand out from a raft of `reds in the bed' type sci-fi's that were around at the time. The plot is intelligent and interesting enough to sustain interest despite the fact that direct conflict with the thing is limited to a few key scenes. The tension is helped by the thing being sufficiently unseen to create a sense of unknown menace and the shadows are well placed.
The action can't compare to the remake in terms of effects, but it is well staged. As I just said, the limited view of the alien we have means it doesn't lose impact due to poor effects. One scene in particular is very good the fire scene in the room. It is dramatic and well staged for maximum effect. If the film does have a weakness it is that it is a Hawks film. Most of his touches are good the romantic banter, the group theme but for me his political view was a tad heavy.
In many sci-fi's we see the aliens come to earth in peace and it is only mankind's own violence that puts us at risk. Here mankind attacks any alien immediately without any idea of peace or preserving the specimen. The only character who puts this line forward is made to look weak and foolish compared to the rest. No, Hawks is no dove! His line is that any outsiders must e treated with fear and dealt with as strongly as required. I don't agree with this line of reasoning so it took away from the film for me, but the rest of it was very enjoyable.
The acting is top rate a mix of banter and B-movie, strong jawed American heroes! Overall this may be seen as dull or slow for the generation that has grown up on Kurt Russell freezing in the final scene but it is a classic in it's own right and is a much more accomplished piece of work for my money. Despite some weaknesses in Hawks personal beliefs this is a atmospheric and tense piece of sci-fi.
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