Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Thing From Another World

The Thing from Guiding Light would have been just as frigteningI don't think I've ever done a full-length blog post on The Thing From Another World. It's airing overnight at 2:00 AM, as part of the last night of TCM's "Drive-In Double Features" marathon.

The setting is an arctic research station in Alaska. They've discovered something under the ice that looks like it might be an alien spacecraft, and decide to try to dig it out. It turns out that there's something inside the craft. Unfortunately, that something gets thawed out, and proceeds to go on a rampage. What should the folks at the base do? The military commander of the base (Kenneth Tobey) naturally wants to kill the thing. But, this is one of those 1950s sci-fi movies that has the ubiquitous trope of the scientist who thinks everybody should try to study the menace rather than destroy it.

Ultimately, The Thing From Another World is limited by budget considerations, and a lack of special effects. But both of these limitations actually serve to help the film. The arctic research station should be cramped: in the high arctic, you don't want to have a bunch of extraneous space to have to heat, and everything should be spartan and functional. And the lack of special effects means the horror has to be hinted at and left in the minds of the viewers, a technique Val Lewton knew all to well. Eventually, we do briefly see the Thing, which is played by a young James Arness.

The Thing From Another World is squarely in the 1950s, and yet a pretty darn entertaning movie.

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