“An intellectual carrot, the mind boggles!”, indeed it does! Based on J W Campbell’s short story “Who Goes There?” in which a mysterious alien disguises itself in every person in turn, this was abandoned, but picked up later in John Carpenter’s remake. This was the first film to feature a space monster and the first film to morph the genres of Horror and Science Fiction.
I was brought up on Science Fiction and Horror, Star Wars and Doctor Who were all I lived for in the late 70s (come to think of it, little has changed!). I remember BBC-2 used to broadcast a series of Sci-Fi films about every eighteen months in the early 80s, I saw “Forbidden Planet”, “The Day The Earth Stood Still”, “Invaders From Mars” and “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” among others, but I never saw this. I was allowed to stay up late to watch “Alien” on ITV in about 85 and the week after John Carpenter’s “The Thing” was shown the week after, I didn’t see it, but my dad did and he went on about it for years, until we got a video recorder in January 1989 to be exact and the first two videos my dad bought were “Aliens” and “The Thing”, I too thought it was excellent, but the special effects did have some gross out moments, especially the hand sequence. So I longed to see the original, I didn’t see it until 1992, I have to admit, I was disappointed with it.
It was directed by the mysterious Christian Nyby, Howard Hawks assistant (he had edited “The Big Sleep”, “Red River” and “To Have & Have Not”), but his first film as director was “The Thing” (aka “The Thing From Another World” in the UK) (there is many who believe that Hawks directed it himself, rather than just producer). It almost seems impossible now to think of a time before “Star Trek”, “The X Files”, “The Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits”, Science Fiction is such an important part of popular culture and this is where it all started, so I suppose that is why I was so disappointed with it. But as time has gone by, I have come back to it again and again, I think the tension is handled superbly, almost film noir. You hardly get to see the monster, just glimpses here and there, which would make it in tune with Hawks and Nyby never really directed anything else as impressive as this.
John Carpenter showed us clips of this film in his own “Halloween” four years before he remade it.
“I bring you warning – to every one of you listening to the sound of my voice. Tell the world, tell this to everyone wherever they are; watch the skies, watch everywhere, keep looking, keep watching the skies!”
US Release 29/04/1951
DF Viewing 10/05/1992 on BBC-2