Scientists discover a UFO and manage to bring back quite a convincing sample to their outpost in the North Pole: they bring back an alien in a cube of ice. Accidentally, the alien manages to escape and is now attack the crew, and no one is around to save them.
Ever since watching John Carpenter's "The Thing" many years ago, I have been curious about the original. "The Thing" is undoubtedly one of the best remakes ever made - yes, I think of it as a remake even though it went back and based itself more on the original story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell Jr.. In some cases it might not count as a remake, but here the two movies really share a lot and knowing John Carpenter was set to redo it and THEN went back to the original story, makes it quite clear to me. I was curious to see if the original had as much to offer as the remake, and I was quite surprised to see that "The Thing From Another World" is a really solid sci-fi horror.
When something has been seen crashing into the ice near a scientific outpost on the North Pole, Captain Hendry is sent to help the scientists. A quick visit to the crash site reveals that the thing that crashed was in fact a spaceship, and its pilot is found right next to it. They bring back the figure for closer examination, but have to wait for an approval to examine it from higher powers. While waiting, they keep it in the ice cube it came in, in a cold room so that it won't melt, but when one of the crew members accidentally puts a warm blanket over it, the alien is soon on the loose.
"The Thing From Another World" doesn't have the paranoia and constant questioning of who is an alien and who isn't that the original story "Who Goes There?" and the remake "The Thing" had. Instead it manages to muster up quite a lot of tension by letting it grow naturally without forcing any of the horror out. It's paranoia in the way that you just don't know if they will meet the alien when they open doors, go outside, or just sit around waiting. There are many moments that I could imagine being quite powerful back in 1951, but naturally they are quite tame now.
Probably the main strength of the movie is the excellent cast. We have a great, albeit macho, lead man in Captain Hendry, we have the very important love interest (which wasn't needed in the remake, but here it brings a charm and lightheartedness that I enjoyed), we have the crazy scientist/doctor. And throw in a quite funny journalist for good measure. We're introduced to many, many characters, but only about half of them are memorable. I don't see this as a bad thing, as we can't possibly care about all the guys sitting by computers in the background. It's not the most tight set of characters, but the ones we are forced to follow closely we really enjoy.
I had expected a much cheesier movie from this, and was shocked to see that the only thing remotely cheesy is the look of the alien. Everything else is just great, and some scenes quite shocking for its time. The movie certainly broke a lot of ground and has been a major film in many later filmmakers' lives. It's a fine example of the somewhat stereotypical alien themes of 50's sci-fi, but still managing to bring in the modern terror that we'd later experience up close in films like "Psycho" or (even later) "Night of the Living Dead". I just loved "The Thing From Another Planet", and sort of hate myself for waiting so long before watching it. Any fan of sci-fi horror or "The Thing"
should not miss out on this.
Note: A lot of sources claim that producer Howard Hawks directed most of this film, but I went with the info found on the DVD I got as well as IMDb.