PICTURE OF THE DAY: THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951)
In this scene from THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) – which happens to be one of my favorite science fiction horror movies from the 1950s- the Thing (James Arness) is moments away from being doused with kerosene and set on fire by the men fighting for their lives at the North Pole base.
This is one of the most suspenseful scenes in the movie.
The Thing, that alien being which slits its victims’ throats and uses their blood to “grow” new baby aliens, as played by James Arness is one of the scariest monsters to emerge from 1950s science fiction horror cinema. He’s frightening to look at, to be sure, but this is another classic case in a horror movie where less is more. The Thing is seen only fleetingly in this movie, appearing here, darting out there, and it only adds to the suspense effect. Truth be told, the Thing wasn’t shown a whole lot because the filmmakers, Howard Hawks to be specific, weren’t pleased with the way he looked on film, and so the close-ups of the Thing were not used in the final print.
The scene pictured here is memorable for a couple of reasons. It’s famous because it was a very dangerous stunt. It was one of the first times that a stunt man was actually set on fire, and this was done in a room full of actors. Supposedly there were so many things that could have gone wrong with this scene, it’s said that the stunt man and the actors involved were lucky to have escaped serious injury.
It’s also an incredibly potent scene, and the build-up where the men use a Geiger counter to track the Thing’s movements as it closes in on them calls to mind similar scenes in both ALIEN (1979) and ALIENS (1986). When you see this scene in THE THING, it’s easy to recognize the influence it had on the later scenes in the ALIEN movies.
THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD was directed by Christian Nyby, or at least he received credit. It’s widely believed and has been pretty much substantiated that the man who really directed it was the man who produced it, Howard Hawks, one of the most talented American film directors of all time. This is the only horror movie ever done by Hawks, who gave us such gems as HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) starring Cary Grant, THE BIG SLEEP (1946), starring Humphrey Bogart, and RIO BRAVO (1959) starring John Wayne and Dean Martin, to name just a few.
It’s no wonder then that THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD is as good as it is. It ranks as one of the best, if not the best, horror science fiction films from the 1950s, grouped with a handful of other titles, like THEM! (1954), INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) and THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953).
In the mood to be terrified this winter? Check out THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. It’ll scare you right out of your snow pants!
Who goes there? The Thing!
Thanks for reading.