The Thing from Another World

Screening on Film
Directed by Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks.
With Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite.
US, 1951, 35mm, black & white, 87 min.
Print source: British Film Institute

A nondescript set masquerading as an Alaskan research outpost, about a dozen spirited B-list actors, and a few rudimentary special effects are all that’s needed to mount nail-biting suspense in The Thing from Another World, a thrifty sci-fi classic that is as much about the moment-to-moment logistics of grappling with the unknown as it is about the eponymous alien entity itself. When a mysterious saucer from the sky crash-lands near a secluded Air Force compound, Captain Patrick Hendry and a ragtag bunch of servicemen are forced to make imaginative use of their limited resources to conquer their increasingly predatory visitor, all while butting heads with a cerebral scientist who insists the extraterrestrial beast is mere “phenomena to be studied.” In ceding the director’s chair to then-debuting filmmaker Christian Nyby, Hawks claimed only a producer role for the film, though his stylistic influence is so strongly felt in the brisk banter and calculated blocking that there has long been speculation as to the degree of his artistic intervention. Whatever the case, The Thing from Another World stands as both a consummate expression of Hawksian ensemble acting and a master class in the power of suggestion.

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The Complete Howard Hawks

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Eight Weeks of Film History: 1940 - 1959