Who Goes There? The Thing!

The-Thing-from-Another-World-PosterI’m doing a special column over at USA Today Happily Ever After, talking to science fiction and fantasy writers about their favorite SF&F movies and TV shows. Mine were “Farscape” and “Aliens”.   Hop on over to see what other authors picked!

But there’s another science fiction movie I totally love and rewatch often and that’s the original 1951 version of “The Thing From Another World.” OK, yes it’s dated, how could it not be when it’s over fifty years old? And yet….the movie has all the tropes I personally adore – small band of people in an alien environment, cut off from outside help, mixture of hard ass military types and see-the-world-thru-rose-color-glasses scientists/civilians, a strong heroine (essential in my opinion!) and they’re dealing with something new and unknown and very very deadly. Throw in some romance between the ranking military officer and the strong heroine and I’m totally on board.

The movie moves right along and I love how the crisp dialog overlaps and feels like real thing_from_another_world_56conversations. I kind of ignore the learned 1950’s-era scientific discussions and the fact that the alien being is a “giant carrot”, as one scientist puts it. He/it still has the ability to Take Over The World and make humans into food if this one isolated group can’t band together and stop it. I thoroughly enjoy the heroine and I raise my eyebrows at a little suggestive-for-the1950’s banter when she thinks she has the rugged hero literally tied up in her office.  OK, she’s a secretary (1950’s here, although the cast of characters does include a woman scientist in a minor role, doing first aid, mostly) but a smart cookie and figures out what the alien is up to at a critical juncture when the guys are all making jokes….

I ALWAYS wish the movie was longer, that there were outtakes, more information about the filming…I devoured the various Starlog magazine articles about the Making Of.

In my science fiction romance novels I almost always have an extremely competent sergeant  – my little homage to the Army Air Corps sergeant character in this movie. I like him.

Ironically, I’ve read that the actor who played the role, Dewey Martin, was a genuine World War II vet and really impressed the director, who started beefing up his part during the filming, at the expense of Kenneth Tobey, the actual star, who played the intrepid captain/hero. I don’t know how all that turned out. The movie works.

Also ironically, Mr. Martin was given an opportunity to co-star in a major big budget movie, “Land of the Pharaohs” (reviewed by me here) and really didn’t do so well as an ancient Egyptian,IMHO,  to put it kindly.

It’s been years since I read the source material, the short story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, writing under a kurt russellpseudonym, but it recently became available on Amazon and I downloaded it in a blink. The story holds up pretty well – there were no carrots and it occured in Antarctica and the alien could shapeshift….but I could still see some kernels of my favorite movie version in it and I was amazed at how much of the 1982 John Carpenter movie “The Thing” came pretty straight from the Campbell short story. Good stuff, altho minus the romance 😦  And with a different ending….but hey, Kurt Russell!

Any oldie but goodie SF movies you recommend?

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