The creepiest of the old time science fiction movies is "The Thing" (aka- "The Thing From Another World"). This excellent film skillfully blends humor and horror. Everything about this film is top notch, from the acting to the score.
In the frozen wastelands, a group of scientists discover an UFO. Trying to uncover it, they dig up its frozen pilot. Through a stupid blunder, they release the creature. Unfortunately, he is rather hungry, and his favorite food is blood. He discovers humans taste rather pleasant, and the team of army men and scientists must find a way to destroy him, before he gets them all. Most distressing of all, their new 'friend' has set up a nursery in their facility. The creature seems intent on raising his children and invading the world. With no way to bring help, the small group must stop them on their own.
This film does not contain spiffy special effects. It does not contain graphic violence. It's not even in color. Instead, it contains snappy dialogue, mucho suspense, moments of extreme terror and excellent ensemble acting. None of the actors are well-known, but each one delivers a good performance. The dialogue between the army men, and between Kenneth Tobey (as the head army man) and Margaret Sheridan (as the scientist's assistant) is natural and delivered at a break-neck speed. The movie itself moves along at a crisp pace, never letting down.
The effectiveness of the picture has lead many to suspect that the film was not directed by the credited director, Chris Nyby, but by Howard hawks instead. Indeed, the film's pace and the use of dialogue closely resembles that in other Hawk's films. No matter who actually did the directing, it was skillfully done.
The sets used in the film increase the suspense. There are long, dark and cramped corridors, small, claustrophobic rooms and the scientist's dingy labs. Everyone is trapped in these facilities because outside is the freezing cold of the arctic. The monster stalks everyone inside, but to go out is to freeze. Not a pleasant prospect, and one that heightens the tension.
The film's only weakness is its depiction of the head scientist, Carrington (played by Robert Cornwaithe). For 'scientific' reasons, he wants the alien kept alive. Carrington is willing to sacrifice their lives, indeed the whole planet, for the creature. He says it is more advanced, so it has more of a right to live. Being a scientist myself, I will point out that this is not a very 'scientific' point of view. Indeed, it sounds more like some of the justifications humans in general have made over the years to explain the things we've done. But, I digress...
This film is a thousand times better than the remake. I suggest watching it late at night, without the lights on. It will give you some spectacular chills.
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