The Thing from Another World

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The Thing from Another World
Directed by Christian Nyby
Produced byEdward Lasker
Howard Hawks
Screenplay by Charles Lederer
Howard Hawks
Ben Hecht
Based on Who Goes There?
1938 novella
by John W. Campbell, Jr.
Starring Margaret Sheridan
Kenneth Tobey
Douglas Spencer
Robert O. Cornthwaite
James Arness
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Russell Harlan, ASC
Edited by Roland Gross
Winchester Pictures Corporation
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • April 27, 1951 (1951-04-27)(US) [1]
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.95 million (US rentals) [2]

The Thing from Another World, sometimes referred to as The Thing, is a 1951 American black-and-white science fiction-horror film, directed by Christian Nyby, produced by Edward Lasker for Howard Hawks' Winchester Pictures Corporation, and released by RKO Pictures. The film stars Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, and Douglas Spencer. James Arness plays The Thing, but he is difficult to recognize in costume and makeup due to both low lighting and other effects used to obscure his features. The film is based on the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell (writing under the pseudonym of Don A. Stuart). [3]

Science fiction film film genre

Science-fiction film is a genre that uses speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not fully accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial lifeforms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception and time travel, along with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar travel or other technologies. Science-fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition. In many cases, tropes derived from written science fiction may be used by filmmakers ignorant of or at best indifferent to the standards of scientific plausibility and plot logic to which written science fiction is traditionally held.

Horror film film genre

A horror film is a film that seeks to elicit fear. Initially inspired by literature from authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, horror has existed as a film genre for more than a century. The macabre and the supernatural are frequent themes. Horror may also overlap with the fantasy, supernatural fiction, and thriller genres.

Christian Nyby was an American television and film director and editor. As an editor, he had seventeen feature film credits from 1943 to 1952, including The Big Sleep (1946) and Red River (1948). From 1953–1975 he was a prolific director of episodes in many television series, including Gunsmoke and Wagon Train. As a feature film director, he is likely best known for The Thing from Another World (1951).


The storyline concerns a U.S. Air Force crew and scientists who find a crashed flying saucer and a humanoid body frozen nearby in the Arctic ice. Returning to their remote research outpost with the body in a block of ice, they are forced to defend themselves against this malevolent, plant-based alien when it is accidentally revived. [4]

Flying saucer

A flying saucer is a descriptive term for a supposed type of flying craft having a disc or saucer-shaped body, commonly used generically to refer to an anomalous flying object. The term was coined in 1930 but has generally been supplanted since 1952 by the United States Air Force term unidentified flying objects or UFOs. Early reported sightings of unknown "flying saucers" usually described them as silver or metallic, sometimes reported as covered with navigation lights or surrounded with a glowing light, hovering or moving rapidly, either alone or in tight formations with other similar craft, and exhibiting high maneuverability.

Humanoid something that has an appearance resembling a human without actually being one; creatures with a mostly human shape

A humanoid is something that has an appearance resembling a human without actually being one. The earliest recorded use of the term, in 1870, referred to indigenous peoples in areas colonized by Europeans. By the 20th century, the term came to describe fossils which were morphologically similar, but not identical, to those of the human skeleton.

Arctic polar region on the Earths northern hemisphere

The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Northern Canada, Norway, Russia and Sweden. Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover, with predominantly treeless permafrost -containing tundra. Arctic seas contain seasonal sea ice in many places.


In Anchorage, journalist Ned Scott (Douglas Spencer) looks for a story. He visits the officer's club of a local military station and meets Captain Pat Hendry (Kenneth Tobey), a pilot, Lieutenant Eddie Dykes, co-pilot and friend of Scott's, and Ken "Mac" MacPherson, navigator. Station chief General Fogarty orders Hendry to fly to Polar Expedition Six at the North Pole per the request of its lead scientist Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite), who reports that an unusual aircraft has crashed nearby. With crew chief Bob, Corporal Barnes and a pack of sled dogs, the group fly to the outpost the next morning in their Douglas C-47, the Tropical Tilly.

Anchorage, Alaska Consolidated city-borough in Alaska, United States

Anchorage is a unified home rule municipality in the U.S. state of Alaska. With an estimated 298,192 residents in 2016, it is Alaska's most populous city and contains more than 40 percent of the state's total population; among the 50 states, only New York has a higher percentage of residents who live in its most populous city. All together, the Anchorage metropolitan area, which combines Anchorage with the neighboring Matanuska-Susitna Borough, had a population of 401,635 in 2016, which accounts for more than half of the state's population. At 1,706 square miles of land area, the city is the fourth largest city by land in the United States and larger than the smallest state, Rhode Island, at 1,212 square miles.

Douglas Spencer was an American film actor. Starting in the mid-1930s and going through the 1940s, he appeared in dozens of films as an extra, then cameo roles and uncredited roles.

Military officers club

An officers' club, known within the military as an O club is similar to a gentlemen's club for commissioned officers of the armed forces. Few officers' clubs have survived the end of the Cold War.

Upon arrival, Scott and the airmen meet the camp: radio operator Tex, Mrs. Chapman, Lee, one of two cooks, and Inuit dog handlers. Also present are several scientists: Vorhees, Stern, Redding, Stone, Laurence, Wilson, Ambrose, Auerbach, Olson, Mrs. Chapman's husband Dr. Chapman, and Carrington, a Nobel laureate. Hendry rekindles a romantic interest with Nikki Nicholson (Margaret Sheridan), Carrington's secretary. Several team members fly to the crash site, finding an object buried beneath ice. As they spread out to determine its shape, they realize they are standing in a circle—they have discovered a flying saucer. The team attempt to unbury the craft using thermite explosives, destroying it. However, their Geiger counter detects a frozen body buried nearby, which is excavated in a block of ice. Returning with the ice block as a storm moves in, Hendry assumes command. He denies Scott permission to send a story, and denies the scientists' demands to examine the specimen. Tex sends an update to Fogarty, and the airmen settle in. A watch is posted; Barnes relieves McPherson and, disturbed by the creature's appearance, covers it with an electric blanket which he does not realize is plugged in. The block thaws and the creature escapes, killing two dogs. The airmen recover the creature's severed arm.

The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. The Inuit languages are part of the Eskimo–Aleut family. Inuit Sign Language is a critically endangered language isolate used in Nunavut.

Margaret Sheridan American actress

Margaret Elizabeth Sheridan was an American actress of the early 1950s, and protégée of director Howard Hawks. She is best remembered for her role as Nikki Nickolson opposite Kenneth Tobey in the 1951 science fiction classic The Thing from Another World.

Thermite mixture

Thermite is a pyrotechnic composition of metal powder, which serves as fuel, and metal oxide. When ignited by heat, thermite undergoes an exothermic reduction-oxidation (redox) reaction. Most varieties are not explosive, but can create brief bursts of heat and high temperature in a small area. Its form of action is similar to that of other fuel-oxidizer mixtures, such as black powder.

That evening, the scientists examine the arm, concluding that the alien is an advanced form of plant life. Carrington is convinced of the alien's superiority to humans, and becomes intent on communicating with it. The airmen begin a search, which leads to the camp's greenhouse. As the search moves on, Carrington stays behind with Vorhees, Stern and Laurence, having noticed evidence of activity. They discover a third dead dog, which has had its blood drained—the creature feeds on animal blood. Carrington and the scientists post a secret watch of their own, hoping to encounter the creature before the airmen find it.

Greenhouse building in which plants are grown

A greenhouse is a structure with walls and roof made chiefly of transparent material, such as glass, in which plants requiring regulated climatic conditions are grown. These structures range in size from small sheds to industrial-sized buildings. A miniature greenhouse is known as a cold frame. The interior of a greenhouse exposed to sunlight becomes significantly warmer than the external ambient temperature, protecting its contents in cold weather.

Carnivorous plant plants that trap and consume animals or protozoans

Carnivorous plants are plants that derive some or most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming animals or protozoans, typically insects and other arthropods. Carnivorous plants have adapted to grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic bogs. Charles Darwin wrote Insectivorous Plants, the first well-known treatise on carnivorous plants, in 1875.

The next morning, the airmen continue their search. Tex informs them that Fogarty is aware of their discovery and demands further information, prevented by the storm. Stern appears, badly injured, and tells the group that the creature has killed Auerbach and Olson. When the airmen investigate, the creature attacks them; they manage to barricade it inside the greenhouse. Hendry confronts Carrington and orders him to remain in his lab and quarters.

Carrington becomes obsessed with the alien. In the lab, he shows Nicholson and the other scientists an experiment: using seeds taken from the severed arm, he has grown plants by feeding them blood plasma from the station's reserves. Hendry finds the plasma missing when it is needed to treat Stern, leading him to confront Nicholson, whose notes lead back to Carrington. Fogarty sends orders to keep the alien alive, but it escapes from the greenhouse and attacks the airmen in their quarters. They douse it in kerosene, burning it and forcing its retreat. As soon as the camp regroups, they realize that the temperature is falling rapidly—the furnaces have stopped working, sabotaged by the creature. The team retreat to the station's generator room to keep warm, and an electrical "fly trap" is rigged. The alien attacks again, but at the last moment, Carrington emerges and pleads desperately with it, attempting communication. It knocks him aside, walks into the trap, and is electrocuted until it is reduced to ashes.

Blood plasma liquid component of blood

Blood plasma is a yellowish liquid component of blood that normally holds the blood cells in whole blood in suspension. In other words, it is the liquid part of the blood that carries cells and proteins throughout the body. It makes up about 55% of the body's total blood volume. It is the intravascular fluid part of extracellular fluid (all body fluid outside cells). It is mostly water (up to 95% by volume), and contains dissolved proteins (6–8%) (e.g. serum albumins, globulins, and fibrinogen), glucose, clotting factors, electrolytes (Na+, Ca2+, Mg2+, HCO3, Cl, etc.), hormones, carbon dioxide (plasma being the main medium for excretory product transportation) and oxygen. It plays a vital role in an intravascular osmotic effect that keeps electrolyte concentration balanced and protects the body from infection and other blood disorders.

The team regain control of the camp, and Tex re-establishes radio contact with Anchorage. Scott finally sends his story to a listening room full of reporters, beginning with a warning: "Watch the skies, everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!"



No actors are named during the film's dramatic "slow burning letters through background" opening title sequence, while the cast credits appear at the end of the film. [3] No performers are named in the film's advertising graphics.[ citation needed ] Many cast members with significant speaking parts are not credited.[ citation needed ] Appearing in a small role was George Fenneman, who at the time was gaining fame as Groucho Marx's announcer on the popular quiz show You Bet Your Life . Fenneman later said he had difficulty with the overlapping dialogue in the film. [5]

The film was partly shot in Glacier National Park and interior sets built at a Los Angeles ice storage plant. [3]

The film took full advantage of the national feelings of the time to help enhance the horror elements of the story. The film reflected a post-Hiroshima skepticism about science and negative views of scientists who meddle with things better left alone. In the end it is American servicemen and several sensible scientists who win the day over the alien invader. [3]


The film was loosely adapted by Charles Lederer, with uncredited rewrites from Howard Hawks and Ben Hecht, from the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr.; the story was first published in Astounding Science Fiction under Campbell's pseudonym Don A. Stuart (Campbell had just become Astounding's managing editor when his novella appeared in its pages). [3]

The film's screenplay changes the fundamental nature of the alien as presented in Campbell's 1938 novella: Lederer's "Thing" is a humanoid life form whose cellular structure is closer to vegetation, although it must feed on blood to survive; reporter Scott even refers to it in the film as a "super carrot." The internal, plant-like structure of the creature makes it impervious to bullets (but not to other destructive forces). Campbell's "Thing" is a life form capable of assuming the physical and mental characteristics of any living thing it encounters; this characteristic was later realized in John Carpenter's adaptation of the novella, the 1982 film The Thing . [3]


There is debate as to whether the film was directed by Hawks with Christian Nyby receiving the credit so that Nyby could obtain his Director's Guild membership, [6] [Note 1] [8] or whether Nyby directed it with considerable input in both screenplay and advice in directing from producer Hawks [9] for Hawks' Winchester Pictures, which released it through RKO Radio Pictures Inc. Hawks gave Nyby only $5,460 of the $50,000 director's fee that RKO paid and kept the rest, but Hawks denied that he directed the film. [5]

Cast members disagree on Hawks' and Nyby's contributions. Tobey said that "Hawks directed it, all except one scene" [10] while, on the other hand, Fenneman said that "Hawks would once in a while direct, if he had an idea, but it was Chris' show." Cornthwaite said that "Chris always deferred to Hawks, ... Maybe because he did defer to him, people misinterpreted it." [5] Although Self has said that "Hawks was directing the picture from the sidelines", [11] he also has said that "Chris would stage each scene, how to play it. But then he would go over to Howard and ask him for advice, which the actors did not hear ... Even though I was there every day, I don't think any of us can answer the question. Only Chris and Howard can answer the question." [5]

One of the film's stars, William Self, later became President of 20th Century Fox Television. [12] In describing the production, Self said, "Chris was the director in our eyes, but Howard was the boss in our eyes." [5]

At a reunion of The Thing cast and crew members in 1982, Nyby said: [5]

Did Hawks direct it? That's one of the most inane and ridiculous questions I've ever heard, and people keep asking. That it was Hawks' style. Of course it was. This is a man I studied and wanted to be like. You would certainly emulate and copy the master you're sitting under, which I did. Anyway, if you're taking painting lessons from Rembrandt, you don't take the brush out of the master's hands. [5]


Critical and box office reception

The Thing from Another World was released in April 1951. [3] By the end of that year, the film had accrued $1,950,000 in distributors' domestic (U. S. and Canada) rentals, making it the year's 46th biggest earner, beating all other science fiction films released that year, including The Day The Earth Stood Still and When Worlds Collide . [13] [Note 2]

Bosley Crowther in The New York Times observed, "Taking a fantastic notion (or is it, really?), Mr. Hawks has developed a movie that is generous with thrills and chills…Adults and children can have a lot of old-fashioned movie fun at 'The Thing', but parents should understand their children and think twice before letting them see this film if their emotions are not properly conditioned." [14] "Gene" in Variety complained that the film "lacks genuine entertainment values." [15] More than 20 years after its theatrical release, science fiction editor and publisher Lester del Rey compared the film unfavorably to the source material, John W. Campbell's Who Goes There? , calling it "just another monster epic, totally lacking in the force and tension of the original story." [16]

The Thing is now considered by many to be one of the best films of 1951. [17] [18] [19] The film holds an 88% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus that the film "is better than most flying saucer movies, thanks to well-drawn characters and concise, tense plotting." [20] In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. [21] [22] Additionally, Time magazine named The Thing from Another World "the greatest 1950s sci-fi movie." [23] [24]


American Film Institute lists

See also


  1. "And let's get the record straight. The movie was directed by Howard Hawks. Verifiably directed by Howard Hawks. He let his editor, Christian Nyby, take credit. But the kind of feeling between the male characters — the camaraderie, the group of men that has to fight off the evil — it's all pure Hawksian." [7]
  2. "Rentals" refers to the distributor/studio's share of the box office gross, which, according to Gebert, is roughly half of the money generated by ticket sales. [13]

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  2. "The Top Box Office Hits of 1951." Variety, January 2, 1952.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Warren 1982, pp. 151–163.
  4. Hamilton 2007, pp. 8–11.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Fuhrmann, Henry "A 'Thing' to His Credit." Los Angeles Times, May 25, 1997. Retrieved: April 20, 2012.
  6. Weaver 2003, p. 346.
  7. Carpenter, John (speaker). "Hidden Values: The Movies of the '50s." Turner Classic Movies , September 4, 2001.
  8. "Christian Nyby: About This Person." The New York Times . Retrieved: January 10, 2015.
  9. Mast 1982, p. 344.
  10. Matthews 1997, p. 14.
  11. Weaver 2003, p. 272.
  12. "Self Promoted to Presidency of 20th-Fox TV"Daily Variety (1968 11 1) Pgs. 1;26
  13. 1 2 Gebert 1996, p. 156.
  14. Crowther, Bosley. "The Screen: Two films have local premieres; 'The Thing', an eerie scientific number by Howard Hawks, opens at the Criterion." The New York Times, May 3, 1951.
  15. Willis 1985, p. 86.
  16. del Ray, Lester 1973, p. 4.
  17. "The Greatest Films of 1951." AMC . Retrieved: May 23, 2010.
  18. "The Best Movies of 1951 by Rank ." Retrieved: May 23, 2010.
  19. "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1951." . Retrieved: May 23, 2010.
  20. "'The Thing from Another World Movie Reviews, Pictures." Rotten Tomatoes , Retrieved: May 23, 2010.
  21. "Librarian of Congress Names 25 More Films to National Film Registry (press release)." Library of Congress. Retrieved: April 20, 2012.
  22. "National Film Registry." National Film Registry (National Film Preservation Board, Library of Congress). Retrieved: November 26, 2011.
  23. "1950s Sci-Fi Movies: Full List." Time , December 12, 2008. Retrieved: June 20, 2010.
  24. "1950s Sci-Fi Movies." Time , December 12, 2008. Retrieved: June 20, 2010.
  25. Booker 2010, p. 126.
  26. "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills." American Film Institute|, Retrieved: March 7, 2012.
  27. Fantasy Newsletter, Volume 3, Issues 20-31 (1980), p. 12
  28. Ian Conrich, David Woods, The Cinema of John Carpenter: The Technique of Terror (2004), p. 184
  29. Maçek III, J.C. "Building the Perfect Star Beast: The Antecedents of 'Alien'." PopMatters , November 21, 2012. Retrieved: January 10, 2015.
  30. Collura, Scott. "Exclusive: Moore Talks The Thing." Retrieved: January 10, 2015.


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