Cast & Crew
At a military base in Anchorage, Alaska, Air Force general Fogarty orders Captain Patrick Hendry and his crew to fly to a scientific research station at the North Pole to help Dr. Arthur Carrington investigate the landing of an unidentified object. During the flight, Pat receives a radio call from the station, alerting him to a recent "disturbance" in the area, which has been causing inaccurate instrument readings. Shortly after the military men arrive at the station, Carrington tells Pat about the landing of a large, mysterious object. He then shows Pat photographic images taken by a telescopic camera, which indicate that the object flew upwards before landing and therefore could not be a meteor. Pat, his men, reporter Ned "Scotty" Scott, who has accompanied them from Anchorage in search of a story, and a group of scientists led by Carrington fly to the object's estimated location. Protruding up from an area of thin, radioactive ice, they spot an air foil and determine that it is attached to a circular craft, which they presume to be extraterrestrial. To free the craft, a thermite bomb is planted, but the explosion triggers another, bigger blast that destroys the object. Just as Scotty starts to bemoan the loss of his story, the team's Geiger counter alerts them to the presence of a large manlike creature buried nearby. To preserve the creature, the men cut it out of the ice in a block and fly the block to the station. There, Pat defies Carrington and orders that the creature not be thawed and that the men take turns guarding it. Pat then tries to contact Fogarty for instructions, but learns that a blizzard has disrupted communications. Later, while guarding the extraterrestrial, Corp. Barnes becomes unnerved and places an electric blanket over the ice, unaware that the blanket is turned on. Soon, enough ice has melted to free the creature, who suddenly comes to life and threatens Barnes. Terrified, Barnes shoots at the creature, but it flees the storeroom and stumbles into the snow. Barnes and the others then watch in disbelief as the creature fights with several sled dogs, killing two before running off. Near one slain dog, the men find a severed arm and examine it in the laboratory. Carrington and the other scientists conclude that the extraterrestrial is made of vegetable matter but is highly intelligent. Then, when the severed hand begins to flex, the scientists realize that it is feeding off the dog's blood on its fingertips. Although Carrington demands that the creature be studied, not hurt, Pat and his ax-wielding men are determined to kill it. Once alone with his fellow scientists in the station's greenhouse, Carrington reveals that the creature broke the outside door lock, entered and then left after repairing the lock. Noticing some sap on a storage bin, the scientists open the bin, and a dead, bloodless dog falls out. Later, as the military men again attempt to reach Fogarty, Dr. Stern, one of the scientists, stumbles into the room and announces that the "thing" attacked him and two others in the greenhouse, leaving the other two hanging upside down with their throats slit. When Pat and his men go to investigate, the creature, its severed arm restored, surprises them at the greenhouse's inside door, but they manage to throw up a barricade before it can get out. In the nursery, Carrington then tells the other researchers that the alien planted a seed in the greenhouse and was feeding it with the dripping blood of his human victims. Carrington also reveals that he planted an alien seed found in the severed arm, and shows them how it multiplied at a spectacular rate after being fed blood plasma. Soon after, Pat questions Carrington's secretary, Nikki Nicholson, with whom he enjoys a serious flirtation, about the disappearance of the blood plasma supply. She reveals Carrington's activities, and Pat confronts the scientist. Although he dismisses Carrington's plea that the new life form must be researched, Pat is overruled by Fogarty, whose order to preserve the alien finally comes through on the radio. Later, however, as the temperature becomes dangerously cold for the outside guards, the military men realize they must kill the creature to save themselves. Taking Nikki's suggestion, they set a trap using kerosene, but the alien is only slowed by the fire. The military men then decide to electrocute the alien, but as they are devising the new trap, Nikki discovers that the creature is shutting off the heat in the complex. For protection, the group moves to the generator room and quickly begins building the trap. As the extraterrestrial lumbers toward the generator room, lured by the smell of flesh, Carrington tries to derail the men's efforts and even attempts to talk to the creature. The alien knocks Carrington to the floor, then unwittingly walks into the trap. Shocked with powerful electrical bolts, the creature slowly disintegrates. Later, as Nikki and Pat contemplate marriage, Scotty is able finally to file his story over the radio and warns his audience to "keep watching the skies!"
Charles K. Opunui
Albert S. D'agostino
L. Virgil Hart
John J. Hughes
Thing from Another World -
The 1951 film originated at Hawks' Winchester Pictures Corporation a year earlier with several screenplays drafted from the 1938 short story "Who Goes There?" written by John W. Campbell, Jr. under the name Don A. Stuart. The story first appeared in the magazine Astounding Science-Fiction, with the main elements lifted for the film including its arctic setting and a group of scientists under siege from an alien menace excavated from the ice. Otherwise the characters and the nature of the threat were significantly changed during the writing process, which included a treatment (as simply The Thing) by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer and multiple drafts by Campbell, still writing as Stuart. Hecht and Lederer had famously worked with Hawks on His Girl Friday (1940), a gender-twisting take on their earlier The Front Page (1931).
Cast in the leads were Kenneth Tobey as Captain Patrick Hendry and Margaret Sheridan as Nikki Nicholson, another example of Hawks's tough, fast-talking female leads. An experienced stage actor, Tobey caught Hawks's eye in the director's I Was a Male War Bride (1949) and was promoted here to star status. The film's success led to both a busy TV career and starring roles in two more beloved '50s sci-fi films, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), not to mention affectionate roles in a handful of Joe Dante projects. Discovered by Hawks while she was still in college, Sheridan was originally offered a leading role in Red River but had to decline due to her pregnancy. However, she flourished in her role here including a memorable scene of mild kink in which she playfully ties Tobey to a chair, a scene trimmed from many circulating prints and home video versions well into the 1980s.
However, the film is arguably stolen by some of its supporting players including one of the era's defining deluded scientists played by Robert Cornthwaite. The World War II vet had one of his most memorable turns here as Dr. Carrington, which was lauded with a Science Fiction Hall of Fame entry in 1993. A year after this film he reteamed with Hawks for Monkey Business and would also enjoy a long career on the big and small screens. Also among the cast are TV regular Dewey Martin, who had memorable appearances on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, and a rare onscreen appearance by master impressionist Paul Frees, whose voiceover and voice acting work made him a familiar presence everywhere from Disney park attractions (including the Haunted Mansion) to movie trailers to TV's The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The most unexpected name here, uncredited on the actual prints, is the "Thing" itself, played by James Arness four years before TV immortality as Marshal Matt Dillon on the two-decade TV run of Gunsmoke. Also a World War II veteran, he was an ideal choice here thanks to his imposing 6'7" frame and would also go on to star in another key '50s sci-film, Them! (1954).
The Thing from Another World would become a highly influential film among the '70s New Hollywood breed of directors; the aforementioned Joe Dante nods were legion, and John Carpenter prominently featured two scenes from the film in his groundbreaking horror classic, Halloween (1978). Carpenter would go on to mount a remake of sorts, simply titled The Thing, for Universal in 1982 with a far closer adherence to the original short story. That version has become a major genre classic in its own right, though in public appearances Carpenter still defers to the Hawks film as the definitive telling. The 1982 film also spawned a prequel bearing the same title in 2011, while elements of the short story and the films were affectionately included in one of the standout episodes of the first season of The X-Files, "Ice." However, its greatest contribution to pop culture may be Scotty's famous closing lines, which have transcended their original atomic age paranoia to now encapsulate the appeal of an entire decade of genre filmmaking: "Watch the skies, everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!"
By Nathaniel Thompson
Thing from Another World -
The Thing (from Another World)
The film begins as Air Force Captain Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) and his crew head to the Arctic to investigate reports of a mysterious aircraft that crashed there. Upon arrival, he discovers a scientific expedition already encamped there and close to locating the crash site. Hendry also encounters his former girlfriend, Nikki (Margaret Sheridan), who is working for the scientists as a secretary. Soon the group uncovers the alien aircraft buried in the ice and once they melt through to the wreckage, the situation quickly escalates from unpredictable to terrifying.
Undoubtedly the most famous controversy over The Thing is whether Howard Hawks - listed here as a producer - actually directed most of the film instead of the credited director, Christian Nyby. In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich for his book, Who the Devil Made It? (Ballantine Books), Hawks commented on the mystery: "Chris Nyby had done an awfully good job as the cutter on Red River and he'd been a big help to us too, so I let him do it. He wanted to be a director and I had a deal with RKO that allowed me to do that. I was at rehearsals and helped them with the overlapping dialogue - but I thought Chris did a good job." Nevertheless, a few people on the set later claimed that Hawks did much of the daily directing and there are even photos that tend to support this. It's also clear that The Thing shares strong similarities with other Hawks films that deal with group dynamics, particularly in situations where everyone, women included, are working under pressure and are being judged by their performance. Take a look at any Howard Hawks movie, from Only Angels Have Wings (1939) to Air Force (1943) to Hatari! (1962), and it's remarkable how many of his films fit this pattern, including The Thing. As for credited director Christian Nyby, who had previously won an Oscar for his editing of Red River (1948), it would be another six years before he would helm another picture - Hell on Devil's Island (1957).
But enough about the true director of The Thing. The film was based on a story by John W. Campbell, Jr., who was one of the key figures in the development of science fiction: he worked as the editor of Astounding (which later became Analog) for almost four decades and helped launch the careers of Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and numerous other writers. Interestingly, Campbell's own story "Who Goes There?," first published in 1938 under the pseudonym Don Stuart, was decidedly more paranoid than the 1951 film version of The Thing. For the screenplay, scenarist Charles Lederer actually discarded most of the original story except for the basic premise. He even changed the basic physical nature of the alien (in the story it's a shape-shifter). By the time The Thing was ready for filming, several gruesome sequences had already been trimmed from the script such as a human decapitation scene.
Several stories have circulated about some of the various uncredited writers on The Thing. Ben Hecht and William Faulkner are often mentioned as possible contributors, which makes sense since they both worked at various times with Hawks and were around RKO Studios during that time. Another rumor that is almost certainly untrue is that Orson Welles contributed some dialogue to the screenplay.
Filming on The Thing started on October 25, 1950, at RKO soundstages (one of which had been used for Citizen Kane, 1941) with an A-level budget set at $1.3 million (later to increase to $1.6 million). By the end of November the cast and crew went to a large icehouse in downtown Los Angeles to film shots where the actors' breath needed to be visible in the cold. Then it was off to Montana where they intended to film the expedition and saucer exteriors. Unfortunately the producers didn't realize that the snow in that part of Montana wasn't really adequate for their needs so they only got a few shots there. Additional shooting was done on a North Dakota set using stand-ins for the actors. The flying saucer sequence ended up being filmed at the RKO Ranch in Encino, California, using fake snow in front of an extensive curved backdrop.
In regard to the music score, The Thing is one of the earliest science fiction films to use a theremin, an electronic instrument played without touching it. The theremin's eerie whine had earlier been used in thrillers like Spellbound (1945) and The Lost Weekend (1945), but henceforth it would be associated primarily with horror and science fiction thrillers.
James Arness, later famous as Marshall Dillon on TV's Gunsmoke, was cast as The Thing and at the time he was just a struggling movie actor. In his few brief appearances as the creature, it's difficult to get a very good look at him; apparently a lot of close-ups were filmed but most were later removed because they were too obviously fake. As documented, Arness reported to the set two months prior to filming for the development of the make-up design, which took two hours each day to apply. At least their efforts weren't in vain: One day Arness and the make-up man took the Thing's claws to a drive-in restaurant where they startled the unsuspecting waitresses. Yet, despite the film's subsequent success, Arness was reportedly embarassed by his role as The Thing for the rest of his life and didn't even attend the film's premiere.
In 1982, John Carpenter remade The Thing, but this time remained more faithful to Campbell's original story. Though dismissed at the time, Carpenter's version is now considered a neglected masterpiece. Unsettling and paranoid, it's one of the few genuinely surrealist films ever made. But the original version of The Thing is also a landmark film in many ways and says much about the psychological state of the nation in the fifties when flying saucers were a popular topic as well as a threat.
Producer: Howard Hawks
Director: Christian Nyby
Screenplay: Charles Lederer
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, John Hughes
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Costume Design: Michael Woulfe
Film Editing: Roland Gross
Original Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Kenneth Tobey (Capt. Patrick Hendry), Margaret Sheridan (Dr. Nikki Nicholson), Robert Cornthwaite (Dr. Arthur Carrington), Douglas Spencer (Ned "Scotty" Scott), Dewey Martin (Bob), Eduard Franz (Dr. Stern), Robert Nichols (Lt. McPherson), James Arness (The Thing).
BW-87m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.
by Lang Thompson & Jeff Stafford
The Thing (from Another World)
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
Born in Oakland, California on March 23, 1917, Tobey originally intended to be a lawyer before a stint with the University of California Little Theater changed his mind. From there, he went straight to New York and spent nearly two years studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where his classmates included Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach and Tony Randall. Throughout the '40s, Tobey acted on Broadway and in stock before relocating to Hollywood. Once there, Tobey soon found himself playing a tough soldier in films like I Was a Male War Bride and Twelve O' Clock High (both 1949); or a tough police officer in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Three Secrets (both 1950). Such roles were hardly surprising, given Tobey's craggy features, unsmiling countenance and rough voice.
Needless to say, no-nonsense, authority figures would be Tobey's calling for the remainder of his career; yet given the right role, he had the talent to make it memorable: the smart, likeable Captain Hendrey in The Thing From Another World (1951); the gallant Colonel Jack Evans in the "prehistoric dinosaur attacks an urban center" genre chiller The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, a must-see film for fans of special effects wizard, Ray Harryhausen; and as Bat Masterson, holding his own against Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957).
Television would also offer Tobey much work: he had his own action series as chopper pilot Chuck Martin in Whirlybirds (1957-59); and had a recurring role as Assistant District Attorney Alvin in Perry Mason (1957-66). He would also be kept busy with guest appearances in countless westerns (Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian) and cop shows (The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Ironside) for the next two decades. Most amusingly, the tail end of Tobey's career saw some self-deprecating cameo spots in such contemporary shockers as The Howling (1981); Strange Invaders (1983) and his role reprisal of Captain Hendry in The Attack of the B-Movie Monsters (2002). Tobey is survived by a daughter, two stepchildren, and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
So few people can boast that they lost a man from Mars and a flying saucer all in the same day! What if Columbus had discovered America, then mislaid it!- Ned 'Scotty' Scott
An intellectual carrot. The mind boggles.- Ned 'Scotty' Scott
There are no enemies in science, only phenomena to be studied.- Dr. Arthur Carrington
Knowledge is more important than life.- Dr. Arthur Carrington
Its development was not handicapped by emotional or sexual factors.- Dr. Arthur Carrington
It is generally believed that Howard Hawks took over direction during production, and it has always been acknowledged by director Christian Nyby that Hawks was the guiding hand.
Partly filmed in Glacier National Park and at a Los Angeles ice storage plant.
This film was based on the short story "Who Goes There?" by Don A. Stuart. The credits on this film list the author by his real name, the science fiction editor/writer John W. Campbell, Jr.
Midget actor 'Billy Curtis' played the smaller version of "The Thing" during the creature's final scene.
James Arness complained that his "Thing" costume made him look like a giant carrot.
Howard Hawks asked the US Air Force for assistance in making the film. But he was refused because the top brass felt that such co-operation would compromise the official stance that UFOs didn't exist.
The complete title of the viewed print was The Thing from Another World. In the opening credits, the words "The Thing" appear first in exaggerated, flaming type, followed by the words "from another world" in smaller, plain type. The picture was copyrighted in early April 1951 under the title The Thing. According to publicity materials contained in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library, producer Howard Hawks added the words "from another world" to avoid confusion with a novelty song entitled "The Thing," which was a hit single at the time of the picture's release. Contemporary reviews list the film by both titles. No cast members are listed in the opening credits. Although Robert Nichols' character is listed as "Lt. Ken Erickson" in the end credits, he is called "MacPherson" in the picture. Author John W. Campbell, Jr. wrote the short story on which the film is based under the pseudonym Don A. Stuart. The story was reprinted in a 1948 collection of Campbell's work, Seven Tales of Science Fiction.
The Thing marked the first co-production between Winchester Pictures Corp., Hawks's company, and RKO. It also marked the directing debut of Christian Nyby, a former editor who had worked with Hawks on To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep and Red River. Modern sources contend that, while Nyby was credited onscreen and in reviews as director, Hawks was actually responsible for most of the direction and contributed to the screenplay. In a 1982 interview, published in the San Jose Mercury News, Nyby acknowledged Hawks's directorial participation, stating that he "discussed every scene with him thoroughly." Nyby also noted that Hawks changed "things to keep the spontaneity of the actors." RKO production records, contained at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, indicate that Hawks directed the sequence in which "The Thing" is set on fire. Production records also note that Ben Hecht contributed rewrites on the picture.
Margaret Sheridan, a former fashion model, made her screen debut in the picture. The CBCS credits Lee Tung Foo and Walter Ng as "Cooks" in the picture, but they did not appear in the final film. Everett Glass is listed by the CBCS in the role of "Wilson," but production records list Percy Hilton. Though not his debut, The Thing was James Arness' best known early screen role. His actual face is never seen in the picture.
Hollywood Reporter news items and studio publicity material add the following information about the production: Zoro was cast as the lead dog in the husky team, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Scientific equipment worth $500,000 was borrowed from Cal Tech for the production, and Hawks conferred with the heads of three different electronics companies during pre-production. During principal photography, the press was barred from the set because Hawks wanted to keep the Thing's appearance a secret. Because of its abundance of snow, Alaska was first considered as a possible location, but more accessible northern Montana locations, Lewiston and Cut Bank, were finally selected. Two weeks of filming in Cut Bank, MT were planned for December 1950, but the shoot was cut short by a week due to a lack of snowfall. Some scenes were filmed at California Consumers, an ice house in downtown Los Angeles, and at the RKO Ranch in Encino, CA.
According to modern sources, snowy conditions were artificially created at the RKO ranch using tempered masonite and salt. Weather problems in Montana caused the budget to increase from $980,000 to $1.1 million and added weeks to the production schedule, according to modern sources. Modern sources credit Larry Sherwood as dialogue coach. According to the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, despite protests from RKO, The Thing received an "X" certificate, identifying it as not suitable for children, when it was released in Britain.
Many modern critics consider The Thing a seminal science fiction film and note that it was the first Hollywood picture to combine science fiction and monster genres. The picture was reissued in both 1954 and 1957. In 1982, John Carpenter directed a second version of Campbell's story, also entitled The Thing. The Universal picture, which modern sources note was more faithful to the short story than the 1951 film, starred Kurt Russell and A. Wilford Brimley. As of spring 2005, the Sci Fi Channel had announced a miniseries based on The Thing, to be produced by Frank Darabont and David Foster, but filming had not yet begun.
Released in United States April 1981
Released in United States March 1975
Released in United States on Video September 27, 1989
Released in United States Spring April 1951
Broadcast over TNT (colorized version) July 12, 1989.
Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Science Fiction Movie Marathon) March 13-26, 1975.)
Released in United States Spring April 1951
Released in United States April 1981 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition ("Scared to Death": Horror Movie Marathon) April 2-23, 1981.)
Released in United States on Video September 27, 1989 (colorized version)