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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 8/7/03



The Thing from Another World
1951 (2003) - RKO Pictures (Warner Bros.)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The Thing from Another World Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/D

Specs and Features

87 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Snapper packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menus with sound and music, scene access (25 chapters), languages: English DD 1.0 Mono, subtitles: English, French & Spanish, Closed Captioned


"Watch the skies!"

I've said it before and I'll say it again... there's just nothing like a good 1950s sci-fi flick to kill an afternoon with. And they don't get much better than The Thing from Another World.

The Thing from Another World tells of the story of a scientific expedition at the North Pole, lead by the eminent Dr. Carrington. As they're conducting their experiments one day, the scientists detect a massive object - some kind of huge aircraft - falling to Earth. It crashes some 40 miles from their camp, so they call in the Air Force to help investigate. Enter Captain Hendry and his aircrew, who fly in from Anchorage and to take Carrington and his men, along with an over-eager newspaper man, to the crash site. There they discover a flying saucer frozen in the ice. In an amusing scene, they manage to destroy the saucer while trying to release it for study, but their efforts are redeemed when they also find the saucer's occupant frozen nearby.

Returning to their base with the alien on ice, a struggle soon begins between Carrington and his people, who wish to study the creature immediately, and Hendry, who knows they might be dealing with something dangerous, and who wants to wait for official orders on how to proceed. But a snowstorm has blown in, rendering communication with the outside world impossible. And you know what that means. Yep... cut off from the outside world, the group suddenly finds themselves fighting for survival when the creature thaws and escapes, and also fighting each other in a classic stand-off between science and the military. Things get even more hairy, however, when it's discovered that the creature is quite literally out for human blood.

One of the things that make this film so effective is the cast. They play their roles with straight-laced bravado. Their work is so disarming that when the invader finally does make his appearance, it takes the audience entirely by surprise. The alien strides into a room full of heavily armed people and starts raising hell - you don't expect it and the creature's scenes are that much more effective for it. It's a good thing too, because James Arness (as the alien) looks like a guy wearing a lot of green makeup - these are not terribly effective creature effects. Still, the direction is effective and composer Dimitri Tiomkin's creepy score helps add tension in just the right moments.

Interestingly, there's been a lot of controversy over the years as to who actually directed this film - producer Howard Hawks or the credited director, Christian Nyby. Regardless of who actually sat behind the camera, it was certainly the well-established Hawks who got the lion's share of the publicity.

This new DVD is part of a series of classic sci-fi/horror releases from Warner that include The Omega Man, Soylent Green, Of Unknown Origin, House of Wax and The Haunting. The Thing is presented here in all its original full frame, B&W glory, and the picture quality is quite good overall. The contrast is excellent, with generally good detail and moderate, but appropriate, film grain. There's little in the way of edge enhancement and compression artifacting, and only light dust and dirt present on the print. There are a few areas where a missing frame or two results in a noticeable jump in the picture and sound, but given the age of this film (and the condition we've heard many of these old RKO titles were in), fans should be plenty happy.

On the audio side of things, we're presented with the films original monaural soundtrack, encoded here in Dolby Digital 1.0. The sound isn't at all dynamic, coming as it does entirely from your center speaker, but it's entirely appropriate to the film. The track sounds good and represents the film well, although you might have to turn the volume up in a couple of passages to make out what's being said, particularly when the actors are talking over one another.

In terms of extras, you get the film's original theatrical trailer and that's it. The trailer is only in fair condition, but it's hilarious - typical of many 1950s sci-fi trailers - and it's well worth a watch. You should also note that the packaging features some fun publicity stills of the cast - the one on the inside flap is particularly amusing.

It's not a special edition and it's not a spectacular release, but it's on DVD and it's appropriately cheap, so who's complaining? The Thing from Another World is as classic an entry in the 1950s sci-fi canon as you'll ever see. Definitely recommended.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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