(Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own)
Before I actually saw this movie during elementary school (somewhere between 6th and 8th grade I’m going to guess) I was aware of it, as usual, through monster movie books and various documentaries I caught on TV. The one scene they always showed in those docs and pictured in those books was when the men fan out to get a sense of how big the object under the ice is and discover they’ve made a circle confirming they have just found a flying saucer! The music in that scene is quite creepy as well, so that scene was burned in my head for the longest time. I finally got a chance to see this flick when it came on one afternoon at 4pm. Back when I was growing up we had access to a channel out of New York called WPIX and every so often they’d reserve a week at 4pm to run horror and/or science fiction movies. I was introduced to a lot of ‘memory movies’ during those weeks, like a lot of Godzilla films, not to mention a couple of choice Gamera flicks.
And since we got out of school at 3pm, it’s airing was timed perfectly, though this day when I got home my brother wanted to go out and look for insects. We were heavy into studying and collecting insects and spiders and I remember this airing was during the Fall, sometime around September or October, because it was cold that day, and I told him there’s no way you’re going to find any insects in this cold weather. So, he went outside into the backyard by himself, but I was forced to join him when my mother told me he’s all bent out of shape and I should go out and help him. Begrudgingly I did, and I’m not sure how close it was to air time, but I don’t believe I missed any of the movie. I have the feeling all this transpired between 3:30 and 4, and when we found a caterpillar, one we hadn’t ever encountered before, my brother was content, and that was that. I remember most vividly watching this film in the family room. I don’t remember if my brother watched it with me. He was never into horror movies (still isn’t), but he did love a lot of the same science fiction flicks I did, like Gamera and Godzilla, and those big bug films from the 50s.
This movie is an extremely loose adaption of a 1938 novella by John W. Campbell, Jr. called, Who Goes There? If you want to see a much more faithful version check out John Carpenter’s 1982 film simply titled The Thing. It’s about a shape-shifting alien, but FX technology was nowhere near where it needed to be in 1951 to portray Campbell’s alien correctly so instead we got a humanoid with a funky head and hands. Despite that the movie, and the alien (James Arness), still works on every level conceivable.
Kenneth Tobey (The Howling, Strange Invaders) stars as Captain Patrick Hendry who’s called in to investigate an unidentified flying object that has crashed in the frozen hell of Alaska. A Dr. Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) stationed at the base is the one who’s requested a team of military types to take him and his fellow scientists out to see what in the hell has actually touched down. They even allow a reporter they know, Ned Scott (Douglas Spencer), to tag along, but the moment they realize they’ve got a genuine flying saucer Hendry forbids Scott to file a story, until they get higher up clearance.
In the meantime they try to excavate it from the ice with explosives that triggers the saucer’s engines to explode and destroy the ship, but they don’t head back to the base empty handed. Also buried under the ice is the saucer’s occupant, they chop it out and take it back where it accidentally get’s thawed out thanks to a misplaced heating blanket by one of Hendry’s men stationed to watch over it.
An encounter with the sled dogs outside leaves the alien without a hand, and this severed hand is how we learn what it is. This creature appears to be an evolved form of vegetation that needs blood to thrive, a kind of vampire carrot, if you will. Alien seeds are discovered under the flesh and Carrington, being the die hard scientist he is, plants them and using plasma in storage manages to grow pulsating pods.
While this is happening the alien is roaming about and becoming a quick learner. He learns how to open and lock doors and skulks into the base’s greenhouse to plant more of his seeds. World domination is theorized, and with the help of two of Carrington’s friends, whom have had their throats slit by the alien (it has these razor sharp barbs on its knuckles), he hangs them up and uses their blood similar to what Carrington has done with the bottled plasma. There’s no overt gore in this movie at all, save for a couple of dead dogs (no idea how filmmakers routinely accomplished the “illusion” of dead animals in movies in the 50s) and the alien’s severed hand, which you get strategic glimpses of during its scene on the table.
This flick has a bevy of likable and memorable characters, even the hardheaded and near traitorous Carrington, along with female lead, Margaret Sheridan as Carrington’s “secretary” Nikki Nicholson, who is the obvious love interest for Hendry. The dialogue is snappy and well executed, and the movie comes with three memorable scenes involving the alien. The first meet and greet with Hendry and his men after it’s killed the scientists in the greenhouse, its attack on the room with Hendry, Nikki and some of his men (a scene that was homaged in Carpenter’s version and acts as the kick ass conclusion to the infamous blood test scene), and the final confrontation where it’s electrocuted into a pile of black, alien dust. A scene that was also homaged, but in William Malone’s Creature (1985 aka Titan Find), in that one its homage is a little more meta where a character mentions this movie she saw where this alien carrot was fried with electricity, and the exact same method is then used to try and fry the alien in that movie.
Warner Brothers has finally given this classic a blu-ray release through their Warner Archive Collection MOD sub-label (their DVDs are manufacture-on-demand, their blu-rays are not) and you can buy it now on Amazon!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.37:1 high definition full frame—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDH subs only
Some of the prints of this flick were missing footage and if you owned the previous DVD you could tell where those scenes were due to the drop in quality. This blu is the full uncut version, but those scenes still aren’t quite up to reference level quality. Regardless, the majority of the film’s restoration is superior to any previous DVD; at it’s best you can make out clothing texture.
Extras included . . .
- Original Theatrical Trailer (SD)
- Theatrical Re-Release Trailer (HD)