"Curiously drab suspense shocker mainly set in corridors." - Halliwell
Well, in THIS reporter's opinion, the "drabness" of this thing is part of its power: it seems as though we actually have a real group of people trapped in an Arctic outpost with a rather vicious thing from beyond the stars. (In fairness, Halliwell gave it two stars anyway. I'd give it four, if I were a star-giver, which I ain't if I don't have to be.)
So, you probably all know the story: an unknown object crashes into the ice, our brave military men attempt to pull it out with a thermal bomb that ignites the ship's engine and destroys it, but there's one lone guy under the ice, there. They chip him out, bring him back to the base, thaw him out, and the bastard returns U.S. military kindness by slaughtering us for our blood. He's some sort of vegetable life, you see. (His need for blood has always been a bit of a mystery to me, therefore.) He's big, smart, cruel, and extremely badass, and killing sled dogs and humans (not necessarily in that order) seems to be his favorite sport on earth.
This is a tense, fun, exciting, scary, thrilling science-fiction story. I read a lot of stuff, and a few reviewers called this the first motion picture about a visitor from outer space. I dunno, I can't think of an earlier one, but there probably was one.
Yeah, I read John W. Campbell, Jr.'s original novella, Who Goes There? In that, the Thing (which is called that) has been under the ice for aeons, give or take a week, and assumes the form of whatever it absorbs. Yeah, whatever, I'll take a giant vegetable man, thank you.
General or Captain or Colonel or something, at Arctic base: "Close the door! You suppose the Pentagon could send us a revolving door?"
Other Military Guy: "Could be; we got 10 gross of pith helmets last week."
Reporter, upon hearing of the Thing's vegetable composition: "An intellectual carrot! The mind boggles!"
Guy preparing for the final assault to guy with flare gun: "You know how to shoot that thing, don't you?"
Guy with flare gun: "I saw Gary Cooper in Sergeant York!"
This is another film that belies the theory that there are no perfect movies. Many of the science-fiction monster films still to come borrowed shamelessly from this one, not least of all with the one stick-up-his-butt scientist convinced that if we could only make pals with the monster from space, he wouldn't rip out our guts and consume them while laughing at us.
Margaret Sheridan is actually top-billed in the cast; she was a Howard Hawks find who never had much of a career, which surprises me: she's very pretty, she can act, and she's terrific in this one. Funny enough, the most familiar face in the cast to all of us stands around in the background, mostly: George "Fenneman! Get out here!" Fenneman. Kenneth Tobey is the Captain and Robert Cornthwaite is the stupid scientist and of course James Arness it the Thing.
Dimitri Tiomkin's score is marvelous, too.
Yeah, this is a great movie, and this past month Warner Archive gave us a Blu-ray of it that's much improved over the previous DVD release. I have mixed feelings about this Thing, though: the movie warrants a much-needed Special Edition with the sort of bonus material Olive Films gave the OTHER great 1950s sci-fi horror this past year, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And a few of the sequences in the Blu-ray are undeniably contrasty, which is shocking considering the digital tools available to us today. That said, until an Ultimate Edition comes along, this is a must-have.