Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 30, 2018)
How frequently do remakes outdo the original versions of films? Not often, but in the case of 1951’s The Thing From Another World, I believe the more recent take provides the definitive one.
The 1951 World launches at a military base in Alaska, and there we learn of an unusual research party at the North Pole with an odd discovery. The chief of the base sends a pilot named Captain Pat Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) to check this out, and along with his crew, a newspaperman called Ned Scott (Douglas Spencer) goes along in search of a story.
There they meet the lead researcher, Dr. Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) and a staff of others that includes a former flame of Hendry’s named Nikki Nicholson (Margaret Sheridan). Once Hendry meets Carrington, he finds out more about the mission.
There’s a mysterious crashed object about 50 miles away, and they need to head out there to investigate. When they get to the site, they discover an alien spacecraft, and they blast through the ice to dig up the wreck.
Unfortunately, when they do so, they accidentally blow up the ship. However, they do find the frozen remains of an inhabitant from the craft, who they chop out of the ice.
With this chilly dude in tow, they head back to their base to examine him, though some arguments ensue about what course to take. Eventually, he thaws out by accident and starts to lurk around the camp. He creates a menace as the staff tries to learn more about him and stop him before he kills them all.
On the surface, World presented a story similar to John Carpenter’s 1982 version. However, the pair seemed very different in many ways, mostly due to tone.
Carpenter’s take featured a much darker, more claustrophobic atmosphere, whereas World came across as more jovial and light-hearted. I never felt the same sense of threat to the characters or the planet at large.
Sure, the movie made mention of the possible impending doom, but in Carpenter’s take, you really thought the future of humanity was at stake. I never received that impression from World.
In some ways, it may be unfair to compare the two. While the original and modern versions of The Haunting were very similar in structure and story, the two Things varied considerably.
For example, World features a monster whose appearance remains static throughout the movie, whereas the Carpenter edition makes the beast alter its looks to emulate others. That neat twist alone creates a level of tension the original can’t equal.
Although I tried not to compare the two, decades of experience with the Carpenter tale made it impossible not to do so. I found that flick to be superior in virtually every way, so I had a much tougher time getting interested in The Thing From Another World.
Fans will disagree, but I really don’t see much to it that make it stand out from other monster movies. It offers an entertaining tale, but without the claustrophobic tension of the remake, it comes across as pretty ordinary to me.
Quibble of the day: If the Thing’s a vegetable, why does it have breath?