Tuesday, October 23, 2007

TODAY'S HALLOWEEN DOUBLE FEATURE WILL SHOW YOU A THING OR TWO. The Thing from Another World, that is. This, of course, is one of the classics of 50's horror (that's right, it ain't science fiction in the least -- actually VERY FEW of the so-called science fiction movies of the 50's or later were science fiction -- they're all horror -- examples appear at the asterix at the end of this post)*
Who can forget the wonderful appearance of the opening credits of "The Thing From Another World" appearing in John Carpenter's "Halloween" during the Halloween movie marathon on the TV? I can't. Oh yeah, and they showed a little from "Forbidden Planet" too. Somehow, whenever I see the opening of "The Thing from Another World" I instantly think of Halloween. And this movie is a good one for Halloween. The dark, claustrophobic arctic station is creepy enough without adding a 7 foot tall walking carrot (played by James Arness) into the mix. And this walking carrot drinks blood!
Maybe Christian Nyby directed it -- maybe Howard Hawks did. I think AT THE VERY LEAST Hawks had a LOT of imput. This movie moves like lightning (or electricity coursing through James Arness). The patented Hawksian overlapping dialogue adds to the tension as our two groups (the scientists and the military) vie with each other and the extraterrestrial monster as they're trapped with it in the arctic research station. The film's packed with unforgettable scenes: from the first encircling of the flying saucer embedded in ice to the electric blanket melting the block of ice containing the monster to the scenes with the Thing suddenly appearing behind a closed door. Absolutely terrific film.
Then we have our second feature of the day. . .why, look. . .it's THE THING again! But this time it's by the aforementioned John Carpenter. Whereas the original THING bears practically NO resemblance to the original story "Who Goes There", Carpenter's THING sticks much closer to Campbell's story (and YES, I have read it). Rather than a blood-drinking carrot that looks like Frankenstein's monster, Carpenter's Thing (I've GOTTA stop saying that) is a shapeshifter. The isolation, paranoia and claustrophobia are, if anything, UPPED in Carpenter's version as the men (yup, not a woman in sight in this film as opposed to the original) start to panic and suspect each other. The sense of "not knowing who is really who" is suspensefully conveyed by Carpenter and his cast.
It's really nice to know that this film, which was a big failure upon its release, has now been reevaluated in recent years as the rather terrific film it is. It's certainly an interesting experience to watch both movies back to back. While I still give the original the edge in my cobwebbed little heart area, the remake is quite good and an enjoyable time will be had by all (except those devoured by The Thing, that is) when the chill winds of October begin to make you feel like YOU'RE locked inside a remote arctic station. . .and there just might be SOMETHING behind that door. . .
* These often-called science fiction films are really horror films: The Thing From Another World, Them!, Invaders From Mars, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came From Outer Space, The Man From Planet X, It! The Terror from Beyond Space, The Quatermass Xperiment aka The Creeping Unknown, The Angry Red Planet, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, War of the Worlds and many MANY more. There were actually very few REAL science fiction movies put out. Offhand, I can think of a handful: Things To Come, The Day the Earth Stood Still (although even THAT'S iffy and could be considered to have one foot in each genre) and Destination Moon are three. Forbidden Planet could be another one with a foot in both genres -- as could The Time Machine. But I wouldn't quibble with those who called them science fiction films.

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