The Thing from Another World feigns a ‘40s style screwball style film with fast-talking characters who quip back and forth. The problem is the dialogue doesn’t sparkle; it doesn’t jump off the page and leap at the audience. It’s all bark with no bite. The words fill time, but they don’t particularly have any merit in developing character or story.
The film laboriously set up the fantastic circumstances whereby a group of scientists and Air Force officers stumble across a crashed UFO in the artic. Once The Thing (James Arness) is discovered and housed in a block of ice inside the remote scientific outpost, the film finally develops an interesting conflict, albeit in the worst way possible.
Captain Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) and Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) begin butting heads over what should be done over The Thing. The Captain holds they should proceed with caution and wait for orders while Carrington holds that they should study the creature as soon as possible, for science! When an accident results in The Thing getting defrosted, the conflict escalates to a whole new level when Hendry decides The Thing is a threat to humankind and must be eliminated while Carrington begins to sabotage Hendry’s authority and putting lives at risk.
This conflict might be interesting if there was any ambiguity about the nature of The Thing but there isn’t. The Thing is going to kill every last soul on the outpost, which means Hendry is right, Carrington is a fool and any conflict that proceeds henceforth is a result of Carrington being the world’s stupidest scientists.
Preying on fear of science, the film comes across as trite and forced. Carrington is so blind in his crusade that he doesn’t seem to care that the alien is a rampaging killing machine that is mowing down the men around him. Why? Because there’s science to be done, that’s why! While science fiction is a great means through which to explore the scientific ethic and the bounds of science, The Thing from Another World is cheap entertainment that preys on phobias of scientific.
If only science wasn’t so foolishly blind to the fact that sometimes you just gotta blow away the bad guys, no matter what their potential for progress holds! It sets up a false dichotomy, creates a straw scientist and then proceeds to shake its head in shame as a man in a white lab coat becomes the real enemy of the film. The Thing may be from another world, but Dr. Arthur Carrington is from another dimension.
© 2012 James Blake Ewing