THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, 1951
Scientists and American Air Force officials fend off a blood-thirsty alien organism while at a remote arctic outpost.
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Following traumatizing events and devastations such as World War II, the launching of atomic bombs on Japan, and evolution of the “cold war,” cinema offered the public a “safe haven” to contemplate and reflect on the condition of the world. Although the Science-Fiction genre initially attempted to engage children and teenagers during the 1950’s, the medium contained underlying messages which challenged and to some degree threatened the adult population. In this unique film, The Thing, we observe specific references stated as well as other characteristics from another genre which are difficult to distinguish, the Horror genre.
At times, some of the images in the film present strange and alien situations which we have no previous knowledge of. In the opening sequence, we hear an officer tell the captain about an “unusual” (possibly unknown) aircraft landing on the North Pole. Subsequent to this comment, we hear a man jokingly state, “It could be the Russians,” in a reference toward the hostilities of the “cold war.” In a parallel situation, as the officers reach the mysterious aircraft, one man remarks, “twenty thousand tons, sounds like a meteor,” this can be construed as a loose reference to the atomic bomb and its impact on civilization and societal values.
As there are often characters representing something tangible even if they are a bit odd and elusive in both genres, in the film, we see Dr. Carrington and Captain Hendry representing the conflict between men of thought and men of action. As we watch Dr. Carrington’s desire to learn from the creature, we can gradually observe the shift from a pure scientific approach to a more emotional approach, eventually turning into madness, and ultimately, generating an anti-science message.
In the film, horrific imagery is presented as the creature feasts off the blood of animals and people; however, it is the idea of other civilizations taking place which takes precedence. This film as about exploration and the manner by which cultures compete and communicate. At the end of the film, the journalist, who represents “the average guy” speaks through the radio in an attempt to hold society together. Even though there is horrific imagery displayed, the fear in this film is pure, universal, and characteristic of the time period. The best indication of this is when we hear the journalist final words of the film, “Keep watching the skies!”