Cultwatch! The Thing From Another World

It’s been a while since Jimmy and Tom covered one of their cult movies for the Cultwatch! feature.  Last time we got something up, we covered John Carpenter’s 1982 movie The Thing.  At the time, they decided to check out the movie that inspired Carpenter’s movie, the 1951 movie The Thing from Another World.  That movie is hardly a “cult” movie as it is considered a classic of 50s-era sci-fi.

So, let’s see what they had to say about the movie.

The Thing from Another World

jimmy:  I’m sure it’s mostly to do with the era it was made in, but I had a hard time watching this. Most of the acting was bad and the dialogue was awful. Which is too bad because the story was good.

tomk:  Well, that all was standard for the era it was made. Heck, it was somewhat progressive in how the female lead was treated.

jimmy:  Like at the end, pouring coffee and trying to get her man to settle down?

tomk:  Like not panicking and emotionally staying steady when the blood-drinking plant man burst into the room or even just not being a victim.

jimmy:  Yeah, I was mostly joking. I was surprised to see what was essentially a bondage scene.

tomk:  It’s still the 1950s, dude.

jimmy:  Bondage was big back then.

tomk:  That and polio and McCarthyism.

jimmy:  I think you said you watched this a lot growing up. Did it hold up?

tomk:  For what it was. It’s one of the better examples of a 50s sci-fi/horror movie. Most of them are much, much worse.

jimmy:  Another thing that was big in the 50’s…saying a person’s name in every sentence.

tomk:  How else were you going to remember who was who?

jimmy:  I don’t know Tom. Tom, I guess you’re right.

tomk:  Jimmy, make sure you submit your receipts to Human Resources Jenny to get reimbursed for the GG projects.

Ryan at Legal expects that sort of thing, Jimmy.

jimmy:  If I has played a drinking game and took a shot every time they said “Scotty” I would have been wasted after 10 minutes.

tomk:  If they didn’t do that, you’d just think his name was “That Tool Trying To Write A Newspaper Story”.

jimmy:  Haha

tomk:  It goes well with the other characters like Commander Kerosene and Coffee Woman and, er, Doctor Dingleberry.

Well, you said the story was good. What did you like about it beyond knowing which one was Scotty?

jimmy:  They are obviously very different movies, but I was a little surprised how much of The Thing I could see coming through. Especially when you told me prior to that the alien was a plant. I was expecting something more like this…

 

tomk:  I see. You were expecting Little Shop of Horrors.

jimmy:  Well, creature-wise anyway. To be honest, I expected a guy in a suit that eventually lost the suit and became more of the above.

tomk:  Instead it was just a big guy in a suit who mostly stayed in the shadows.

jimmy:  Well, that was probably for budgetary reasons.

tomk:  And this was probably a pretty big budget sci-fi movie for the time. Producer Howard Hawks was a big deal back then.

jimmy:  You know he was a big deal when Bruce Willis stars in a movie about him.

tomk:  That was Hudson Hawk.

jimmy:  Oh right

He was the guy that built the Spruce Moose.

tomk:  That was Howard Hughes.

Or Mr. Burns.

jimmy:  Geez Tom. I’m starting to think you don’t know much about Howard Hawks.

tomk:  At least you didn’t think he wrote Home Alone.

jimmy:  …did he?

tomk:  …maybe…

Everyone form a circle!

 

jimmy:  So, what did the alien want?

tomk:  Your blood!

jimmy:  I kinda need that.

tomk:  Well, so does he. Probably.

jimmy:  Were there any sequels like “Bride of the Thing From Outer Space” Or “Thing From Outer Space 2: Electric Space Boogaloo”?

tomk:  Not to my knowledge. Why? Did you want the story of Scotty’s hard-hitting alien expose?

jimmy:  Haha, no. It just seemed prime to be a repeat equal offender.

tomk:  I’m not sure they made sequels quite so often back then. This movie is considered one of the bigger classics of the era and genre.

jimmy:  A movie…without sequels? I don’t understand.

tomk:  It got a decades later remake! That’s like a sequel!

jimmy:  And Carpenter did a master class in taking an original idea and making it his own while still paying homage to it.

tomk:  Even when the director of the original movie hated the remake!

jimmy:  Do tell. (Though I’m not surprised. )

tomk:  Here’s an actual quote from Christian Nyby, director of the original movie: “If you want blood, go to the slaughterhouse … All in all, it’s a terrific commercial for J&B Scotch”.

Lead actor of the original Kenneth Tobey also didn’t care for Carpenter’s version, saying the special effects prevented people from getting involved with the characters.

jimmy:  He thought there wasn’t enough Scotty.

tomk:  Everyone loves a bit of Scotty.

Did you like anything about that his movie?

jimmy:  I did find it a bit tough to watch as stated, but I didn’t dislike it. The story was good and I was interested to see what was going to happen. None of it came off as cheesy or eye-rolling.

tomk:  That’s good. Older movies like this can be an acquired taste. This one really is one of the better ones of its type.

Plus, you can see the skeleton of Carpenter’s remake in it.

jimmy:  Definitely.

tomk:  And keeping the Thing to the shadows is a rather effective way to show what was probably a so-so suit.

jimmy:  Being black and white probably helped in that regard too.

tomk:  As I am currently working my way through old Doctor Who episodes, that low budget show’s shift to color did not help it in that regard.

jimmy:  Exactly. One more (major) thing for production to have to worry about. The Thing’s suit might have been pink for all we know, to show up on camera better.

tomk:  Did you like the look of the Thing given what you saw of it?

jimmy:  You mean this guy?

tomk:  Yeah. That space Frankenstein-lookin’ dude.

jimmy:  …might have been a good idea to keep him at a distance and in the shadows.

tomk:  He was a big guy who grunted and hit things. What else do you need. His best lit scene involved his being on fire.

jimmy:  Exactly. It was almost a “we can’t afford a fake shark that works”, so let’s use suspense for the scares kind of situation.

tomk:  It works very well.

jimmy:  It does. There’s something to be said for it. Carpenter finds a nice balance. The super heightened paranoia, but also the big effects set pieces.

tomk:  This one shows people, either scientists or military for the most part, working together against a common threat. They don’t even condemn the scientist who tried to make friends with the Thing.

jimmy:  Almost the “opposite” of Carpenter’s take. While they do work together at times, eventually no one trusts anyone.

tomk:  Carpenter’s may have more in common with Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Though The Blob ends with the title creature being sent to the Arctic because it can’t stand the cold. Maybe it could meet the Thing there.

jimmy:  Sounds like the makings of a buddy comedy.

tomk:  The Blob famously ends with the lead actor wondering what we would do if the Arctic stopped being cold. Why has no one used that in the days of climate change?

jimmy:  Well, now that’s a good hook for The Blob 2.

tomk:  And since the Blob just ate everything in its path, you don’t have to worry about who secretly is the Blob or how to electrocute it.

jimmy:  Ya know, I don’t think I’ve seen either iteration of The Blob.

tomk:  I think your best bet there is the original. Is this feature also going to cover classic creature features of days gone by?

jimmy:  They appear to be in the mix. But perhaps we should switch back to something a little more modern. A little more cult classic. Unless you have anything further here?

tomk:  Not really. This movie held up pretty well for me. You seemed to enjoy it even if you didn’t love it. And unless we just want to rattle off differences between versions of this story, there isn’t much to say. The older one shows more 50s era trust in government, military, the press, and scientists generally doing the right thing against some nameless menace that’s probably a Cold War analogy if you stretch it the right way.

jimmy:  Well, they both got the “cold” part right.

tomk:  And that’s about it. We’d then need to suggest Carpenter’s version plays better as a post-Watergate version of this story.

jimmy:  So, I will give this 7 Not the plant from Little Shop Of Horrors out of 10.

tomk:  I’ll go with 8 out of 10 moments where using a mattress to protect yourself from a burning man may not be the best possible decision.

jimmy:  Lol. Good one.

tomk:  Well, we had some Big Trouble here. You know where the best place to take that is?

jimmy:  Somewhere Little I would imagine.

tomk:  How about we check for Big Trouble in Little China?

jimmy:  I have a feeling John Carpenter will help us find it.

NEXT TIME:  Tom and Jimmy go back to John Carpenter’s filmography to see what caused all that Big Trouble in Little China.

tomk74

Defender of the faith, contributing writer, debonair man-about-town.

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