The Thing From Another World (1951)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 5/5/12
Director: Christian Nyby
Cast: Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, James Arness

A superb blend of science fiction horror and post-war paranoia as a spaceship crashes in the Arctic near an American scientific research station. A military outfit led by Captain Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) is sent to investigate, and they succeed in retrieving a "thing" from the wreckage. Back at the research station, a battle of wills plays out between the scientists and the army personnel as to what to do with their guest from another world, which soon becomes moot when it thaws out and viciously attacks the camp. The humans make a desperate stand against the seemingly invincible creature, and eventually succeed. But not without the dread that more visitors may be on their way... The film ends with the cautionary statement "Keep watching the skies!", metaphorically linking the threat of extraterrestrial invasion to the growing concern of Russia as a rising Communist superpower.

An excellent film in all regards, with the single exception of a really crappy sky backdrop. The dialog is extremely sharp and clever, and delivered at a breakneck pace. The actors are superb and the characters are believable and well rounded, reacting realistically to the horrific situation that they find themselves in. Margaret Sheridan is gorgeous and utterly captivating, and her interactions with Kenneth Tobey are pure magic. I also find it interesting that she managed to get star billing in the film even though she only plays a supporting role. James Arness makes a menacing and imposing "thing", which made quite an impression on me as a child. However, there is one scene that's supposed to be super tense and dramatic where he breaks through a barricaded door, and the door simply swings open with unintentionally laughable results. The filmmakers clearly didn't think that one all the way through. But overall, it's a great looking and well made science fiction classic with a timeless story whose thematic impact is as relevant today as it was sixty years ago.