Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Thing is a favorite of mine to watch each Halloween.

It's a 1955 science fiction movie theoretically directed by Christian Nyby and written by Charles Lederer with uncredited rewrites by Howard Hawks and Ben Hecht. The film stars Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer, and Dewey Martin. Under much makeup, and without dialogue, is struggling actor James Arness.

The film is a classic of science fiction. It has proven deeply influential, spawning a highly popular imitator, Alien, in 1979 and a 1982 remake by horror-meister John Carpenter.

The plot is simple: Something has crashed in the Arctic, and a U.S. Army Air Force plane is sent to a remote science station to investigate. The military men discover a flying saucer under the ice. In attempting to blast it free, they accidentally destroy the ship -- but discover the body of an alien, thrown free of the wreck, beneath the ice. The aircraft makes it back to the science base just as a blizzard hits. The alien, locked in a block of ice, is taken inside the base. It is accidentally freed, and proves itself to be big, strong, mean, and nasty. It kills several dogs and four scientists before the human can barely react. An attempt to burn it to death by dashing it with flaming kerosene fails.

And then the heat goes out. The alien, which can survive the cold, knows the human beings cannot. And now it's a race against time to see who can destroy whom first...

Christian Nyby, a decent film editor, allegedly directed the film. But almost everyone agrees that Howard Hawks told Nyby want to do. Hawks wanted to direct the film very badly, but was worried that he'd harm his career by directing science fiction. At the time, sci fi films were considered the lowest of the low, cheap films meant for kiddies with no redeeming value. Only pornography was worse than sci fi. So Hawks got Nyby to direct.

The film shows all of Hawks' classic directorial touches: Very fast pacing. Actors who step on one another's lines, purposefully. Crisp dialogue, deftly written. And slow scenes only to build suspense or horror.

No comments:

Post a Comment