THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD.   RKO Radio Pictures, 1951. Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer, James R. Young, James Arness. Based on the short story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell. Directors: Christian Nyby, Howard Hawks (the latter uncredited).


   John W. Cambell’s classic short story, “Who Goes There?” (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1938, under his Don A. Stuart pen name) should be taught in Creative Writing courses for the way it propels a fast-moving story across a vivid background of bitter isolation.

   Set at the South Pole, “Who” sketches the tale of a group of scientists discovering a flying saucer, complete with scary alien, frozen in the Antarctic ice for countless years. They lose the saucer but manage to bring the frozen monster back to their spartan base camp — with unexpected and very unpleasant results.

   Campbell’s writing is terse and to-the-point, with every word exactly right, and none of them wasted. The characters may be a bit two-dimensional, but they serve their purpose and get out of the way of a story-line that stops for nobody. A classic of its genre.

    “Who Goes There?” was filmed in 1951 by Howard Hawks, and I’m afraid all the best things about this fine movie have already been said, mostly by Robin Wood, in his book Howard Hawks (Doubleday, 1968.)


    I can only echo his points about The Thing (from Another World) coming across as a quintessential Hawks film, which is pretty high praise wherever you take it.

    Wood observes that the groups in this film (scientists or soldiers) are not so much cohesive units as ad hoc collections of individuals, each with something to contribute. He describes Margaret Sheridan as the equal of any of the men, yet intensely feminine, in the mold of other Hawks heroines, like Lauren Bacall and Angie Dickenson.

    And he points out how the action, as in Rio Bravo, consists of gradually increasing tension, punctuated by short, sharp bursts of coordinated violence. Yes, The Thing is a brilliant film, fun to watch, and just I wish I’d said all those nice things about it before Robin Wood did.