Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Thing (From Another World) (1951)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Thing (From Another World) (1951)

In director Christian Nyby's (and possibly Howard Hawks) influential and taut horror and science-fiction B-film hybrid thriller (his directorial debut film) - it was based upon John W. Campbell's 1938 novella Who Goes There?, first published in August 1938 in the popular US sci-fi magazine Astounding Science Fiction. It was remade by John Carpenter as The Thing (1982). UFO sightings and reports of flying saucers or strange visitors from outer space found their way into Hollywood features as allegories of the Cold War.

The RKO Radio Pictures movie provided a tightly-paced tale told to illustrate how scientists had foolishly meddled with things that they shouldn't have - causing further catastrophe. US science researchers and military officers symbolically awakened an inactive foreign 'sleeper cell or agent' that then infiltrated into their midst and terrorized them. And even then, one of the main scientists was willing to betray his colleagues by siding with the alien monster for research purposes, claiming that the vegetative, multiplying organism was worthy of being preserved for further study and communication.

The film effectively focused on character interaction among its ensemble cast, with natural and rapid-fire dialogue between many characters, a convincing-looking and beseiged remote location, red herrings to create suspense, few ambiguous glimpses of "The Thing" until late into the film, appropriate scientific jargon, and the slow menace of the threatening creature.

This alien invasion film - producer Howard Hawks' sole science-fiction effort, was one of the earliest examples of an alien invader-monster feature film (earlier serials included Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers), and featured Hollywood filmdom's first sci-fi space monster.

  • during the opening credits, part of the film itself appears to burn or melt away, to reveal the underlying film's full flaming and glowing title: "The THING From Another World"
  • in November of 1950, the film opened inside a snowbound Air Force Officers Club in Anchorage, Alaska, where some of the military officials (and other characters) were introduced gambling at poker:
    • Captain Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey), an AF military pilot
    • Lt. Eddie Dykes (James Young)
    • Lt. Ken Erickson (aka "Mac" or "Macpherson") (Robert Nichols)
    • Ned "Scotty" Scott (Douglas Spencer), a bespectacled Anchorage, AK newspaper journalist desperately looking for a "story"
  • the game was interrupted at 8 pm when Capt. Hendry (the film's hero figure) was paged to report to the nearby office of his superior, Brig. General Fogarty (David McMahon); he learned that an unusual transmission had been received from a group of isolated scientists led by researcher Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) who were stationed in a remote Arctic base about 2,000 miles north of Anchorage, AK in the vicinity of the North Pole (Polar Expedition Six); [Note: Carrington's infamous background included involvement at Bikini - a reference to the nuclear test site at the remote atoll in the Marshall Islands beginning in 1946, that led to the successful development of the war-ending bombs that devastated two cities in Japan]
  • Dr. Carrington had radioed a report that a strange flying object (UFO?) had crashed 48 miles from the research base; Captain Patrick Hendry was assigned to lead a reconnaissance mission-flight to the remote base site with a recovery or rescue team from Anchorage, AK; it was expected that the rescue group would avoid a weather front and be back by the next day's night
  • on a USAF plane, Hendry was joined by Lt. Eddie Dykes and Lt. Ken "Mac" Erickson, while reporter Ned "Scotty" Scott tagged along; once the group arrived at the Arctic base (in a wind storm), Scotty was introduced to Mrs. Chapman (Sally Creighton), the tall blonde wife of Dr. Chapman (John Dierkes)

(l to r): Dr. Will Redding (George Fenneman) and Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite)

"Nikki" Nicholson (Margaret Sheridan), Carrington's Research Ass't/Secretary

(l to r): Dr. Carrington, Lt. Hendry, Dr. Redding
  • in the lab office, Hendry spoke briefly to his previous girlfriend "Nikki" Nicholson (Margaret Sheridan) - a strong-willed, spunky, independent-minded female who was serving as Carrington's science research assistant; Hendry still appeared to hold a grudge against "Nikki" after their last drunken encounter (a binge-drinking date) in Anchorage that ended badly for the Captain; Hendry had failed to seduce "Nikki" during the one-night stand due to his boozing blackout
  • Hendry met briefly with the effete lead scientist Dr. Carrington (wearing a turtleneck with blonde, permed hair and a goatee!); with Carrington's aide Dr. Will Redding (George Fenneman), it was explained how a special telescopic camera had picked up evidence of radioactivity, suggesting it wasn't a meteor because it had changed its speed and directional course during its flight
  • a scouting mission was assembled to proceed to the crash site 48 miles away, appearing tear-shaped or bottle-shaped from the air; the crash object seemed to be a circular "flying saucer" UFO weighing 20,000 lbs. buried deep in the Arctic tundra
  • as the expeditionary force flew to the site, the aircraft's compass spun wildly ("The compass is in a spin"), and Geiger counters were reading high levels of radiation; after landing closeby and trekking to the site, Carrington theorized that when the object crash-landed, its engines were so hot that it sunk into the melted ice, and was then covered up by more freezing water, except for one stabilizing fin (or air foil) sticking out from the ice that was determined to be of an unknown substance
Epiphany - The Crashed Object Was Circular - a Flying Saucer (UFO)?
  • as the team spread out around the object, the group suddenly experienced an epiphany - a number of them realized that the shape of the craft was almost perfectly circular (actually horseshoe crab-shaped), and possibly believed to be an extra-terrestrial "flying saucer" (or UFO)
  • initial efforts to detonate thermite bombs to melt the ice and free the craft failed, and they watched as the craft self-destructed with secondary charges and disintegrated; Scotty remarked: "The greatest discovery in history up in flames. Turning a new civilization into a 4th of July piece"
  • however, a fragment from the spacecraft nearby was discovered under the ice by its increased radioactivity; it apparently contained the ejected eight-foot alien-humanoid life form - possibly the ship's pilot or spaceman ("man from Mars")?; the group used pick-axes to extract the encased and frozen, scary-looking extra-terrestrial humanoid shape in the block of ice, later dubbed The Thing or Creature (James Arness, famed in the future for the TV western Gunsmoke); they brought the complete block of ice on a sled back to the plane, and then flew it back to the research station's base headquarters, and dragged it into a cold storeroom (windows were broken to allow cold air in so that the Creature wouldn't defrost)
  • without specific orders from his superiors, Hendry had to contend with the defiant Carrington who wanted to immediately examine and study the Creature by chipping at or melting away the ice; Hendry denied Carrington's wishes, and insisted that he would not tolerate any deviation from or disobedience to his authoritative command, until he spoke to his superior commander Brig. Gen. Fogarty; however, radio communications with the outside world, reported by Cpl. Barnes (William Self) through Tex Richards (Nicholas Byron), had been disrupted and cut-off due to bad weather; Tex speculated that both incoming and outgoing messages were not being delivered due to the blizzard
  • some of the doctors, including Dr. Chapman and Dr. Redding, feared that the Creature might be harboring potential diseases, but if kept frozen (and within the ice block), the danger could be minimized; Dr. Chapman also had concerns about what would happen when the creature's body was exposed to the Earth's atmosphere; meanwhile, Scotty was fearful that the story would be picked up by other newspapers, especially since his reporting had been blocked by Hendry
  • watch periods (of 4 hours each) were scheduled to guard the ice block; in the freezing cold room, the first shift was taken by Lt. Macpherson, who became jittery after the surface of the block of ice had become more transparent and revealed the scary-looking, extra-terrestrial creature; due to the freezing cold room, Lt. Macpherson was supplied with an electric blanket, and a decision was made to reduce the shifts to two hours
  • during the same evening, Capt. Hendry and Nikki rekindled their past romance, and she took him up on his suggestion of having his hands tied up behind his back with rope while she poured booze down his throat; in a semi-dominatrix role and in charge, she was happy with the reversed role, and kissed him; she liked that he was tied up, more controlled and better behaved without his constantly-wandering hands
  • the Thing accidentally thawed (unseen and off-screen) when its ice-block encasement melted (due to the cast-off electric blanket of Cpl. Barnes, on the second shift, that was placed directly on the ice-block to prevent the Creature's gaze); after its shadow covered Barnes sitting nearby, it rose up and fled outside into the snow, and was impervious to Barnes' bullets and gunshots; the Thing's imprint was visible in the melted block; it proceeded to viciously slaughter two of the 12 sled dogs outdoors (and in the process lost one arm)

Scotty to Dr. Carrington: "An intellectual carrot. The mind boggles"

Examining the Thing's Severed Arm in Lab, With Moving Fingers
  • the severed arm was examined in the lab and determined to be a cellular structure identical to vegetable matter that only oozed plant sap - it was a superior, highly-evolved, chlorophyll-based, killer humanoid vegetable that fed on blood; there was blood on the hand, but it was from one of the dead canines; Scotty unintentionally but humorously referred to the Creature as a super-vegetable species: "An intellectual carrot. The mind boggles"
  • one of the seed pods found by Carrington and taken "from under the soft tissue in the palm of the hand" - gave proof that the creature was a superior, evolved vegetative organism that could reproduce asexually without emotion or pain, and was worthy of further study; Carrington then delivered one of the most-cliched sci-fi lines of all time ("If we can only communicate with it...!"); when all watched as the fingers of the severed arm began to move, Carrington realized that it was feeding on (ingesting or absorbing) the left-over sled dog blood on its fingertips
  • although Capt. Hendry encouraged hunting the Thing with axes and guns, Carrington nervously demanded that they treat their visitor - "a stranger in a strange land" - with respect, and preserve it at all costs so that it could be studied: ("All I want is a chance to communicate with it")
  • it appeared that the Creature had entered the greenhouse's front door (by breaking its lock) and then had been draining the blood of one of the recently-killed sled dogs that was found stashed in a small storage container; all efforts by Carrington (and his group of loyal scientists) were to keep Hendry in the dark and protect the creature from harm (I'm sure we can communicate with it, we must!"); during the outdoor search in the frigid cold for the Thing, Carrington's scientists took turns to "stand guard" inside the greenhouse; finally, a radio transmission was received by Hendry's superior Brig. Gen. Fogarty that the alien should be preserved
  • in a tense sequence, the badly-injured Dr. Stern (Eduard Franz) reported that he and two other scientists (Dr. Olson and Dr. Auerbach) were attacked (off-screen) by the Thing in the greenhouse; he reported that the two other researchers were discovered in the greenhouse - hanging upside down from the beams with their throats slit by the blood-seeking, carnivorous creature, undoubtedly the blood of the two dead scientist-was dripping down to feed the alien's spawn (planted seed pods)
  • Hendry ordered the team to investigate and open up the front door of the greenhouse -- they were shocked that The Thing was right on the other side of the door - a 'jump-scare' moment - and Hendry managed to slam the door on the claw of its regenerated left arm, and barricade it inside to hold it captive; Hendry called for volunteers to stand guard in the outer corridor in two-hour shifts
  • Hendry then ordered Carrington to be quarantined in his lab and quarters, for not reporting his finding of the blood-drained sled dog in the storage container, and stripped him of his authority to prevent him from endangering any more lives
  • meanwhile during his quarantine in his laboratory's nursery, the crazed and obsessed Carrington was conducting dangerous experiments with the seed pods from the Thing; the scientist had planted seed pods from X's (the Thing's) severed hand into four inches of soil and was feeding them with some of the base's supply of blood plasma; to a small group of scientists, he showed off how the newly-sprouted "super-human" sapling plants were growing at an "amazing speed"

Dr. Carrington's Dangerous Experiments - Feeding Blood to Seed Pods

Lt. Hendry to Dr. Carrington Regarding His Seed Pods: "Burn these!"
  • not all the scientists agreed with Carrington's disregard for human safety; Dr. Wilson and Dr. Redding reminded Carrington that he had neglected the ramifications of growing the seed pods: "What if that aircraft came here not just to visit the Earth but to conquer it? To start growing some kind of horrible army? To turn the human race into food for it?"
  • Hendry asked Carrington's secretary Nikki about the depleted supply of many units of blood plasma, some of which was needed to treat Dr. Stern; he was told about Carrington's dubious "gardening" experiments in the nursery, disregarding all of his colleagues and endangering everyone, according to Dr. Chapman; Hendry confronted Carrington and ordered the destruction of the plants by fire ("Burn these"), and the destruction of the creature that was captured in the greenhouse; of course, Carrington refused to buckle and stop his research experiments ("Any destruction would be an outrage - a betrayal of science"); Carrington unwisely argued that he was studying and researching the rapid growth rate of the alien despite the danger; another radio transmission from Brigadier General Fogarty stymied and over-ruled Hendry by ordering that the alien must be preserved
  • still, it was determined by the military team and Hendry that the alien had to be eliminated, among other tactics, Nikki suggested that the group burn the Creature to death: ("Boil it. Stew it. Bake it. Fry it"); Crew Chief Bob (Dewey Martin) concurred: "What about throwing kerosene on it and setting it on fire?"
  • in a suspenseful and tense sequence, the Thing's presence was detected by Bob's Geiger counter that began to pick up the monstrous creature's movements with clicks and flashes; after escaping from the greenhouse, it was coming closer and closer and heading in their direction - the Thing finally appeared at the 70 minute mark of the 87 minute-long film
  • the Thing was revealed behind a closed doorway, and then it burst into the darkened mess hall room and howled; the tall monstrous creature was doused by pails filled with kerosene and set ablaze with a Veri pistol flare gun; it swatted away the men while on fire, and found an escape through a window into the snow before retreating and running off to extinguish the flames; the attempt to burn the creature with kerosene only slowed it down and resulted in burning down much of the entire room
  • Dr. Redding suggested that rather than risking the destruction of more of the structure with kerosene that they use electricity - something hotter to electrocute the Thing
  • then it was discovered that the resourceful Creature was using another tactic - it sabotaged the outside control valve for the oil line that supplied heating oil to the base ("Tryin' to freeze us out, huh?"), causing the group to flee to the high-voltage generator room for greater protection from the intense cold
  • in the thrilling conclusion, the group's next strategy was to kill the alien visitor with a massive jolt of electricity in the high-voltage generator room; they constructed an electrically-charged platform grating composed of fence wire placed beneath the wooden floor; at the same time, Dr. Carrington was miffed that Hendry was blatantly disregarding his commanding officer's orders
  • the Creature appeared at the doorway and broke through a wooden barrier with his fists; he was directed down a narrow corridor or hallway toward the generator room, and lured onto the electrical trigger-trap on the floor; just before the Creature's demise, Carrington briefly attempted to derail the plan by cutting the electricity and brandishing a gun, but he was restrained and power was restored; then, Carrington tried to intelligently talk to the Thing - desperately pleading and espousing that they could be friends, but he was harshly brushed aside by one swing of the Thing's left arm and suffered a broken collarbone
The End to the Monstrous Creature By Electrocution

Breaking Through the Door Barrier

Proceeding Forward When Carrington Cut the Electricity

Carrington Vainly Begging to Help the Thing

Moving Ahead With One of the Wooden Timbers Into the Middle of the Platform

Three Arcs or Bolts of Electrical Power

The Thing's Demise and Disintegration Into Smoking Ashes
  • the unwitting alien was electrocuted by 3 large arcs or bolts of electricity (one for each arm and one for its head) when it walked onto the middle of the grid-trap hidden beneath a wooden plank walkway on the floor, and was reduced to a pile of disintegrating and smoking ashes; afterwards, everything was destructively burned (off-screen) in Carrington's lab and in the greenhouse, including the seedlings and the severed arm
  • after the elimination of the Thing, the influential film's last line of dialogue was delivered by reporter Ned Scott during a radio broadcast from the North Pole to his crowded newsroom in Anchorage; he was finally able to report his "story" with a final chilling, warning/bulletin about America's 50s-style suspicions of the world - and the future Red Menace threat:

    "...I bring you a warning. Everyone of you listening to my voice, tell the world. Tell this to everybody wherever they are. Watch the skies! Everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!"

  • [Note: The warning foreshadowed Dr. Miles Bennell's (Kevin McCarthy) similar: "They're here already! You're next! You're next, you're next..." in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).]

In Anchorage, AK Officer's Club - (l to r): Capt. Hendry, Ned "Scotty" Scott, and Lt. Ken Erickson (aka "Mac" or "Macpherson")

The Cockpit on a USAF Plane Flying to a Remote Arctic Base

An Aerial View of the Tear-Drop or Bottle-Shaped Crash Site in the Arctic

Another View of Site

Single Stabilizing Air Foil or Fin Sticking Up Out of the Frozen Ice

The Extracted Block of Ice Containing Ejected Humanoid Figure - Brought Back to the Base and Placed in the Storeroom

Lt. Hendry Rekindling His Past Romance with Nikki

A View of The Alien Pilot? Frozen in the Arctic Block of Ice

Cpl. Barnes Covering the Ice Block With an Electric Blanket

Barnes Ineffectively Firing His Weapon at Unseen Retreating Creature After Being Thawed

The Thing's Imprint in the Thawed Ice Block

The Severed Arm of the Thing Found Near Slaughtered Sled Dogs

Dr. Carrington Locating One of the Dead Sled Dogs Inside a Storage Container in the Greenhouse - Placed There By the Thing

Dr. Stern Reporting Being Injured in the Greenhouse by the Thing

Jump Scare - Hendry Face-to-Face With the Thing at Entrance Door to Greenhouse - Slamming the Door on the Thing's Clawed Left Hand

Setting the Thing Ablaze With Kerosene As It Entered the Mess Hall, Before It Fled Outdoors

Electrically-Charged Fence Wire Placed Under the Floor

Dr. Carrington Complaining About Destroying the Thing

The Final Warning Delivered by Scotty Over the Radio: "Keep Watching the Skies!"


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