Classic Flix Review: Out of the Past (1947)

Greetings, once again! It isn’t often that I’ve been given the opportunity to indulge in a Trifecta or triple play regarding one of Hollywood’s premier Tough Guys, Robert Mitchum. I covered his Scary attributes in The Night of the Hunter. I am going to dial it back a bit and explore another arena where the actor reigned supreme. Intimidation. Best illustrated in a film from 1947. Directed with sly gusto, elan and eerie shadows by Jacques Tourneur. Who instinctively knew when bright sunlight and its absence were called for. Where to put them and for how long. To that end, allow me to introduce:

Out of the Past (1947)

The film begins in bright California sunshine as a convertible rolls into the small rural, rustic town of Bridgeport, California. Locked somewhere between Lake Tahoe, Reno and far away from L.A. Its latest visitor is an elder errand boy for a higher power looking for Jeff Bailey. Superbly realized by Robert Mitchum. Quiet, unassuming. Just wanting to get by while seeing the town’s naive ‘Good Girl’, Ann Miller. Played well and memorably by Virginia Huston. Who knows nothing of Jeff’s past and whose parents do not approve. Though they wholehearted approve of local policeman, Jim. Well and briefly played by Richard Webb. The errand boy and Jeff talk. Jeff agrees and takes Ann with him. The long road trip allows plenty of time for Jeff to fill Ann in on his past as a private investigator in New York who had once rubbed elbows with that higher power. Failed mobster, Whit Sterling. A role creepily brought to life by Kirk Douglas. Absolutely reveling in his well toned physicality as he dutifully fends off subpoenas and possible future federal investigation. Whit needs to get his house in order. And to do that, his old (kept) girlfriend, Kathie needs to be found. Kathie may or may not have shot Whit and absconded with $40,000. May have headed south and may or may not be hiding in Acapulco.

Jeff slinks into Acapulco and begins haunting the local bars and cantinas. Striking gold very early as Kathie makes her entrance from scorching afternoon sunlight into the bar’s soft shadows. Radiating beauty and sensuality with practiced fluid ease. To say that Jeff was hit by a lightning bolt would be understatement. Jeff strikes up a conversation that quickly evolves into acquaintance and a torrid love affair. Pillow talk slowly reveals Jeff’s true purpose. Kathie denies shooting Whit, but hints that the two of them could run away together with the forty grand.

Jeff goes to his hotel room to pack and finds Whit and the errand boy waiting for him. Jeff asks to be taken off the case, but Whit will not take no for an answer. Jeff then lies. Saying that Kathie slipped through his net and is on a steamer headed south. Whit lets Jeff go and soon, Jeff and Kathie are headed to San Francisco. Where they try to maintain a low profile. Until they are spotted spending the day playing the ponies by Jeff’s old partner, Fisher. Played with oily, thuggish aplomb by Steve Brodie. Who is given the slip while quickly putting two and two together and smelling money.

Jeff and Kathie split up and when Jeff arrives at their rural bungalow. Shadowy, angular Noir kicks into high gear as Jeff finds Fisher waiting with Kathie. Fisher wants a piece of what Jeff and Kathie have to keep quiet. Punches are thrown. Many connect. More heard than seen. Except for the expression on Kathie’s slowly smiling face. Fisher drops his pistol. Kathie picks it up and kills Fisher, much to Jeff’s dismay. As she splits to leave Jeff to clean up the mess. After things are tidied up. Jeff happens upon Kathie’s bank book and finds a recent deposit of $40,000.

Fully briefed in, Ann waits as Jeff meets Whit for a final proposition. Away from the prodigal girlfriend, Kathie’s eyes and ears. It seems that things have gone from bad to worse in regard to Whit’s organization and the feds. The IRS is breathing down Whit’s neck openly discussing prosecution for tax evasion. An affidavit about a shady land deal is being kept by Whit’s lawyer, Leonard Eels. Who is using it to blackmail Whit. Jeff correctly figures that Eels also has Kathie’s affidavit implicating Jeff in Fisher’s murder.

Nightmare Alley ramps up as Ann returns to Cambridge and Jeff heads to San Francisco that night for a bout of tailing, stalking and skulking about. Avoiding Kathie as Jeff makes off with the lawyer’s papers and heads to Bridgeport. Kathie feels the walls closing in. She dispatches Whit’s errand boy to kill Jeff, but the attempt is thwarted. While Jeff drives to Lake Tahoe and talks Whit into turning Kathie over to the cops for Fisher’s murder. Before the deal is sealed, Jeff discovers Whit shot dead.

Before a word can be spoken, Kathie announces herself in charge with a superb coup under her belt. Then gives Jeff and ultimatum. Stay with her or face three murder raps. Whit’s. His errand boy and Fisher. Jeff agrees, but has time to make a quick call to Jim and his officers to set up a roadblock. As the two roll up on it, Kathie shoots Jeff. The police open up. The car crashes and the police find Jeff and Kathie dead amongst the missing forty grand.

What Makes This Film Good?

Where to begin? A superb screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring based on his hard boiled novel, Build My Gallows High with James M. Cain close by to kibitz. Lateraled to the machinations of Nicholas Musuraca and the little to no budget, magic pedigree of Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People and  I Walked with a Zombie. A master of limited lighting, smoke and myriad shadows. Instinctively aware of benefits of sunlight to accentuate the positive. And the variations of its absence to titillate the darker side of ominous tension and fear. Well versed in how emotions play into a dream scape of his own making. That appears familiar, yet slightly off kilter and other worldly once the action moves to San Francisco at night. In other words, Grade A Prime Noir!

A story that starts out at a regular pace, but slowly starts to wind tighter and tighter once Jeff and Ann begin their road trip to Lake Tahoe. And Jeff begins telling his sordid tale in flashback with occasional narration. Where nothing and no one is as it seems.The first hurdle is reached with Kirk Douglas and his smooth and oily, somewhat intimidating Whit Sterling. Swelled, broad chest and all. Obliquely speaking in cautious sentences that rarely connects point A to B. Lest there be microphones connected to the law close by. Radiating supreme confidence as his empire shows cracks from strain and threatens to fall.

Aided by Roy Webb’s sometimes eerie orchestration that seethes with mood when Jeff and Kathie are together. Deftly focusing the attention of the audience throughout. Kudos to Darrell Silvera’s sometimes spartan set direction played against Edward Stevenson’s choices in sheer, opulent, flattering gowns for Jane Greer’s Kathie.

What Makes This Film Great?

Robert Mitchum well in his prime. Seeming incredibly tall and nearly as wide across. His face and body intersected by shadows. Proving to the world that he was made for Noir and foggy, rainy San Francisco nights. Snap brim Fedora, Trench coat and all. Not quite ready for the bad craziness that would plant him on the map with Night of the Hunter. Mitchum reveals more of himself and his character in 97 minutes than in the lion’s share of his works. Relying on his physical presence to get his message across. Occasionally offsetting that with wisps of smitten, shambling, puppy dog silliness after he’s fallen Hook, Line and Sinker for Jane Greer’s femme fatale, Kathie. Knowing this relationship won’t have a happy ending. Though enjoying the ride and really not caring as he plays every card in his hand and still comes up short.

Jane Greer setting the bar incredibly high for all later gorgeous, manipulative women in film. Using elegance and poise to catch the attention of her prey. Then using raw sensuality to keep him well and fully trapped. Shrewd and obviously used to getting what she wants. Greer’s Kathie Moffat does whatever is necessary to stay one step ahead. And looks great doing it!

The Film’s Mystique:

Considered by many to be the crème de la crème of Film Noir. Out of the Past along with Detour set and exceeded many of the ground rules for Film Noir. Basically due to budgeting. Lighting cost money. So, the fewer lights that are required. The more money is saved. In this film, that premise is writ large. Relying on Sunlight for scenes in and around Cambridge. While leaving San Francisco shadow slashed and swirling in fog. Tourneur’s natural playground.

Creating a gem that was nominated for the National Film Registry in 1947 and was selected in 1991.


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Thoughts on Out of The Past? Do share ’em in the comments.

Classic Flix Review: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Greetings all and sundry! On the advice of and other communications from Ruth, I am going to focus my abilities on a favorite actor of mine. With distinct attention to the actor’s innate ability to scare the Beejeebus out of those in the audience, without saying much of anything threatening. To that end, please allow me to introduce you to Robert Mitchum. Rocking the lead in first and only time director Charles Laughton’s magnificent, impressionistic and visually unique Masterpiece.

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Our film begins on the banks of the Ohio River. On the lee side of the Appalachians in West Virginia in the midst of the Great Depression. Along winding country roads to an old, black, top down convertible with Robert Mitchum behind the wheel. In a white shirt, starched collar and black string tie. Matching suit and big black hat. As Harry Powell. Con man, Gigolo and lady’s man. Borderline Socio and Psychopath and self appointed Reverend. With ‘LOVE’ above the knuckles of his right hand. And ‘HATE’ on his left. Who sometimes talks to Gods. And whose favorite toy is a switchblade knife. Which he uses to carry out his plan and God’s work. Reverend Powell rolls into town and finds himself at a Bijou watching a bump and grind artist ply her rather weak trade. When he’s boxed in by the local police and brought before a judge for a crime whose punishment is thirty days in jail.

Cut to more of the placid Ohio. Fertile farmland and small, well kept, maintained and tilled family farms. In the midst of one farm, there is a young brother and sister. John and Pearl Harper playing as the family car rolls up with their father, Ben. Pistol in hand. With lots to say and do with no time for either. It seems that the father, Peter Graves, long before Mission: Impossible has killed two men while helping to rob a bank of $10,000. He helps his kids hide the swag and swear never to reveal its location just as sirens draw near and the cops show up to take Pa away.

Pa draws the same judge who has sentenced Reverend Powell. And as fate would have it, Pa Harper draws the Reverend for a cell mate. Until Pa’s date with the Hangman. Time is short and Mitchum does his best to ingratiate himself, but Pa keeps his mouth shut about the money from the bank heist. Though he does talk about the farm, his wife, Willa. Shelly Winters, Test flying what would evolve into the tried and true prototype for her future characters in Lolita, Alfie and Harper. There is a strength in Willa. That nearly conquers her vulnerability. With two growing kids and a town of nosy, gossipy, holier than thou neighbors.

The Reverend is released before Pa Harper is hanged and takes his time on just the right approach to the recently widowed Harper. Who works as a waitress in the town’s Soda Shop and does her best to ignore the possibly well intentioned good, though snide advice of her co-workers. With John and Pearl in attendance, the Rev makes his first subtle move. With the classic Good vs. Evil tale of ‘Love and Hate’. So masterful is the Reverend’s telling, that Willa starts to show the first cracks in her armor. Which is duly noted as Willa sees something better. While John sees pure, smooth talking, evil.

Nature, greed and more than a subtle touch of peer pressure takes it course as Willa, the Reverend and the kids are seen more and more often. Culminating at a town picnic where Harry proposes to Willa off in the distance. John sees a bad moon rising, but is up against some heavy opposition. The wedding is consummated. Time, if not romance passes and the Rev goes into full press mode on John and Pearl. Willa overhears one evening and quickly has her throat slit and is disposed of in one of the creepiest modes in cinematic history.

Eyebrows start to raise in town as the Reverend’s tale that Willa lit out without a forwarding address doesn’t fly well. While John and Pearl start looking for anyway at all to split. That occurs after a questioning of Pearl heads south. John and Pearl run. Find a flat bottom boat and shove off as the Reverend falters behind. Leaving the kids with the Reverend’s loud, animal like snarl of defeat loud in their ears.Undaunted, the Reverend heads off. Kills a farmer and steals his horse and follows the river. Patient and finding his calm center. The Reverend follows leads that bring him to the home of Rachel Cooper. Superbly, near serenely played by Lilian Gish. Who takes in stray kids and gives them a home and chores to do.

Life is good. Until the Rev shows up just outside Mrs. Cooper’s white picket fence for a few bars of ‘Leaning on the Ever Lasting Arm’. Chorused by Mrs. Cooper as she cradles a shotgun while rocking on the front porch. The evening hymnal is interrupted by one of the girls, Ruby. As Mrs. Cooper blows out a candle and the Reverend disappears. Mrs. Cooper tells Ruby to round up the kids!

I won’t take the story farther. Lest I get into serious Spoiler territory…

What Makes This Film Good?

First and only time director Charles Laughton deftly borrowing and sometimes outright stealing the shadowy exposition of F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang. To raise hairs on the back of necks in what would be otherwise innocuous scenes. That these scenes for the most part feature Mr. Mitchum’s Reverend shot from low angles to highlight his height and breadth is just creepy icing on the cake. Laughton seems to have found the Alchemy of melding foreboding mood with palpable atmosphere and makes the most of it in frame after frame. In a film that many should look upon as a First Kiss. The yard stick that all others afterwards are measured. And often found wanting.

Symbolism seems to be running quietly amok throughout the film. Especially in the long, sedate scene when John poles the flat bottom boat through what looks like Palmetto thick bayou. Thick with tortoises, frogs and spider webs. Shadows and silhouettes abound. In halls, stairways, ladder ways and the horizon. More so once the sun goes down and lighting is supplied by a waning crescent moon on the river. And gaslight and candles within the towns.

All in a basic, though superbly executed film about good and evil. The children, John and Pearl score very high on the Cherub Meter. Though John is more iron willed, while Pearl is wide eyed and naive. Stacked against neighbors and town folk who are not who or what they appear to be. While also being far too judgmental and prone to gossip. Cautiously watched by the Reverend Powell. Who is delightfully near hypnotic to watch as evil incarnate. Beneath his smile, schtick and deep, calming Basso Profundo voice.

What Makes This Film Great?

All of the above. And Robert Mitchum reveling in and making the most of his physical presence. In an iconic role that would define him until Cape Fear, seven years later. Throwing either long shadows or tall silhouettes as he ambles through spartan, roughly hewn, sturdy, yet seemingly small sets designed by Alfred Spencer and Hilyard Brown. Sharing time and space with stolid talent like Lilian Gish. And then up and comers, Peter Graves and Shelly Winters.

Cinematography by Stanley Cortez is remarkable throughout. With many memorable moments heightened by music by Walter Schuman. Who instinctively knows where and when its needed. And not.

All helping to create an unique experience that is an odd, eerie blend of Norman Rockwell, American Gothic and a touch of A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Little wonder that The Night of the Hunter was nominated to the National Film Registry in 1955 and was accepted in 1992.


Check out Jack’s profile page and links to his other reviews


Thoughts on this film? Do share ’em in the comments.

Classic Review: The Thing from Another World (1951)

Greetings all and sundry! A few weeks ago, Ruth suggested I take a look at the ‘Classics’ and come up with an appropriate critique of a film from yesteryear. My mind virtually tumbled with titles as one continuously rose from the cinematic landscape to give pause and grab attention. As it had more than fifty years ago. To that end. I present you:

Loosely based on the very short story, Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr. and comprised of a snug, compact 87 minutes. This film is the epitome of cinematic story telling. With a beginning, middle and end all under the deft, masterful touch of Howard Hawks. Even if Christian Nyby is credited as the director. Mr. Hawks‘ fingerprints are all over this minor masterpiece!

The story begins in the middle of a blustery snow storm wreaking havoc on one corner of an Air Force Base and its Officers’ Club outside of Anchorage, Alaska. The howling wind blows reporter Ned Scott into the club to thaw out and stumble across the crew of C-47 assigned to the base trading quips and playing poker. Pleasantries are exchanged as Captain Pat Hendry. Marvelously played with a nonchalance that would set the tone for countless other ‘Red Scare’ Science Fiction films, by Ken Tobey;  is told to report to General Fogarty right away.

It seems that Polar Expedition Six, a small outpost up near the North Pole has reported an anomaly that bears closer investigation. Not much more to go on. Take your plane, some sleds and a dog team and check it out. Cut to the C-47 in flight. With sheet metal skis wrapped around its extended landing gear as the crew and Ned Scott ponder what the mystery is all about. A clue is revealed as the plane’s navigator notices the magnetic compass is off. That initiates a radio call to the expedition so the plane can follow its signal.

The plane lands and is bedded down for the night and the crew meets the scientists of PX6. Headed by Dr. Arthur Carrington. Egghead extraordinaire and recipient of countless kudos and awards. Arrogantly played with a heavy dash of elitist smarm by Robert Cornwaite. Who lords over a clutch of lower tier, like minded individuals. Including Drs. Redding (George Fenneman, emcee of You Bet Your Life),  Vorrhees (Paul Frees), Wilson (Everett Glass), Chapman (John Dierkes), Laurence (Norbert Schiller) and Ambrose (Edmond Breon). All aided by Nikki Nicholson. Resplendent and smartly played by Margaret Sheridan. Who Captain Hendry has more than a subtle interest in.

Discussion is quick, jumbled and often stepped upon as this trip further north is discerned. Something large, fast, heavy and metallic passed through the arctic atmosphere several hours earlier. Close enough to set off time delay cameras and seismographs miles away to catch what could be a meteor, but isn’t on film. And its location determined through the math of sound traveled to sensitive microphones. Cue the scary, way ahead of its time Theramin track as another flight is put together to find out what fell out the sky.

The mission lands not far from a flaw in the ice that is visible at altitude. The scientists, crew and dog sled teams are assembled and head off to discover a few feet of what looks like vertical stabilizer poking up through the ice. Samples are filed off and collected as the explorers peel off in all directions and find that they are standing in a circle above the unknown intruder! Picks, shovels and axes are discarded in favor of  quicker, easier to use Thermite. Charges are placed and spectacularly set off. And whatever it was sinks below the polar ice. But not before something is ejected away and much closer to the surface and found by the always clever Crew Chief, Dewey Martin behind a handy Geiger Counter.

The foreign object is exhumed, but kept in a block of ice that is loaded on a dog sled. Loaded on the plane and brought back to the gaggle of Quonset huts that make up PX-6. The block of ice is kept in a freezer and a guard posted. Messages are sent southeast to Anchorage and General Fogarty. The ether virtually sings with far too many questions that have no answers. Orders given that makes Dr. Carrington smugly happy as Captain Hendry and crew plan for many long days ahead. Though Hendry does manage some quality time with Nikki that involves alcohol and rather tame rope bondage found in the film’s restored footage.

As the visitor in the frozen block of ice scares the posted guard silly. The guard wraps himself in an electric blanket. Then puts the blanket on the block of ice to cover the Thing’s creepy eyes that the guard swears are following him! The blanket questionably melts the ice and the Thing escapes, but not before taking a few rounds from the guard’s .45 before making its getaway.

Surprisingly, panic does not ensue as the crew, eggheads and Nikki discuss what the Thing is and what its plans may be. Carrington is all for abiding by General Fogarty’s orders to keep whatever it is alive at all costs, but Hendry and his crews have their doubts. A search is  conducted, both inside and outside. An arm and its hand are recovered and examined. Remaining perfectly still throughout the discussion and dissection. Then slowly begins to move and add its two cents. Notes are taken by Nikki as a consensus is arrived  upon. The Thing isn’t human, but vegetable! Impervious to most any kind of damage. So, what does one do with or to an alien, radioactive vegetable?

“Boil it. Cook it. Or fry it?” Nikki suggests whimsically as Hendry and his crew run with the idea. Moving from the Greenhouse throughout. Gathering whatever implements of destruction they can while nailing down and barricading doors with whatever is handy. An idea is hit upon by the Crew Chief as clumsy sounds of breaking and entry echo through empty connecting hallways. Kerosene is poured into a bucket. Lights are turned off and a Flare Pistol unwrapped as the Day Room plunges into darkness. Its door is flung open and the Thing makes its entrance.

Silhouetted and back lit, the Thing shambles in. To meet an axe from the Co-Pilot. A large splash of Kerosene and an igniting flare. The Thing bursts into flame. Its arms swing and catches Nikki’s protective mattress aflame before the Thing retreats and dives through a nearby window as the storm wails and billows outside. Damage control is assessed as wounds are tended to and the Thing’s steps retraced and dead, drained of  blood sled dogs are discovered stuffed in a cabinet. Reassessment is called for and repairs are made as an inventory of medical supplies is made and a question arises. One of the scientists was injured in the latest fracas, but is not being given plasma. Hendry asks Nikki about it and she reveals that the injured scientist in being transfused by others of his own blood type. The plasma is being used by Dr. Carrington. Who’s quickly sliding into Mad Scientist territory. With an IV of plasma feeding the Thing’s discarded, pod seed sprouting appendage in the Greenhouse.

Now the panic, though low keyed begins to rear its ugly head. As Nikki notices kibbitzing exhaled breaths starting to mist in the chilling air. The Thing has cut off the oil to the connected Quonset Huts’ heating system! A more elegant trap is thought up involving wire fencing, a wooden pallet walkway and arcs of high voltage, high amperage electricity. The question remains, will the Thing fall into the trap? The Geiger Counters watched by scattered guards start climbing and seem to hint so. The Guards retreat to the compound’s main generator as the Thing makes its presence known. Lights are extinguished along the way as the generator suddenly goes off line, courtesy of the now mad Dr. Carrinton. Who has a Mexican Stand-off before being rushed and supposedly subdued.

The power comes back on, but the Thing is leery. Uncertain what do do as he ambles off the pallet walkway. Picks up a heavy wooden 4X4 and leaps back on to avoid a tossed axe. Dr. Carrington dashes out and lets his liberal, scientific heart bleed as he tries to coax the Thing into understanding and cognizance of its superiority over humans. Which appears boring and doesn’t much  impress the Thing. Who blithely knocks Dr. Carrington aside and steps into three curling arcs of electricity. That elicit strange sounds from the soon smoldering, eventually melting, collapsing Thing.

Captain Hendry wants to keep the arc running until there’s nothing left as focus shifts to the dining hall. As the outside storm abates enough for communication back to Anchorage. Now inundated with reporters the world ’round. As Ned Scott puts the best possible spin on the situation
with a final urgent plea to everyone listening “To Watch The Skies!”.

What Makes This Film Good?

Less than an-hour-and-a-half loaded to the brim with superbly executed story telling in glorious, shadowy, claustrophobic B&W. With no excess fat or time devoted to sub-plots or extraneous nonsense. Evenly distributed over a cast of familiar, though unknown faces. Who stalwartly maintain the film’s B-Movie mystique. As more and more is discovered about the crew and expedition’s unwanted guest.

Ken Tobey is the absolute definition of a post WWII, 1950s savvy military officer. Calm and often humorous in the face of unknown adversity. Near fatherly in his patience with his wise cracking crew and the slowly unraveling, effete Dr. Carrington. Willing to listen to the good Doctor at first. Less so when his crew and the expedition and its compound are threatened. Mr. Tobey sets the bar very high for many, distinctly of its time, ‘Us versus Them, Red Scare’ Science fiction films.

The ensemble of actors and their assorted lesser scientists, egg heads and Poindexters  in attendance are all spot on. From George Fenneman and his Varsity sweatered Dr. Redding to Eduard Franz’s whiz kid Dr. Stern. To Nicholas Byron’s tall and laconic, radio operator ‘Tex’ Richards. All deliver admirably in their short times on screen.

Robert Cornwaite’s elegant, arrogant, elite Dr. Carrington. Absolutely brimming with  condescension towards Captain Hendry and his crew. Who would dare sully his arctic resort of pure science with their military sidearms, carbines and narrow thinking. The absolute embodiment of post war, effete, bleeding heart liberal whom Senator Joseph McCarthy would soon be warning people about.

Last but not least, the Thing itself! Future Marshal Matt Dillion. James Arness in high fore headed, near silent alien drag. Deliberately left out of the picture until those times when fully needed and rarely long enough (Inset Jaws reference here!) for recognition.

What Makes This Film Great?

Once you get past the Winchester Pictures/RKO Radio Pictures start up. Hawks lets you know that you are not in Kansas, anymore. As a blank scree slowly catches fire to eerie, unearthly sounds provided by a Theramin. A musical instrument that creates sound without being touched.
Also used by Edward Hermann in The Day the Earth Stood Still the same year. Check out the first twelve bars of The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations to get an idea of its sound as the fire burns and reveals the film’s title and sets up the story.

The stepped on dialogue and plethora of unfinished thoughts and sentences that abound in the film. Yet move it along in an easily understood way. The elongated scene when Captain Hendry and his crew meet the scientists and staff of PX-6 is wonderful to step tentatively into. Then slowly, comfortably bask in.

The lush, sometimes shadowy B&W cinematography by Russell Harlan adds a deft touch of suspense and seems to heighten the inherent claustrophobia in many shots. Coming to a head when the Thing invades the Day Room. Is ambushed and set ablaze. A wonderful piece of action on a blackened set. With only the back lighting from an open door illuminating the scene until the Thing is lit ablaze. Wreak havoc and escapes in a stunt that would be hard pressed, sans CGI to be accomplished today.

Dimitri Tiomkin’s mysterious, often Theramin infused soundtrack keeps the tension and fear of the unknown percolating as more and more of the Thing’s handiwork is laid bare. Especially when the deceased sled dogs are discovered and when Hendry and his crew stumble across and unload on the Thing moments later.

The chemistry between Ken Tobey’s Captain Hendry and Margaret Sheridan’s Nikki is palpable and fun. Though it is Nikki who subtly steals every scene she’s in. Making more than the most of a role that creates the prototype for Sigourney Weaver’s Warrant Officer Ripley in Ridley Scott’s Alien, decades later.

The Film’s Mystique:

Though initially and for years after regarded as a B-Movie. The Thing from Another World does fill many categories in that style of film, but is so much more. Due basically to having a proven master in Howard Hawks. Calling the shots while delving into a genre of film not attempted before. And obviously having a ball in the process as his exceptional artisans and cast exceed all expectations. While making a gift of the title of director to Christian Nyby, who had edited The Big Sleep and Red River for Mr. Hawks.

The film’s overall mystique and ability to hold up so well through the years may have been a large part of its being nominated to the National Film Registry in 1951 and inducted in 2001.


Check out Jack’s profile page and links to his other reviews


Thoughts on this film? Do share ’em in the comments.