Nobody trusts anybody now: Some views of The Thing From Another World (1951) and John Carpenters The Thing (1982)
Now the original Thing is considered a classic, a carefully balanced blend of action, humor and horror, and a showcase of Hawksian style and preoccupations. Once viewed as a shocker, it now reveals its artful use of suspense and suggestion, now that the shocks have abated. I see a brighter future for the 1982 version as well.
The space alien movies of the 50s, from the great to the good to the godawful, reflect with touching purity a time when our mass culture first realized that we are living in a science fiction world, and invested the alien with our deepest hopes and darkest nightmares.
The enablers, however, are literally too smart for their own good or anyone elses. Their intelligence elevates them above the common morality of the protagonists, and their desire to understand the horrible mystery makes them more sympathetic to the cause of the danger than their fellow men. They care more for the monster knocking at the door than the human beings cowering in the cellar.
As of this writing, fifty years have passed since the release of The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951. At that time, it would have been considered pure nonsense to suggest the existence of a high-tech, extra-terrestrial civilization somewhere in the cosmos. Yet in todays world, such an idea is not beyond the realms of possibility; in fact, with all the advances in astronomy and cosmology, it now appears to be almost certain. How would the people of planet Earth react today if beings from another world landed in Washington, D.C.
Many fans of low-budget films will agree: often the charm of B classics is their poor production values and lousy acting, somehow making the films more endearing than they would be otherwise. But every once in a while, a true gem comes alonga low-budget sci-fi thriller with a somewhat outlandish plot made plausible, even compelling, by a strong script, powerful direction, and the strength of the characters and the actors who portray them. Unearthly Stranger is one such film.
This is still an easy film to like and even admire, and the comic 1972 sequel and the gory 1988 remake did nothing to stain the reputation of the 1958 original. In 1958, it must have been a breath of fresh air after the wave of back-lot creature features and amateurish drive-in fare that followed The Thing. Criterion, better known as a purveyor of artsy foreign films, did the right thing in restoring this creepy classic.
Move over Universals Monster Classicstheres a new kid in town! Say hello to VCI HomeVideos horror collection, perhaps one of the best low-budget DVD purchases for the horror enthusiast who thought that they had it all. Forget all those extra DVD freebies and gamessit back and enjoy the best of the bargain bin.