7 December 2002 | bob the moo
Classic despite the message
In a remote arctic location, a military unit gets a call from a research unit to come and investigate a reported plane crash. On arrival the unit travel out to the site to find that the plane is actually a disk shaped craft of unidentified metal. However, on trying to remove it from the ice they destroy the craft but salvage it's frozen pilot. Back at base the `thing' defrosts with violent results and the survivors are faced with destroying man's only contact with alien life or being destroyed themselves.
Like many people (I assume) I saw the 80's remake before I saw the original, so I came to it with an idea already formed about what the `thing' meant to me. So it was good to step back to the original and see what made this film stand out from a raft of `reds in the bed' type sci-fi's that were around at the time. The plot is intelligent and interesting enough to sustain interest despite the fact that direct conflict with the thing is limited to a few key scenes. The tension is helped by the thing being sufficiently unseen to create a sense of unknown menace and the shadows are well placed.
The action can't compare to the remake in terms of effects, but it is well staged. As I just said, the limited view of the alien we have means it doesn't lose impact due to poor effects. One scene in particular is very good the fire scene in the room. It is dramatic and well staged for maximum effect. If the film does have a weakness it is that it is a Hawks film. Most of his touches are good the romantic banter, the group theme but for me his political view was a tad heavy.
In many sci-fi's we see the aliens come to earth in peace and it is only mankind's own violence that puts us at risk. Here mankind attacks any alien immediately without any idea of peace or preserving the specimen. The only character who puts this line forward is made to look weak and foolish compared to the rest. No, Hawks is no dove! His line is that any outsiders must e treated with fear and dealt with as strongly as required. I don't agree with this line of reasoning so it took away from the film for me, but the rest of it was very enjoyable.
The acting is top rate a mix of banter and B-movie, strong jawed American heroes! Overall this may be seen as dull or slow for the generation that has grown up on Kurt Russell freezing in the final scene but it is a classic in it's own right and is a much more accomplished piece of work for my money. Despite some weaknesses in Hawks personal beliefs this is a atmospheric and tense piece of sci-fi.