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A Thing About The Thing
Not a lot of people know that John Carpenter's "The Thing" is actually a remake of a fantastic B film from 1951, called "The Thing from Another World". The film starred Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Robert Cornthwaite and Douglas Spencer. It was loosely based off of the novella, "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell Jr. The story is about what happens when a research station in the Antarctica finds an alien vessel buried in the ice. And the vessel happens to carry an extraterrestial that has been lying dormant for thousands, perhaps millions, of years until a group of scientists disturb it. When the film released, although it was not a blockbuster, it was one of the more successful sci-fi films of 1951, arising above "The Day The Earth Stood Still" (1951) and "When Worlds Collide" (1951).
Thirty years later, after Carpenter saw the original as a child, Carpenter remade the film, simply titled as "The Thing." However, Carpenter's adaptation is more faithful to the Campbell Jr.'s novella than to the original film. The main difference between the two films is the alien antagonist - in the original, the alien must feed on blood in order to survive. However, in the novella and in Carpenter's film, the alien has supernatural capabilities such as mental telepathy and is able to assume the characteristics of anything or anyone it chooses, which drives the increased sense of paranoia and distrust in Carpenter's adaptation.
In a featurette that the master Horror director recorded for Turner Classic Movies, Carpenter expresses his enthusiastic point of view about "The Thing From Another World" (1951). Although there has been a dispute over who actually directed the original film, whether it was Howard Hawks or Christian Nyby, Carpenter is convinced that the credit is due to Howard Hawks because of the dialogue and the characterization of the men.
In 2011, John Carpenter was special guest on Turner Classic Movies. He picked four films that held special meaning to him and "The Thing From Another World" (1951) was one of them. Before they showed the film, Carpenter and TCM host Robert Osbourne discussed how Carpenter saw it first when he was a kid when the film was re-released, then he saw it later in film school and a film that once terrified him as a kid, was then a treasured classic to him as a college student. During that time, Carpenter did his own research on the mystery and Carpenter believed that it was due to the actors who said that Hawks directed them in certain scenes and the film's editor, Christian Nyby, owed Hawks' a favor and "The Thing From Another World" was that favor. Osbourne offered his own point of view in which he thought that in the 50s, a prolific director such as Howard Hawks, so it could have been that Nyby, was the front in order for Hawks to direct it.
In the same year, "The Thing" franchise continued with a prequel to Carpenter's horror classic. The film was directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr and starred Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The story takes place three days prior to the events of Carpenter's film. Like Carpenter, Heijningen Jr wanted to develop a project based on one of his favorite films. This film poses the question, what happened at the Norwegian Camp that originally found The Thing?
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