Back in the dim and distant past, when we only had three TV channels, the highlight of BBC2’s Saturday night programming wasn’t a repeat of Dad’s Army, but the Midnight Movie. Nine times out of ten it would be a 1950’s gangster or war film but occasionally a little gem like this would turn up.
We didn’t get much science fiction on the telly back in the 1970s aside from Dr Who and other wobbly setted and woodenly acted home-grown shows like Blake’s 7, so seeing a proper Hollywood Sci-fi movie like The Thing that had what seemed like, quite sophisticated effects, even if it was made in 1951, was really quite exciting. Mind you I was only eleven at the time! I won’t bother describing the plot but here is a little summary that I found on You Tube.
The film owes a lot to producer Howard Hawk’s Rio Bravo only with a bunch of US Airman and scientists holed up in the Arctic station replacing John Wayne and Ricky Nelson holed up in a western jail and a blood sucking alien trying to get in instead of a bunch of hoodlums. Curious that, because John Carpenter’s Assault on Precint 13 was inspired by Rio Bravo and he went on to remake The Thing too. It also owes a lot to American paranoia about the Communist Russians, but then it was a product of the Cold War.
I still love this film today; it’s a tautly paced thriller pitting men against not just a rampaging alien vampire plant, but also their environment. Added to that the atmospheric cinematography and Dimitri Tiomkin’s score construct a sense of imminent menace whenever the alien threatens to make an appearance. And yes it has a hopeful if not exactly happy ending