Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Thing From Another World

Is The Thing From Another World a paranoid Cold War nightmare or snide mockery of same? Consider the evidence: the desperate warning to watch the skies, the sense of betrayal from within and threatening aliens without, the treacherous crypto-Communist scientist berating the valiant army with un-American concepts like peace and knowledge. It certainly sounds like a lovely McCarthyite fantasy, yet this relentlessly chatty, easy-going film—directed by Christian Nyby, with a helping hand from producer Howard Hawks—makes a hash of its own paranoia. The anonymous chorus of wise-cracking GIs give the film a collegial atmosphere more suited to a weekend outing than a white-knuckled survival story, and whenever the alien beast mows down another one, three more smart-asses take his place (they seem to reproduce faster than the alien menace itself, growing its blood-fed podlings in the greenhouse). The film is defined by this casual attitude towards death, destruction, and the supposed threat of alien forces. While the journalist broadcasts history over the wireless, his pals knowingly smirk at the phony solemnity of every word, and the heroic captain canoodles with his girlfriend as the bodies cool in the hallway. Cold War? What Cold War?

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