Don’t Open That Door! #51: 'The Thing From Another World' (1951)

Welcome to our weekly field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them. This week: the North Pole gets even chillier than usual in The Thing From Another World.

The Thing From Another World

Director: Christian Nyby
Cast: Kenneth Tobey, James Arness, Margaret Sheridan, Douglas Spencer
US Release Date: 1951-04-29

Alternative titles: Vampire Carrots from the Unknown; The Best Movie of the Decade (Maybe).


* Well-paced, intelligent thriller.

* Terrific dialogue with plenty of snappy banter.

* Isolated Artic locale, complete with sled dogs.

* Science vs. military vs. journalism tension throughout.

* Good suspense and action sequences.


* Well-made movie has few things to make fun of (though the requisite goofy "romance" is tempting).

SYNOPSIS: A strange flying object crashes into the Arctic ice, and it's up to USAF pilot Captain Henry to check out what's happened. Fortunately (or not) there's a scientific outpost nearby, led by testy Dr. Carrington—you can tell he's a scientist by his Lenin-esque beard. Fortunately (or not), Carrington's assistant Nikki is there, and a past romance with Captain Henry is duly rekindled. Ace reporter Scotty is also on the scene, commenting wryly on the goings-on, as ace reporters are wont to do. Before long the whole crew is off and searching for the mysterious once-flying-now-fallen object.

Fortunately (or not) they soon find it: a strange frozen object trapped uner the ice. Some genuinely spooky scenes ensue out on the tundra as the men plod around the horseshoe-crab-shaped stain in the snow, trying to figure out the shape of the "aircraft" below. After inadvertantly blowing up the vessel, they discover a body frozen in the ice, which they remove and bring to the base. Here it's locked up and kept cold. The men guarding it need to keep themselves warm, of course, but fortunately (or not) they have an electric blanket. Oops.

When the Thing starts clomping around the place, sowing seeds—literally—of destruction, the movie ramps up another notch. Adding to the tension is the frisson between Dr. Carrington, who wants to thaw/study/communicate with/start a collective-farming commune in Bimini with the creature--notwithstanding the fact that it seems to be some sort of ambulatory, sentient root vegetable--and Captain Henry, who's awaiting instructions from the generals. Lousy weather keeps messing up the radio, though, so instructions aren't forthcoming. With Henry and Carrington pulling in opposite directions, wise-ass reporter Scotty gets all the best lines, providing commentary on both sides.

Ultimately, the body count in this film is low—unlike the 1982 gore-fest remake starring Kurt Russell—but what it lacks in overt violence and splashing entrails is made up for in creepy suspense and, especially, snappy dialogue. Maybe more than any other sci-fi film of the 1950s, The Thing From Another World overcomes genre limitations to become a genuinely great movie.

Best line of dialogue: "Sorry, we already pulled one boner out there on the ice." (Ouch! That must've been painful.)

Did you notice? When Scotty walks onto the ice to view the spaceship, he stumbles and almost falls on his butt. (It's in the shot where the airmen are gathering around the ship's tail fin.) Maybe that almost-spill was written into the script, but somehow I doubt it.

What gets demolished: A flying saucer; three sled dogs; two scientists; one vampire space carrot. And a silly scientist gets knocked around a little, but he deserves it.

Did you know? Thing producer Howard Hawks was the director of such highly regarded films as The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not (both starring Bogart and Bacall) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (with Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe). His hallmarks were overlapping dialogue and snappy pacing—both of which are very evident in The Thing. Hawks himself is rumored to be the real director, but didn't want his name associated with a low-brow sci-fi movie. Credited director Christian Nyby's only other theatrical effort is 1967 war film First to Fight. He did direct plenty of TV, though.

Moral of the story: Vegetables can kill you too, under the right circumstances.

This reminds me of… John Carpenter's 1982 remake/sequel The Thing, starring Kurt Russell and lots of splashy special effects. Not a bad movie, but relying as it does on gross-out moments, it lacks much of the moodiness and earnest sincerity of the original. It must be credited for its unfashionably bleak ending, however.

Somehow their careers survived: Kenneth Tobey (Henry)'s illustrious trifecta of 1950s monster flicks would include The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and 1955's It Came From Beneath the Sea. His rugged looks may have typecast him as a military man, but he played the part well. James Arness (the Thing) would star in 1954's giant-ant drama Them! and a pile of westerns; This was the first role for Margaret Sheridan (Nikki), who would go on to appear in 1952's Korean War drama One Minute to Zero and I, the Jury (1953). Douglas Spencer (Scotty) had supporting roles in Trouble Along the Way (1953) with John Wayne, and This Island Earth (1955) alongside Jeff Morrow.

BOTTOM LINE: One of the all-time great 1950s movies, of any genre.

NEXT WEEK: Atomic Submarine (1959)


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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