“That was fun to do, taking a stab at science fiction. I bought the story; it was just four pages long, and we took about a week to write it.” - Howard Hawks on The Thing From Another World
The Thing From Another World (1951) Movie Trailer
The Thing (From Another World - 1951 (Original Poster)
“The Thing from Another World” is often credited and sometimes blamed for launching the string of science fiction “monster threatens the world” movies that became so popular during the 1950s.
Based on a short story by writer and magazine editor John Campbell, it tells the tale of a tight-knit Air Force crew and a group of sometimes misguided scientists who battle an ill-tempered plant based alien being at a remote Arctic outpost.
Released in 1951, Howard Hawks receives on-screen credit as the producer and Christian Nyby is listed as the director.
Director John Carpenter and other respected students of film, however, firmly believe “The Thing from Another World” was directed by Hawks.
Christian Nyby first worked with Howard Hawks as editor on the 1944 classic “To Have and Have Not.” They soon became close friends. Nyby joined forces with Hawks again on “The Big Sleep” and later on “Red River.”
By the time it came to make this science fiction thriller, Christian Nyby was certainly familiar with the Hawks style.
The opening scene features so much overlapping dialogue that it could almost be a parody of the Hawks form and the whole concept of a resourceful group working bravely against dangerous odds in a remote environment is favorite Howard Hawks theme. Even the romance with a past relationship between Captain Hendry and Nikki Nicholson has the feel of a Hawks male-female encounter.
So, is John Carpenter correct? Did Howard Hawks really direct this influential picture and allow his friend and frequent editor to claim a directorial credit?
Frankly, does it really matter?
If “The Thing from Another Planet” was a crime scene, investigators would find the fingerprints of Howard Hawks in every corner of the room. Two of his favorite writers, Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer worked with him on the script, he chose the look of The Thing, he chose the locations, and had a major impact on the look of picture.
Hawks remained atypically modest when asked about the matter. “People say Nyby didn’t have anything to do with it,” he once replied, “Well, he did have something to do with it. But he just needed some help.”
How much help Christian Nyby received will probably be argued as long as people return to “The Thing from Another World” to rediscover where modern science fiction horror films got their start. As producer, primal force, and possibly director, Howard Hawks had a major role in creating this sub-genre that has since led to the “Alien,” “Predator,” and so many other blockbuster movies.
Director: Christian Nyby
Producer: Howard Hawks Edward Lasker (Associate Produced)
Screenplay: Charles Lederer, Howard Hawks, Harry Kurnitz and Harold Jack Bloom (Story based "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell, Jr.)
By following the life and art of Howard Hawks one can capture the true essence of the Golden Age of Hollywood, as if slipping on special lenses that suddenly pull away the grain and glare to reveal an unforgettable time of Movie Magic.