This time, Force Fed Sci-Fi takes a look at an overlooked classic in The Thing From Another World (1951 film) and discussed during our review about how problematic an author can truly be, why American history from the 1950’s provides context for the film, and does this film actually surpass its subsequent remakes? Let’s dig in and find out...
Differences Between the Film and Novella
It’s important to note that this film is based on a novella originally titled Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell and let’s just say there were many differences between the source material and the final product:
* The novella takes place at a research station in Antarctica while the film is set in the Arctic Circle.
* The design of the Thing is actually considerably different. In the novella, it’s described as having three eyes and is noted for having telepathic abilities and the ability to shapeshift. In the film, The Thing has become a plant-based humanoid creature with the ability to regenerate and subsists on blood.
* The crew of the research station in the novella is notably all male while the film contains a somewhat diverse crew of male and females. The film is still male heavy, it is the 1950’s after all
* The novella is much darker than the film with the research station containing a
full working farm containing a whole stable of cattle who are then slaughtered so
they will not be killed by The Thing and the story ends with 14 of the station’s
inhabitants being gruesomely killed whereas in the film, only 2 of the researchers
are killed along with the sled dog team
John W. Campbell
In addition to the notable differences between the novella and the film, the author Campbell, wasn’t exactly the nicest of people. He is described as taking the “devil’s advocate” approach to many topics and had many problematic views on slavery, integration and the Civil War.
He was also a notorious chain smoker and even disputed the link between smoking and lung cancer and even embraced many branches of pseudoscience in the hopes of expanding medical discovery.
He also wrote and glowingly praised the historical (villain) L. Ron Hubbard and began to experiment in Dianetics. Let’s just say Campbell was problematic to say the least.
At The Time of the Film..
The Thing From Another World was released in 1951 and it’s important to understand the American cultural lexicon at the time.
The Korean Conflict was just ramping up and would end in a stalemate a few years later. This was a serious blow to American morale as we were coming off a victory lap following World War II and would affect our fighting forces for years to come.
The McCarthy Hearings on Communism were being televised across the nation and would abruptly end when Senator McCarthy was called out during a now infamous hearing with the quote “Have you no decency, sir?” and his reputation ruined following numerous reports by now legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow. For further context on the McCarthy Hearings, we definitely recommend the film Good Night and Good Luck.
In addition to these historical events, Hollywood was ruled by what has become to be known as the Hays Code, a set of self-governing rules film studios went by in order to make their films as non-offensive as possible. For a complete breakdown of the rules outlined in the Hays Code, check out this link here or make sure to lis...