Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Anniversary, You Things from Another World, You!

This review is part of the 50's Monster Mash Blogathon hosted by Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear. The blogathon runs from July 28th through August 2nd. Join our Fearless Leader Nathanael Hood and thrill to the astounding monster blog posts—and don't forget to leave comments for one and all! :-)

Dorian's Pick: The Thing from Another World (1951)


Happy 60th Anniversary, You Thing from Another World, You!
Director/producer Howard Hawks was a deft genre chameleon with 47 films to his credit, including the uncredited The Outlaw, Corvette K-225, Viva Villa!, The Prizefighter and the Lady, The Criminal Code, and my half of Team Bartilucci’s 1950s Monster Mash double-feature, The Thing from Another World (1951). Since we’re only discussing the original film here and not John Carpenter’s 1982 remake (which is equally superb and follows source author John W. Campbell Jr.’s tale more closely), let’s just call it The Thing…. from here on in, shall we? The director’s credit is given to Hawks’ editor Christian Nyby, but the action and banter is pure Hawks. As noted by Jon C. Hopwood in the IMDb and Lang Thompson and Jeff Stafford's TCM article, Hawks was reportedly on the set everyday as the producer, and the film bears his “auteurist” stamp. Still, talk about versatility; Hawks could do it all! His films ranged from comedies (Twentieth Century, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday), adventure (Only Angels Have Wings, To Have and Have Not), westerns (Red River, Rio Bravo), mysteries (The Big Sleep) and even musicals (A Song is Born, the 1948 Danny Kaye/Virginia Mayo musical remake of Hawks’ 1941 comedy classic, Ball of Fire).

To arms, to arms! Uh, make that one arm….|
Over the strains of composer Dimitri Tiomkin’s beautifully eerie combo of brass and Theremin, our story begins at the Officers’ Club in Anchorage, Alaska, where Air Force Captain Pat Hendry (Kenneth Tobey), Lt. Eddie Dykes (James Young), and Lt. Ken “Mac” MacPherson (Robert Nichols, best known and loved by Team Bartilucci as Joe Wilson in This Island Earth. Read fellow blogger Caftan Woman's blog about it at http://caftanwoman.blogspot.com/) get wind of a big brouhaha going down at the North Pole. “Botanists, physicists, electronics,” Mac says. “Including a pin-up girl,” Eddie adds mischievously, “a very interesting type.” That would be Pat’s ex, the swift, smart, beautiful “Nikki” Nicholson, played by one of my favorite Hawks women, Margaret Sheridan. Raven-haired Nikki is the secretary to Dr. Arthur Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite from Colossus: The Forbin Project, among other films and TV shows), the leader of the aforementioned scientific brouhaha.

Those cute plants live on human blood? You bet your life!
General Fogerty (David McMahon) wants Pat, Mac, and Eddie to investigate a discovery at the North Pole at the request of Dr. Carrington and his scientific team. You’ll know the voices of the uncredited actors playing Doctors Vorhees, Chapman, and Redding, even if you don’t know their names: they are, in the above order, voiceover artist Paul Frees; John Dierkes, whose roles include the preacher in X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes; and George Fenneman of You Bet Your Life fame!
Newspaper reporter Ned “Scotty” Scott has been looking for a story to cover. In fact, he’s ready, willing, and able to fly all the way to the North Pole in hopes of getting an exclusive. Pat, Mac, and Eddie are fine with bringing Scotty along for the ride. Ever the newshound, he’s eager for a scoop: “I gotta get a story someplace!” Well, Scotty, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it! Douglas Spencer, one of Team Bartilucci’s favorite—and all too often uncredited—character actors, steals his scenes as Scotty with his sharp wit and gangling presence. His many film and TV roles included parts in Double Indemnity, The Dark Corner, This Island Earth, and most notably, The Lost Weekend (in fact, Spencer was Ray Milland’s stunt double in many films). Thinning hair notwithstanding, Spencer was kinda like the Jeff Goldblum of his day, presence-wise. (As a Jeff Goldblum fan, I assure you I think that’s a good thing.) Poor Scotty may not always get a break or a picture, but he’s wonderful wiseass comedy relief, and he ends up redeeming himself nicely with his classic “Keep watching the skies” broadcast, not to get ahead of myself!

When the men reach the North Pole, they’re greeted not by Santa Claus, but a humungous all-but-submerged crashed aircraft that looks an awful lot like a flying saucer. Our intrepid heroes figure on using a thermite bomb to haul that spaceship outta there, but to their astonishment, the ship actually burns beneath the ice, then explodes. So much for subtlety! But our boys won’t be leaving empty-handed: there’s a great big humanoid creature (James Arness, before Them! and Gunsmoke made him a star) for them to take back as a souvenir to their base camp, Polar Expedition Six.

When it comes to Nikki, Pat’s hands are tied!
We soon find out the romance between Nikki and Pat had hit a speed bump after Pat had a few drinks too many. As Nikki says, chuckling, he’d “had moments of kind of making like an octopus.” This revelation eventually results in one of the film’s funniest, sexiest bits of comedy relief when they agree on “starting over again.” See, screen couples don’t always have to get naked to be sexy—just as well, considering The Thing’s North Pole location! What I love about the romance between Pat and Nikki is that their relationship is grownup yet playful, in the classic Hawks way. No soap-opera nonsense stops the story or mood in their tracks; instead, they flow into the scene offhandedly, making Nikki and Pat’s relationship feel more natural.

Ah, but our movie is called The Thing from Another World and not, say, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, so romance goes on the back burner when the rough Arctic weather cuts the base off from communication with the outside world, though our heroes keep trying to send messages, hoping others get through. Meanwhile, Mac and other poor schlubs who have to stand watch over their Swanson Frozen Alien are feeling progressively more spooked, swearing it looks like the creature’s eyes are moving. Soon our heroes learn the hard way that if you’re standing guard over a thawing alien who’s bigger and scarier than you are, don’t make the mistake Corporal Barnes (William Self) made, getting too caught up reading a book while the evil alien was defrosting. “A gun’s no good” is probably one of the scariest phrases to hear when a monster is on the loose! By the way, in real life, William Self went on to be a big TV producer for CBS, including The Twilight Zone, appropriately enough.
“I’m sorry, you Thing from another world you, the lady of the house ain’t home, and besides, we mailed you people a check last week!”
Whether the filmmakers want to credit Hawks or Nyby, I love Hawks’ signature naturalistic overlapping dialogue for all the characters; I wonder if that’s where Robert Altman got the idea for his own movies? For that matter, I like the joshing camaraderie among the actors playing the pilots and other personnel of Polar Expedition Six; they felt very authentic. In particular, the smart, snappy repartee between Nikki and Pat is irresistible; Tobey and Sheridan have great chemistry. On top of that, it's Nikki who figures out how to kill The Thing by essentially cooking it to death! How's that for Girl Power? You know, Hawks had wanted Sheridan to play the female lead in his 1948 western Red River, but pregnancy put the kibosh on that, and Sheridan recommended her friend Joanne Dru for the role instead. Sheridan’s career didn’t go much farther, even though she was wonderful in The Thing…. as well as the 1953 movie version of Mickey Spillane’s I, The Jury (as Mike Hammer’s sexy assistant Velda!).

Baked Alaska coming right up!
As Dr. Carrington, Robert Cornthwaite is one of cinema’s most memorably well-meaning yet misguided  scientists as he takes the concept of a vegetable-based alien one step further: those plants he’s been cultivating in the greenhouse actually live on human blood. If that doesn’t freak out the world’s vegans, I don’t know what will! Like certain H.P. Lovecraft characters, Dr. Carrington mistakenly thinks The Thing will become his best buddy, the poor fool. Isn’t that just like an increasingly mad scientist (see what happens when you get too little sleep?) to put their discoveries ahead of others’ safety? But then, what do you expect from a man who thinks that a creature with “No pleasure, no pain…no emotion, no heart” is “our superior in every way”? That guy has serious issues. I bet Paul Reiser’s character in Aliens was Dr. Carrington’s grandson or something!

The Thing…. is another film you could easily turn into a drinking game—drinking coffee, that is! I lost count of all the times someone came in with or asked for a cup of coffee. Speaking of unwittingly goofy things, why does everyone in The Thing…. say “Holy cat” instead of “Holy cats”? Was the “S” in “cats” added into that old expression later, or did Hawks and Nyby and company try to trim the Thing budget by lopping the "S" off ? As long as we're joking around, here's one of my favorite Thing/Hawks in-jokes:

Scotty: “You know how to shoot that?”
Mac: "I saw Gary Cooper in Sergeant York.” (Howard Hawks also directed and produced the Oscar-winning Sergeant York!)
Vinnie knows a thing or two about a Thing or two as well — Aside from a solid plot and cast of characters (if a bit of a sausage-fest), the film features two of the most quotable lines in silver-age science fiction: the final "Watch the skies" and Scotty's other wry summary, "An intellectual carrot — the mind boggles!" But the film loses the most impressive facet of Campbell's original story "Who Goes There?", that of the alien being a shapeshifter. As The Wife mentions, Carpenter's adaptation is far more adherent to Campbell's story, right down to the bit with testing blood with a hot wire. With the Hawks version, they took the structure of the story and pasted in a more generic monster, and it worked perfectly, because they realized that the tension comes not from the occasional moments of the monster popping out, but the suspense as we watch the characters worry that the monster MIGHT pop out. The best scare (and nervous laugh afterwards) in the film is when the scientists spend about five minutes preparing to go outside, strapping on the flamethrowers, stuffing sandwiches in their pockets, unbolting the door, and the Thing is just standing RIGHT THERE! Perfect surprise - You're expecting a big long search scene, and they hit you right away.

Vinnie's Pick:
Mothra  (1961) - "We're gonna need a bigger net!"
My love for daikaiju films is well known, so it's no shock that if I was going to talk about a monster picture, I was going to go big. Mothra is unique in the Godzilla pantheon in two ways. First, she's a female—the only female monster, save for the mate to Rodan, appearing and dying in his eponymous first film. And secondly, she's the only monster to start as a face, or good guy. Godzilla and the others started as bad guys, or at least uncaring forces of nature, only turning face when bigger threats came along. In many cases, the hope was the two warring beasts would kill each other off and good riddance. But Mothra was a protector from day one, first of the inhabitants of Infant Island in this first film, and later of the entire world. Also, Mothra is the only multi-generational monster; we see her die in her second film, Godzilla vs. The Thing (an ironic title for this pairing), replaced by a new pair of Mothra larvae from another egg. New generations have appeared in later films as well. This is different from how Rodan and his mate died in their solo film; that was sort of forgotten in later movies, much in the way that Godzilla's death in his first film is sort of swept under the canonical rug.
Shoubijin/Peanuts—allergy-free, & they sing nice, too!

In this film, a storm capsizes a cargo ship in an area of the ocean formerly used for atomic testing. When the crew are found on a nearby island, they are not only alive, but radiation-free. They explain that the natives of the island fed them juice that apparently kept them safe from the radiation in the area. An expedition is sent to the island, funded by Mr. Nelson, an entrepreneur from "Rolisica", a non-existent but real-sounding country, an amalgam of both the US and Russia, a generic "Big foreign country" that prizes money over common sense. The island is covered with huge mutated vegetation, stereotypical tropical island-dwelling denizens with little clothing and spectacular talent for choreography, and a pair of foot-tall "Fairies" known as the Shoubijin (played by the world-famous-in-Japan singing duo The Peanuts—think of Pink Lady, but with talent). Nelson abducts the Shoubijin and brings them back to Japan, presenting them in a theater show. I guess he figured unlike that guy with the monkey in New York, two little singing fairies can't do too much damage.

Oh, Nelson, you poor stupid foreign bastard.

The lovely song the fairies sing on stage, and almost constantly in their spare time, is a psychic call for help to their island's deity and protector, Mothra. They're basically guiding Mothra to them with these secret messages (Mosura code, if you will). Back on the island, the natives get a production number going that would put those Indonesian prisoners to shame, and awaken their god, who hatches from a huge egg as what looks like a gigantic silkworm. Following the Shoubijin's melodic GPS, she makes a bee-line (possibly the only insect pun I will use in this column) to Japan to save them. She goes through Tokyo like a house afire, finally resting against Tokyo Tower and building a cocoon.

One attempt to burn down the cocoon later (an elated news reporter, believing they have succeeded in defeating the monster, declares it "a great day for the Atomic Ray Gun"), Mothra breaks free as an adult winged creature, and starts raging all over the city, finally heading for the major Rolisican metropolis New Kirk City. Carrying through the differences between Mothra and the earlier Kaiju eiga Mothra is not killed or defeated at the end, she wins. The fairies are liberated from Nelson's captivity and are returned to Mothra, who leaves in peace and returns them all to Infant Island.

Mosura ya Mosura
Dongan kasakuyan Indo muu
Rusuto uiraadoa
Hanba hanbamuyan
Randa banunradan
Tounjukanraa
Kasaku yaanmu
Mothra O Mothra
If we were to call for help
Over time
Over sea
Like a wave you'd come
Our guardian angel
Mothra is well known not only for her colorful plumage, but her various lovely songs, usually sung by the Shoubijin / Peanuts. Mothra's Song is likely the one most recognized, written in Malaysian to give it a foreign feel to the Japanese audience, the harmonies of The Peanuts transform it into a lovely ditty that you can't help humming. Introduced in Godzilla vs. The Thing, Mahara Mosura is equally lovely, having a slight more hymn-like tone, befitting a song for a god.

Mothra has proven as successful a character as Godzilla himself. She's appeared in all three eras of eiga film, the original Showa series, the more recent Heisei era, starting in 1984, and the current "Millennium". She's also gotten her own spinoff series of films, known in the US as the "Rebirth" series. In them, Mothra is the sole protector of the Earth, and no other of the Toho monsters appear. She fights two different versions of monsters based on the popular villain King Ghidorah, but new monsters nevertheless. Mothra gets various forms in the films, more armored designs, one that can travel underwater, and even a male incarnation.

Glad she's on our side, but keep her away from your clothes!
Considering how fragile real moths and butterflies are, it's all the more surprising that a monster based on one would prove so resilient, appearing in more films than any other; in fact, Mothra just celebrated its 50th anniversary!

36 comments:

  1. Every time I watch "The Thing from Another World" I fall for a different fella (and I've watched it innumerable times). The last couple of years it's been Eddie who has my heart.

    "The Thing from the World" scared the bejeezus out of my daughter when she was about five. I think it was the theremin. I couldn't get her to give it another try until she was 20. She only did it to stop my whining, but has become another fan.

    A well-told story is always in fashion.

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  2. Caftan Woman, I hear ya! THE THING... was made back when men were men and not just aging boys, know what I mean? Having said that, I must admit I'm always drawn most strongly to either the funny, cuddly guys like Mac, or the tall gangly smart-alecks like Scotty. (Happily, my husband Vinnie is a wonderful combination of both. :-))

    I don't blame your daughter for being spooked by THE THING.... as a child. We've all been there, believe me! Our longtime pal Michael Wolff, who weighs in on TotED from time to time, says his now-grownup son was spooked by...

    *SPOILER ALERT FOR FOLKS WHO NEVER SAW SPELLBOUND!*

    ...the scene in Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND where Gregory Peck remembers the locked-in memory of his young brother's accidental death by impaling!

    *END SPOILER ALERT!*

    I'm with you, Caftan Woman: a well-told story is indeed always in fashion! Thanks for being the first to join in the Blogathon conversation!

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  3. Is it odd that I remember the two little fairies better than I do Mothra itself? I dunno, Mothra never left as big an impression on me as a kid than Godzilla, but I never thought this was a bad movie.

    Howard Hawks was amazing. I knew he directed all those different movies, but it never really hit me that he worked in so many different genres until I recently read an article in a film book about him. Not many directors are that versatile.

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  4. THE THING is one of my all time favorite films. In fact, I just recently got the dvd (on sale for practically nothing) and was watching it late last night when I fell asleep. Hey, I'm old. But I plan on watching it again and again.

    I'd always thought that Christian Nyby was responsible for the wonderful dialogue by-play, the overlapping and all, but now I'm learning it was really Howard Hawk's hand in the mix. Good to know. This is one of the things that distinguishes the film for me - from other monster fests and such in which the dialogue was usually so stilted.

    There are so many 'things' about this film to like. It really is a classic. I've seen it with some added scenes which were originally cut. The scene with Kenneth Tobey tied up by Sheridan is not in every version. There's also some by play between them which is occasionally cut, but you probably already know that Dorian.

    I love the guy who plays Scotty too. And the crazed scientist, Dr. Carrington - jeez. And Dewey Martin, one of the flyboys. Hubba-hubba.

    My favorite scene is the one where Sheridan's character throws gasoline at the monster as he enters the living quarters, he then catches fire and dives through a window to escape. Great scene with a natural, almost impromptu feel to it.

    Great review as always, Dorian.

    Vinnie, I'm sorry to say I don't share your enthusiasm for MOTHRA - though I did see it many years ago. Still, I enjoyed reading your review and comments, especially the song lyrics.

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  5. Rich, I don't blame you for remembering the fairies better than Mothra; those gals were pretty darn memorable! :-) And I agree about Howard Hawks' versatility, for sure! Thanks for putting in your two cents!

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  6. I love John Carpenter's The Thing, so I really want to see The Thing from Another World. As you mentioned, I've heard that Carpenter's version is closer to the original short story, but it would be interesting to see an earlier take on it.
    Also, Douglas Spencer's last credit was on the Twilight Zone episode "Mr. Dingle the Strong" which starred Burgess Meredith.

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  7. Yvette, I'm pleased to hear you enjoyed so many of aspects of the original (and uncut) THING as much as Vinnie and I do! It's OK, you're allowed to prefer the original THING over MOTHRA -- but I must warn you, our daughter actually owns a plush Mothra toy; cute li'l dickens, too :-). And how could I forget to cite the ever-excellent Dewey Martin? A thousand pardons, my friend. Thanks for your praise and your enjoyable comments, Yvette, as always!

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  8. RVChris, great to see you joining the conversation here again! I'll be very interested to hear what you think of the original THING once you see it, since you saw John Carpenter's remake first. Each version of the story is strikingly different, but I feel that both versions are entertaining and well worth seeing in their different ways.

    Thanks for the tip about the late Douglas Spencer's last credit on THE TWILIGHT ZONE. I've heard about the episode, but never had a chance to give it my undivided attention -- I'll fix that ASAP! :-)

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  9. Hey, gang, please welcome Michael Parent to our funky fresh Followers!

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  10. This is definitely the best sex in the North Pole movie ever made! Seriously,Hawks is one of my favorite directors and as you rightly point out his signature is all over this film. A great film and your terrific sense of humor shines through here loud ane clear.

    While I have heard of MOTHRA, this is still one I need to catch.

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  11. John, you had me at "This is definitely the best sex in the North Pole movie ever made!" :-) Thanks for your praise and the pre-bedtime belly-laugh; I'm delighted that you enjoyed my THING post!

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  12. Dorian, I thoroughly enjoyed your review of THE THING! Although I've come to appreciate Carpenter's version more (it took a few years), the original was surely one of the most influential of all sci fi films. We have the scientists vs. the military theme, the foreboding warnings about what man has brought upon himself, the social undercurrents, etc. But all that aside, it's a fast-paced thriller in an isolated setting--and that's what appeals to me most about the film. As for MOTHRA, I must admit Vinnie that I was never a fan. In the end, she's just a giant catepillar/moth! Granted, in later films, she's the monster that brokers deal between Godzilla, Rodan et al. when it comes to ganging up against a baddie like the three-headed Ghidorah. On her own, she just isn't compelling and the twin fairies are a bit annoying. That said, your review was most entertaining and it was a blast to read the translation of the Mothra song!

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  13. Rick, many thanks for your praise of Team Bartilucci's THING/MOTHRA post! You made excellent points about how Hawks and company skillfully addressed the complex themes running throughout THE THING..., but didn't forget to make it good suspenseful fun as well. On my better half's behalf, we're glad you enjoyed Vinnie's MOTHRA review and song translation even if you're not heavily into Japanese fairies and giant heroic moths! :-)

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  14. Excuse me while I bang my head against the wall for not seeing either of these films...

    I mean...I've seen plenty of Howard Hawks films AND quite a few daikaiju films in my day...

    Oh well...regardless, you two have once again proven to be the best husband/wife blogger team out there! We're blessed to have you participating in our blogathon!

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  15. Re: Thing

    "...but to their astonishment, the ship actually burns beneath the ice, then explodes. So much for subtlety!"

    "Ah, but our movie is called The Thing from Another World and not, say, Baby, It’s Cold Outside."

    I love the way you write. This review's got everything. Humor, enthusiasm, insight, and knowledge. I enjoyed this mightily.

    Re: Mothra

    Since I'm not familiar with the daikaiju films, this was for me, a fascinating glimpse into a different subset of the genre. It's interesting that Mothra began as a protector. Of course, why a giant moth should be the protector, I don't know but who argues with success? All this and singing fairies too.

    Thank you for this intriguing look at a monster mommy. It's a nice change of pace from the other monsters I've been reading about in this blogathon.

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  16. Nate, O Fearless Blogathon Leader, don't be so hard on yourself; even the most determined of us movie fans and bloggers only have so much time in any given day, and you're doing a great job! Think how happy you'll be when you finally have a chance to relax and watch THE THING... and MOTHRA at your leisure! :-) Thanks a million for your kind words about our post; this husband/wife blogger team is happy to know you and be part of your awesome Blogathons!

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  17. Rachel, thank you kindly for your enthusiastic kudos about our posts about THE THING... and MOTHRA, the latter being particular dear to Vinnie's heart! I'm flattered and delighted that you enjoy my writing style as much as I enjoy yours; your '50s Blogathon post about CURSE/NIGHT OF THE DEMON blew me away!

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  18. George Fenneman as a scientist. Just one of the many reasons why I love The Thing From Another World so.

    And Robert Cornthwaite is a longtime TDOY fave--he's got a resume as long as your arm but for some odd reason I always remember him as one of the myriad mayors in Rome, WI on the TV show Picket Fences. I love the sledgehammer subtlety of Hawks as he choose to costume Cornthwaite's professor character in a fur hat as to suggest he's some sort of Commie (let's face it--if there's a more pro-military sci-fi films than The Thing I haven't gotten around to seeing it).

    I know I've seen Mothra, but most of the film has retreated into the dim recesses of my mind, so I will definitely have to revisit it soon.

    Oh, and I didn't quite understand what you guys meant when you wrote on the blog about our mutual co-option of Looney Tunes references until I saw the “I’m sorry, you Thing from another world you, the lady of the house ain’t home, and besides, we mailed you people a check last week!” caption. I've always believe that I had I not been exposed to Bugs Bunny at such an early age I might have become a more productive member of society.

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  19. In 1972 I attended a Howard Hawks retrospective at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Afterward, during the Q&A with Hawks himself, I got in the very first question: "Who actually directed The Thing; was it you or Christian Nyby?" I remember to this day his exact words: "I acted on that picture as producer and a sort of casting director. Chris had been the cutter on some of my pictures and I thought he deserved a chance to direct. And I think he should get the credit for it." Only later did I realize that Hawks hadn't answered my question -- had in fact neatly sidestepped it.

    When the Canadian magazine Take One published a transcript of the Q&A, they added the sentence "He certainly did direct it," which Hawks absolutely never said. I wrote Take One to set them straight, and added that while Hawks's modesty was commendable, it's clear from a comparison of the two men's careers that The Thing profited more from Hawks's presence than it did from Nyby's.

    Another great post, you two!

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  20. Ivan, we enjoyed hearing your thoughts about THE THING and Robert Cornthwaite's career. It would be interesting to see who among us here knew Cornthwaite's work from, say, PICKET FENCES before they knew him from THE THING... Great catch on Dr. Carrington's "Commie"-ish fur hat as an implication that perhaps he's not to be trusted! :-)

    Sorry to have momentarily and unwittingly confused you with my Bugs Bunny caption for the scene with The Thing waiting at the door; it's one of the few drawbacks when you wind up reading Blogathon posts out of order. In Team Bartilucci's opinion, being exposed to Bugs Bunny and company at an early age is a guarantee you'll grow up to be a witty, smart-alecky yet winsome guy/gal about town -- our kind of people! :-)

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  21. Jim, thanks for your praise of our THING post, as well as sharing your delightful anecdote about Howard Hawks at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Gotta hand it to Hawks, the way he nimbly sidestepped the question of who'd really directed THE THING...! We always enjoy your wonderful film-related anecdotes. Have you considered writing a book? I bet it would be great!

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  22. Frankly I'm surprised so few people admit to having seen MOTHRA. But, then again, it was a staple of the classic days of late night genre movie broadcasting (which are, alas, long gone). Once the remake with Kiefer Sutherland is made, doubtless that version will achieve prominence.

    OK, enough of the Sarcasm Channel ("call your cable provider for details . . ."). Only the Japanese could succeed at making a moth larva appear threatening, and Ishiro Honda manages it with poetic style. Not only that, MOTHRA provided at least This Viewer with his first look at Tokyo Tower (which would be abused/destroyed/wrecked in so many other daikaiju films. I wouldn't be surprised if, upon visiting Tokyo, I found signs at the Tower indicating "Monster Parking"). Plus the usual assembly of Honda's "Daikaiju Mafia" ensemble among the cast (e.g. Ken Uehara, Takashi Shimura, etc.).

    And, of course, the first appearance of the Shobijin (here played by Emi and Yumi Ito). "Pink Lady with talent", Vinnie. Me-YOW! Who among us can't see Mothra crawling ponderously about the studio model landscape of Japan without hearing the "Mothra Song" in our heads?

    Going on, briefly, to THE THING. Like you, Dorian, I've always been impressed by Hawks' skill at producing realistic dialogue with his actors. In this (my first introduction to Hawks' work) it really stands out. This is the way people actually talk, and it adds a nice dollop of verisimilitude to the film. Which especially helps, given some of the lines in the film. I always cringe whenever I listen to Douglas Spencer's signature speech at the climax of the movie. "Ark of wood/arc of electricity" . . . peee-yooooo! No wonder he's a reporter reduced to sniffing around the Arctic for stories.

    That aside, I've also appreciated THE THING for being able to produce genuine thrills on a low budget (something which never fails to impress me). The gimmick with tracking the alien's movement via Geiger counter was a clever touch (as well as one which helped to build suspense). Having the action reduced to the confines of a research base was also a good (and probably cost-effective) notion, paving the way for later works such as Ridley Scott's ALIEN and Eugenio Martin's HORROR EXPRESS.

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  23. Michael, your commentary and witty asides are always a delight to read, and your comments on THE THING... and MOTHRA are perfect examples of same! We're especially pleased that you had so much to say about MOTHRA. As for THE THING..., don't be too hard on Scotty's "ark of wood/arc of electricity" bit -- remember, he's been through plenty in this movie, and had a fainting spell to boot! What he and the rest of the gang need now is a nice vacation in Accra, with Nikki in a figure-flattering swimsuit! :-) Thanks for your entertaining and enlightening contributions to the conversation, Michael; drop by anytime!

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  24. Great double post! THE THING is one of my favorites from one of my favorite directors. One of the things I love about Hawks is the great ensemble performances he got out of his casts; his use of repartee always marks his films. Another that I like is how he always uses space; watching a Hawks film is not watching a series of close-ups. He knows how to arrange his actors in space/setting. I agree that THE THING is Hawks all the way; maybe he was being a gentleman when he was asked that question about Nyby.

    It's been a while since I've seen Mothra, but your review brought it back for me. I like your point about Mothra being one of the few monster films in which the monster survives; she's really the heroine! (And I always root for the monster, anyway; after all, they have a right to their point of view!) Another monster film that has a similar ending that I can think of is GORGO, when the mother Gorgo rescues her baby from the bad humans who captured it, and they both return to their undersea home--a nice ending!

    BTW, where can I get that Mothra plush toy you mentioned...?

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  25. Hey, GOM, we're happy you enjoyed our THING/MOTHRA double-feature blog post -- many thanks! Glad we're in agreement about Hawks' effective use of dialogue and space in THE THING...; whenever I watch THE THING... or other Hawks films, I always feel like they're people I'd enjoy hanging out with in real life.

    Vinnie and I enjoyed your comments on MOTHRA, too, especially your excellent point about rooting for the monster in MOTHRA and other SF creature features -- you're right, even monsters have a right to their point of view! :-)

    Our daughter has had her plush Mothra for a couple of years now, so I must admit I can't recall offhand whether we bought the toy online on eBay, or if we found it on Amazon.com, but I've seen them available online for prices ranging from reasonable to outrageous! Here's a link to one of them; enjoy! :-)

    http://www.bbtoystore.com/store/TYCL_mothra.html

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  26. The Mothra song is an earworm of the first order (if you'll pardon the pun). Most of the first wave of kaiju films are quite beautiful, and Mothra is no exception. Honda was an amazing designer when it came to directing his films (something not lost on his friend, Akira Kurosawa, who hired him as a consultant on many of his late films).

    I don't have a lot to add to the discussion of The Thing. It's a great movie. But then, I'm a total Howard Hawks fangirl.

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  27. Vulnavia, thanks for your comments (loved your "earworm" quip), and your mention of Honda and Kurosawa working together. Between that and your admission of being a Howard Hawks fangirl like yours truly, you're a gal after my own heart! :-) I'll admit I only discovered your wonderful KRELL LABORATORIES blog over the course of Nate Hood's '50s Monster Mash Blogathon (as a FORBIDDEN PLANET fan, I couldn't help but be intrigued), but now that I've found your site, I look forward to dropping by from time to time! :-)

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  28. I just wrote the most complimentary comment, and was kicked out by the revolt of my own fingers -- I accidentally hit on something that took me completely back to the main menu. Well, it's 5:00am, my fingers are mad at me for making them work.

    Basically, you guys did a great job on two favorite movies of mine. I LOVE your article title for The Thing, Dorian. Just being reminded of that little martian in Bugs Bunny makes me laugh. I know what Ivan means, but I think Bugs Bunny and Daffy have enriched my brain immeasurably! lOL! LIke you, I think the remake of the Thing was excellent, but this was first for me, and the actors all were like being trapped with old friends.

    Mothra was equally well done, Vinnie. It figures that some business guy would think it a good idea to take the little twins away to display them for profit. Didn't he learn anything from King Kong? Idiot! I have a question for a Japanese monster expert like you. I think one of my favoites is claled Monster Zero - where another planet calls Godzilla that, and all the monsters are in it. Am I remembering that right?

    Kudos to the team. Wonderful job!

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  29. Becky - Monster Zero was how King Ghidorah was referred to in his second appearance, "Godzilla vs. Monster Zero", known in Japan as "Great Monster War", and also known in the US as "Invasion of Astro-Monster) (go figure) The aliens give everything number-codes, and refer to Godzilla as "Monster Zero-One", and Rodan as "Monster Zero-Two".

    A great training ground for the other super-mega crossovers "Destroy All Monsters" and the more recent "Godzilla: Final Wars" which even featured the American GINO (Godzilla-In-Name-Only), which Big G hilariously defeats in literally three seconds with one tail swipe.

    They've given the utz to GINO a couple of times in the recent films - in an earlier one, two soldiers are talking, one saying he'd heard Godzilla had attacked New York recently, and the other saying "no, it turns out it wasn't really him"

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  30. Becky, I loved your enthusiastic, rollicking comments on Team Bartilucci's THING/MOTHRA post -- beaucoup thanks for your praise, my friend! We're suckers for Looney Tunes around here, especially Bugs Bunny. For that matter, Warner Bros. characters always appeal to me, with their cocky zaniness and streetwise qualities. Marvin the Martian is one of our favorites among Bugs' foils! Also, I agree about Nelson in MOTHRA snatching the hapless fairies -- what an idiot, thinking he could just make off with those dear little fairies sans consequences! Don't guys like that ever watch monster movies? :-) Always a delight to have you join in the conversation, Becky -- drop in any old time!

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  31. Hey, gang, please welcome Vulnavia Morbius as TotED's newest Follower! If by some twist of fate you haven't yet read and fallen in love with Vulnavia's awesome blog KRELL LABORATORIES (a name which surely rings a bell with you fans of the SF classic FORBIDDEN PLANET), check out her link:

    http://krelllabs.blogspot.com/

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  32. I've really gotta see this, been meaning to for a long time. George A. Romero said it was his fave horror movie of all time after all.

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  33. Mr. Xploit, Esquire (great moniker!), if the original THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD was good enough for the great George A. Romero, it's good enough for you, too! :-) If/when you see both the original THING and the 1982 John Carpenter remake, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on them both. Thanks for joining in the conversation!

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  34. "Thing" was pretty much ruined for me once they said the alien was made of vegetable matter. All I could picture after that was a giant walking carrot. Even when the alien actually appeared.

    Those little singing ladies in "Mothra" are two of my favorite movie characters. They're so charming!

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  35. KC, I'll admit it's not always easy to look at an evil interplanetary walking carrot monster with a straight face. But then, we of Team Bartilucci have a knack for suspending disbelief! :-) And yes, we love the singing MOTHRA fairies, too! Thanks for joining the conversation!

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  36. As of today, October 5th, 2011, John Carpenter will be hosting a night of his favorite movies, including THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, starting at 8:00 p.m. EST! The other films are "IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE at 9:45 p.m.; THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN at 11 p.m. EST; and one you might not expect but is most welcome: Howard Hawks' RIO BRAVO at 12:30 a.m. EST! Enjoy!

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