Film Review – THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951)

Image result for the thing from another worldTHE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (USA, 1951) ****½
      Distributor: RKO Radio Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures / Winchester Pictures Corporation; Release Date: 6 April 1951 (USA), 1 August 1952 (UK); Filming Dates: 25 October 1950 – 3 March 1951; Running Time: 87m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: PG – contains mild threat.
      Director: Christian Nyby; Writer: Charles Lederer (based on the story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr. (as Don A. Stuart)); Producer: Howard Hawks; Associate Producer: Edward Lasker; Director of Photography: Russell Harlan; Music Composer: Dimitri Tiomkin; Film Editor: Roland Gross; Art Director: Albert S. D’Agostino, John Hughes; Set Decorator: Darrell Silvera, William Stevens; Costumes: Michael Woulfe; Make-up: Lee Greenway; Sound: Phil Brigandi, Clem Portman; Special Effects: Donald Steward; Visual Effects: Linwood G. Dunn.
      Cast: Margaret Sheridan (Nikki Nicholson), Kenneth Tobey (Capt. Patrick Hendry), Robert Cornthwaite (Dr. Arthur Carrington), Douglas Spencer (Ned Scott), James Young (Lt. Eddie Dykes), Dewey Martin (Crew Chief Bob), Robert Nichols (Lt. Ken Erickson), William Self (Cpl. Barnes), Eduard Franz (Dr. Stern), Sally Creighton (Mrs. Chapman), James Arness (‘The Thing’). Uncredited: Edmund Breon (Dr. Ambrose), Nicholas Byron (Tex Richards), John Dierkes (Dr. Chapman), George Fenneman (Dr. Redding), Lee Tung Foo (Lee – a Cook), Paul Frees (Dr. Vorhees), Everett Glass (Dr. Wilson), ‘King Kong’ Kashey (Eskimo), David McMahon (Brig. Gen. Fogarty), Bill Neff (Bill Stone), Walter Ng (Second Cook), Charles Opunui (Eskimo), Norbert Schiller (Dr. Laurence), Robert Stevenson (Capt. Smith – Fogarty’s Aide), Riley Sunrise (Eskimo).
      Synopsis: Scientists and American Air Force officials fend off a blood-thirsty alien organism while at a remote arctic outpost.
      Comment: Although it plays loose with the source material this is a tense, tightly scripted and well-acted sci-fi that bears all the hallmarks of producer Hawks despite being credited as directed by his long-time editor Nyby. Hawks’ trademarks of overlapping dialogue and a strong female character (Sheridan) always ahead of her male suitor (Tobey) are immediately evident. The movie was to become a major influence on the sci-fi horror genre. Arness, in heavy make-up, is “The Thing” and Spencer’s warning to the world “Watch the skies” captures the political paranoia of the period.
      Notes: Re-issue version runs 81m. A remake, following the source material more closely, was released in 1982, which itself generated a prequel in 2011. The complete title of the viewed print was The Thing from Another World . In the opening credits, the words “The Thing” appear first in exaggerated, flaming type, followed by the words “from another world” in smaller, plain type. The picture was copyrighted in early Apr 1951 under the title The Thing . According to publicity materials contained in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library, producer Howard Hawks added the words “from another world” to avoid confusion with a novelty song entitled “The Thing,” which was a hit single at the time of the picture’s release. Margaret Sheridan, a former fashion model, made her screen debut in the picture.

Film Review – THE SEA CHASE (1955)

Image result for the sea chase 1955Sea Chase, The (1955; USA; WarnerColor; 117m) ***  d. John Farrow; w. James Warner Bellah, John Twist; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Roy Webb.  Cast: John Wayne, Lana Turner, David Farrar, Lyle Bettger, Tab Hunter, James Arness, Paul Fix, Alan Hale Jr., John Qualen, Claude Akins, Richard Davalos, Lowell Gilmore, Wilton Graff, Peter Whitney, Luis Van Rooten. As World War II begins, German freighter captain Karl Ehrlich tries to get his ship back to Germany through a gantlet of Allied warships. Interesting cat-an-mouse drama set at sea with Wayne in commanding form despite being cast as a German. Turner adds glamour as the love interest. Elements of the plotting are contrived, but the story maintains interest until its finale. Based on the novel by Andrew Geer. [U]

Film Review – HONDO (1953)

Image result for hondo 1953Hondo (1953; USA; Warnercolor; 83m) ****  d. John Farrow; w. James Edward Grant; ph. Robert Burks, Archie Stout; m. Hugo Friedhofer, Emil Newman.  Cast: John Wayne, Geraldine Page, Ward Bond, Michael Pate, Lee Aaker, James Arness, Paul Fix, Rodolfo Acosta, Leo Gordon, Tom Irish. An army despatch rider discovers a woman and her son living in the midst of warring Apaches, and he becomes their protector. Wayne in one of his best roles as drifter with Indian heritage. Page also impressive as the abandoned mother. Echoes of SHANE released a few months earlier. Great dialogue and well-choreographed action sequences add to impressive tale. Based on the story by Louis L’Amour. Film debut of Page. Originally filmed in 3-D. Followed by a TV series in 1967, two episodes of which were edited into the TV movie HONDO AND THE APACHES (1967). [PG]

Film Review – ISLAND IN THE SKY (1953)

John Wayne, Wally Cassell, and Jimmy Lydon in Island in the Sky (1953)Island in the Sky (1953; USA; B&W; 109m) ****  d. William A. Wellman; w. Ernest K. Gann; ph. Archie Stout; m. Emil Newman.  Cast: John Wayne, Lloyd Nolan, Walter Abel, James Arness, Andy Devine, Harry Carey Jr., Regis Toomey, Darryl Hickman, Paul Fix, Bob Steele. A C-47 transport plane makes a forced landing in the frozen wastes of Labrador, and the plane’s pilot must keep his men alive in deadly conditions while waiting for rescue. Well-acted drama with Wayne at his best as the pilot taking responsibility for the welfare of his men. The unforgiving landscape is authentically captured by Wellman and his cinematographer Stout. Abel, Nolan, Devine and Arness lead the rescue search. Gann adapted his own novel based on a real-life event during WWII. Reworked as FATE IS THE HUNTER (1964). [U]

Film Review – BIG JIM McLAIN (1952)

Image result for big jim mclain 1952Big Jim McLain (1952; USA; B&W; 90m)   d. Edward Ludwig; w. James Edward Grant, Richard English, Eric Taylor; ph. Archie Stout; m. Paul Dunlap, Arthur Lange, Emil Newman.  Cast: John Wayne, Nancy Olson, James Arness, Alan Napier, Veda Ann Borg, Hans Conried, Hal Baylor, Gayne Whitman, Gordon Jones, Robert Keys, John Hubbard, Soo Yong, Dan Liu, Peter Brocco, Franklyn Farnum. Two U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee investigators attempt to break up a ring of Communist Party troublemakers in Hawaii. Political messages replace the need for a gripping story in this decidedly dull vehicle for Wayne. The script is laboured and the direction flat. The performances are largely wooden. The love interest sub-plot for Wayne is uninvolving and the whole thing lacks a resolution. One of the few duds in Wayne’s career. Only plus is Hawaiian locations. [U]

Film Review – THEM! (1954)

Image result for them! 1954 blu-rayThem! (1954; USA; B&W; 94m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Gordon Douglas; w. Ted Sherdeman, Russell S. Hughes, George Worthing Yates; ph. Sid Hickox; m. Bronislau Kaper.  Cast: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness, Onslow Stevens, Chris Drake, Leonard Nimoy, Dub Taylor, Fess Parker. That ol’ cinematic devil the A-bomb has spawned a colony of giant murderous ants bent on destroying humanity in this, the seminal big bug movie (an obvious and oft-credited influence for ALIEN among countless others).  Influential sci-fi thriller capitalises on paranoia surrounding radiation fallout from the testing of atomic weapons – here mutating ants into giant killers. Arness and Whitmore make effective leads and Gwenn is good as the eccentric scientist. Good use of sound and lighting to maximise thrills. Fans of the later ALIENS (1986) may find certain similarities in the bug hunt. The sound that the giant ants make as they approach their prey is a recorded chorus of bird-voiced tree frogs (Hyla avivoca) of the southeastern US. Received an Oscar nomination for Best Special Effects. Warner’s highest-grossing film for the year. [PG]