Filmsite Movie Review
The Thing (From Another World) (1951)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

The Destructive Thing - Scientists Attacked and Killed:

As they discussed the urgent messages, a badly-injured Dr. Stern staggered in from the greenhouse and fainted. A serious public address warning was broadcast to the camp as an alert: "Attention, everybody in camp. Stay where you are and bolt your doors. Our visitor has returned and is dangerous. Stay where you are until notified and bolt your doors."

Stern announced how he and two other scientists in the greenhouse (Dr. Olson and Dr. Auerbach) were attacked by the Thing after a blast of cold air. The others were left hanging upside down with their throats slit: ("They were both hanging from the beams upside down. They were dead. Their throats were cut"). They had been positioned so that their blood could trickle down and feed the alien’s spawn.

During a tense sequence, Hendry with his team raced back to the greenhouse. Although discouraged, Scotty followed behind: "I want to get a picture." In the next startling moment, when Hendry ordered the team to open the greenhouse front door -- they were shocked that The Thing was right on the other side of the door. It was a major 'jump-scare' moment.

When attacked by the Frankenstein-like boogeyman, Hendry managed to slam the door shut briefly on the creature's left arm, which had regenerated. Bob shot through the door with an automatic rifle before the team shored it up with boards to stop the creature from breaking through. There were only two entrances (a front and rear door to the greenhouse), and no other entryways, and the walls were solid corrugated iron.

Hendry scolded Carrington for endangering and sacrificing the lives of his comrades and sled dogs:

"We just learned you found a dog in there, bled white by our visitor. You didn't report it, why?"

Carrington blithely responded: "I didn't consider it necessary" - but his irresponsibility had led to multiple deaths. Hendry described how he had seen the scientists hanging from the ceiling just the way Stern had described: "They're hanging upside down like in a slaughterhouse. I wish you'd seen it...They're dead and our job is to see nobody else joins them." Hendry ordered Carrington to be quarantined and stripped of his authority: "You're limited to your room, laboratory and the mess hall until this thing is finished." Carrington objected: "You have no authority of any kind to issue this order. No right to assume..." Meanwhile, the greenhouse's rear door was blocked with 20 or 30 oil drums and tons of snow and ice - so the Thing could be held captive and blocked from exiting the greenhouse for the time being.

Dr. Carrington's Thwarting of the Search for The Thing:

However, Dr. Carrington was unwilling to respond to reason or to stop his advocacy for preserving the "more powerful and intelligent" Thing, for the sake of scientific progress. He quietly and secretly assembled together in his laboratory's nursery all of the surviving research scientists, and defended his right to continue his dangerous experimentation with the seed pods from the Thing:

"Gentlemen, we find ourselves in a battle. I'm not referring to the minor argument with Capt. Hendry, but this creature from a new world. Two of our colleagues have died, a third is injured. Those are our losses, and there may be more. This creature is more powerful and more intelligent than we are. He regards us as important only for his nourishment. He has the same attitude toward us as we have toward a field of cabbages. That is our battle. Only science can conquer him. All other weapons will be powerless, only - there must, there must be a way. I'm trying to..."

Due to his exhaustion from lack of sleep, the single-focused doctor had his secretary Nikki read from his notes, about how at 9 pm, he had planted the seed pods from X's (the Thing's) severed hand into four inches of soil, and then saturated the earth with a diet of two units of plasma blood from the infirmary's blood bank. "The condition of the dog found in the greenhouse indicated that blood was a primal factor in the cultivation of the seeds." At 2 am (in only five hours time), after feeding the pods 2 more units of blood - the first sprouts appeared through the soil. And by 4 am, they multiplied at a spectacular rate and took on a more distinctive shape. To waylay their skepticism, he felt compelled to have them "judge for yourselves." He led the group into a nursery with a large earthen bed filled with newly-sprouted "super-human" sapling plants growing at an "amazing speed." It confirmed Hendry's observation that the Thing had grown a new arm. The ones closest to the source of the blood plasma were reproducing the fastest.

The plants appeared to be inhaling and exhaling ("pulsating... as though they were breathing") - and Carrington demonstrated with a stethoscope how one could hear them. They were wailing like new-born babies hungry for food, as Dr. Wilson (Everett Glass) described: "Almost like the wail of a newborn child that's hungry."

Some of the other scientists were repulsed by the callous disregard of the exhausted and crazed doctor for the lives of his colleagues. Dr. Wilson and Dr. Redding reminded Carrington that he had neglected the ramifications of growing the seed pods:

"You aren't thinking of what's happening there in the greenhouse. He's growing those seeds in there using blood. Just as you are. You've seen what one creature like that can do. Just imagine a thousand....Arthur, what if that aircraft came here not just to visit the Earth but to conquer it? To start growing some kind of horrible army? To turn the human race into food for it?"

Carrington was undeterred: "There are many things threatening our world - new stars, comets shooting through space...", but the disapproving Dr. Wilson went further: "But those are theories. This is an enemy right here." Carrington replied that scientists were the world's saviors: "There are no enemies in science, Professor, only phenomena to study. We are studying one."

One of the side-effects of Carrington's experimentation was his unauthorized use of the base's basic supply of blood plasma that was now scarce and was needed to treat Stern's injuries. Hendry noticed that a supply of 35 units of blood plasma brought two months earlier were almost depleted. In its place, two team volunteers were forced to donate their own blood for transfusions for Stern.

Nikki felt compelled to betray her boss' orders and reveal Carrington's notes (that she was supposed to type up privately) to Hendry. But then, she softened the harshness of her feelings toward Carrington by mentioning that sleep deprivation had led to his extreme experiments (viewed as childish):

Nikki: "He's tired. He hasn't slept since you found that Thing. And he's not thinking right. I know him, and he doesn't think the way we do anyway. But he's found something that no one can understand. And until he can solve it, he'Il... You know, like a kid with a new toy."
Hendry: "Only this toy's liable to bite him."

Hendry again confronted Dr. Carrington about his "gardening" project in the nursery, who took no blame for what had happened in the greenhouse. Dr. Chapman (and others) criticized Carrington for disregarding all of his colleagues and endangering everyone, by considering his experiments "harmless":

"We're facing something unpredictably dangerous. The creature in the greenhouse is obviously multiplying itself in this identical fashion. And we have no way of finding out how much it can multiply. It will need more blood and will make every effort to obtain what it needs....How can you be sure of our safety? Or more important, the safety of the world? Think of a thousand such creatures, ten thousand. Yes, it must be destroyed, and this progeny along with it."

Hendry ordered the destruction of the plants by fire ("Burn these"), and the destruction of the creature that was captured in the greenhouse. Of course, Carrington refused to buckle and stop his research experiments, calling the team sissy: "You're talking like frightened school-boys...Any destruction would be an outrage - a betrayal of science." Hendry jabbed back: "It may be a betrayal of science, Doctor, but it'll make me and some of the others sleep alot better if we get rid of it."

Their argument was interrupted by another radio message from Fogarty. The Brigadier General over-ruled Hendry by ordering that the alien must be preserved:

"Carrington informs me Martian alive. You are directed to make every effort to keep it alive and protect it against injury. Under no circumstances take action against it until my arrival when weather permits."

Carrington felt vindicated and validated, and considered the orders "sane and intelligent."

Strategies to Combat the Thing - Incineration and Electrocution

The strategy ordered by Brig. General Fogarty wasn't fully practical, given the nature of the threat at the base as the temperature continued to drop. In response, Capt. Hendry called his military team together to assemble in the mess hall, including those from the frigid "outside guard" who had been posted around the greenhouse. Two guards in the inner hallway leading to the greenhouse would remain in place, while the two outdoor guards were dropped. Scotty asked hypothetically: "What happens if our boyfriend gets Ionely and starts strolling around and ends up in here? What do we do?" Nothing seemed to hurt the Thing or deter it. Scotty then asked:

"What do you do with a vegetable?"

Nikki inspired one solution to rid them of the Thing: "Boil it. Stew it. Bake it. Fry it." Others concurred that incineration was a possibility because: "Cold doesn't bother it." Scotty again quipped: "Maybe Dr. Carrington will ask it to crawl into a double boiler, or maybe you could borrow a flamethrower from somebody." Bob proposed a way to combat the Thing - douse it with kerosene and set it on fire to bake and fry it alive - to cook it to death: "What about throwing kerosene on it and setting it on fire?"

At that moment, Bob's Geiger counter began to pick up the monstrous creature's movements with clicks and flashes - and it was heading in their direction, after escaping from the greenhouse. Geiger counter readings were read off outloud (from .3 to 1.9) - as the creature got closer and closer - in the suspenseful and thrilling sequence.

[Note: This same technique was later copied by the Alien films, notably Ridley Scott's Alien (1979).]

When the tall monstrous creature (TV's future Gunsmoke star James Arness) finally appeared (at the 70 minute mark of the 87 minute-long film), it was located outside the closed doorway of the mess hall. When it burst into the darkened room and howled, it was doused by pails filled with kerosene and set ablaze with a Veri pistol flare gun. It swatted away at the men while on fire, and eventually found an escape by jumping headfirst through a window into a pile of snow. It doused some of the flames before running off. During the scary assault, Barnes busted his left arm (when he tripped over a bunk bed) and was being treated, while Hendry had a bruised hand. Scotty later told how he missed getting a picture: "I shot one while I was falling backward over the bed. Probably got the ceiling and my own big feet."

The attempt to burn the creature with kerosene only slowed it down and resulted in burning down much of the entire room, according to Hendry:

Hendry: "We found a way to fight this Thing off, but we burned out a room doing it. I don't think it was hurt much, judging from the way it took off."
Scotty: "About as much effect as a good hot foot."
Hendry: "And it's sure to come back here again. We don't want to burn up the whole place, so as soon as we're organized, we're going after it. It probably went back to the greenhouse, so we'll start there."

In a narrow greenhouse hallway, the crew readied themselves to face off again against the creature. Intercoms were installed in two locations, with electrical connections. It dawned on Dr. Redding that rather than risking the destruction of more of the structure with kerosene that they use electricity - something hotter to electrocute the Thing: "Why not use electricity?...We can hook in a new transformer....It's a high-voltage outfit and it will give us plenty of amps."

Meanwhile, Tex was encouraged to request weapons from Anchorage: "Get Anchorage if you can. Tell them the whole story. Tell them we're in bad shape and the sooner they get here the better. Tell them to bring hand grenades, mortars, flamethrowers, anything they can think of." Scotty was still complaining about not being able to transmit his story. It was discovered that the indoor temperature was dropping and they would freeze to death inside in about a half an hour - and it was 60 degrees below outside. The cause was that the oil supply to the base's heating system had been cut off (even though the tank had been filled only two days earlier). They speculated that the outside control valve for the oil line had been sabotaged. Anyone who would attempt to venture outside to restore the oil flow might be ambushed or killed: (Hendry: "Probably run smack into our visitor. He's waiting for you to do just that"). It was feared that the creature was actually demonstrating its intelligence: "We underestimate this guy." To warm up, their only option was to use electrical heaters and blankets. They all fled to the high-voltage generator room for greater protection.

Their next strategy to kill the alien visitor was to use a massive jolt of electricity. Taking over Hendry's authority, Bob's idea was to "run a lead overhead and one on each side, and when that Thing gets to the right spot, juice him." They devised a way to hook up electrical fence wiring to a grating beneath the floor - in essence, rigging up an "electric fly trap." By directing the creature down the narrow corridor or hallway toward the generator room, they could lure it onto the electrically-charged platform and electrocute it.

Everyone was directed to the generator room to await the creature's next attack. During the chaos of the move, Nikki responded to Hendry's wish ("I've given all the orders I wanna give for the rest of my life") by grinning and hinting: "If I thought that were true, I'd ask you to marry me." But then moments later, she teasingly called off her proposal: "Sorry, general. Changed my mind. It's all off."

Another message arrived from General Fogarty: "Use every means to protect lives of entire party, but take no steps against your prisoner." Carrington was upset by their attempt to kill the creature, and Hendry's blatant disregard of his commanding officer's orders. Hendry responded: "You can testify to that effect at my court-martial." Carrington defended his scientific research - derailing the team's efforts to kill the Thing:

Carrington: "You're robbing science of the greatest secret that's ever come to it...Knowledge is more important than life, Captain. We've only one excuse for existing. To think. To find out. To learn."
Scotty: "What can we learn from that Thing, except a quicker way to die?"
Carrington: "It doesn't matter what happens to us. Nothing counts except our thinking. We fought our way into nature. We've split the atom..."
--- (sarcastically): "Yes, and that sure made the world happy, didn't it?"
Carrington: "We owe it to the brain of our species to stand here and die - without destroying a source of wisdom....Civilization has given us orders."

As the alien Thing menacingly and slowly approached closer and closer to the electrical trigger-trap (indicated again by increasing Geiger counter readings), it was strategized that the group in the darkened hallway might lure the Thing toward the trap by having it chase them ("Don't move till he sees us. Give him a chance to get a look"). They chatted nervously as the Thing moved toward them, and worried if they had enough voltage to shock the creature. Suddenly, the Thing appeared at the end of the long corridor - growling and smashing through a small barricade of boards. As it stomped forward toward the small group awaiting there, the lights turned off. Nikki yelled out that Carrington had cut the power.

In the darkness of the generator room, illuminated only by a spotlight circle from a flashlight, Carrington was seen brandishing a gun and threatening: "I won't allow you to destroy..." but he was overpowered and restrained, and the power was restored. Carrington then rushed out of the room and down the hallway to the creature, where he tried to talk intelligently at it - desperately pleading and espousing that they could be friends:

"Listen, I'm your friend. Look, I have no weapons. I'm your friend. You're wiser than I. You must understand what I'm trying to tell you. Don't go any farther. They'll kill you. They think you mean to harm us all. But I want to know you, to help you. Believe that. You're wiser than anything on Earth. Use that intelligence. Look and you know what I'm trying to tell you. I'm not your enemy. I'm a scientist. I'm a scientist who's trying..."

The Thing was disinterested and harshly brushed Carrington to the floor with one swing of his arm.

In the thrilling conclusion in the hallway, when the alien walked onto the grid-trap hidden beneath a wooden plank walkway, Hendry activated the electrical switch, and the creature was electrocuted by three large arcs of electricity (one for each extended arm, and one directed at his head), and he was slowly reduced to disintegrating ashes. Scotty was permitted to take a picture, but fainted backwards.

Afterwards, everything was destructively burned (off-screen) in Carrington's lab and in the greenhouse, including the seedlings and the severed arm. Carrington himself had suffered a broken collarbone "and a bad headache."

In the midst of the men after some good old-fashioned ribbing about Hendry's new relationship, Nikki arrived with a coffee pot and made some suggestive comments about how the two of them could now be together and possibly settle down for marriage. She received playful and helpful advice from the other men when she asked: "I'm getting pretty fed up with the North Pole. How much does a Captain make a month?...Enough to support two people?" Hendry was advised to get married by his comrades: "You ought to settle down....It'd be so much better for us....Sure, a Captain always flitting around and getting into trouble....He oughta light somewhere." Nikki concurred that Hendry should follow their suggestions: "See, they know what's best for you."

The Concluding Report and Ominous Broadcast:

Now that the radio transmitter was working properly, reporter Scotty was allowed to file his report by contacting his crowded newsroom in Anchorage. He first reported on what had happened during his momentous Polar Expedition, dated November 3rd, from the North Pole:

"One of the world's greatest battles was fought and won today by the human race. Here at the top of the world, a handful of American soldiers and civilians met the first invasion from another planet. A man by the name of Noah once saved our world with an ark of wood. Here at the North Pole a few men performed a similar service with an arc of electricity. The flying saucer, which landed here, and its pilot - have been destroyed. But not without casualties among our own meager forces. I would like to bring to the microphone some of the men responsible for our success. But our Senior Air Force Captain Hendry is attending to demands over and above the call of duty. Dr. Carrington, the leader of the scientific expedition, is recovering from wounds received in the battle....And now, before giving you the details of the battle - "

Then, in the film's last lines of dialogue, he closed his broadcast from the North Pole about America's 50s-style (and his own) suspicions about the world - during the emerging nuclear age and the threat of ICBM missile strikes. He called for fearful awareness of the doom-threatening geo-political atmosphere:

"- I bring you a warning. Everyone of you listening to my voice, tell the world. Tell this to everybody wherever they are. Watch the skies! Everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!"

[Note: the chilling warning foreshadowed Dr. Miles Bennell's (Kevin McCarthy) similar: "They're here already! You're next! You're next, you're next..." in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).]

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