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The Thing from Another World helped prove that a science fiction movie could not only be a quality film but could influence other movies inside and outside of its genre.
1. The director credit is debated.
While the film credits Christian Nyby as director and Howard Hawks as producer, some say Hawks played a larger role. Actor Robert Nichols said, “Mister Hawks himself directed every single scene involving the actors, and I have pictures to prove it.” However, Nyby stated that while he purposefully emulated Hawk’s style, he did the work by himself.
2. Dialogue was ad-libbed.
Nyby likened Hawks to Rembrandt and tried to “copy the master,” as he said. The “Hawkian” style is hard to miss with the witty lines and overlapping dialogue common in films such as His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby. According to Robert Nichols, that feeling was accomplished by improvising, which was very rare for a film at the time.
3. The source material was discovered... just like the thing.
Based on the 1938 novella “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr., the film expanded on the material to flesh out the plot. Interestingly, in 2018, it was discovered that the novella was actually part of a larger work entitled Frozen Hell. Biographer Alec Nevala-Lee, who discovered it in Campbell’s files, stated, "I don't think anybody had any idea that it existed." The novel was finally released in 2019.
4. The “Vegetable” man was played by two people.
Four years before starring in Gunsmoke, James Arness played the alien creature. His height – six feet six inches – certainly added to the extraterrestrial’s imposing image. When the creature met its demise, a shorter actor took his place to perform the stunt. The film was also one of the first to have a stuntman do a full-burn (or being completely set on fire).
5. They filmed inside the ice storage plant.
To get the effect of breath in cold air, they constructed sets inside a cold storage plant. Snow was added later as an effect. They also filmed at the RKO backlot and in Glacier National Park.