Watching Howard Hawks' The Thing From Another World (1951). Above: Dr. Carrington attempts to communicate with the monster, with disastrous results; below, in Prometheus (2012), Weyland attempts to communicate with the Engineer, which also ends badly. The Hawks-produced movie based on John W. Campbell's Who Goes There? (1938) is directed by Edward Lasker, or not, depending on who you read. It feels like a Hawks: rammed with characters and jibber-jabber to unintentionally comic effect. There are no close-ups, not even of the alien's disembodied hand which becomes reanimated after it's severed, the surrounding observers (nearly all talking roles) clustered like a Rembrandt:
The movie is more of a western than a sci-fi or horror. The Antarctic base looks like a homestead, there's a posse and a Rio Bravo-like siege. Captain Hendry and his airmen are all guts and thumbs. They use thermite to excavate the frozen spacecraft ("A million years of history are waiting for us in that ice!") which causes it to explode ("Well that's just dandy!"). They attack the alien with kerosene ("Here's where we start cooking!") and set fire to the hut. Hendry opens the door on the thing, closes it fast and everyone shoots at it forgetting they also have men posted on the other side of the wall ("Bob, next time raise the sights a little!"). The movie's Cold War message is not so much clear as embedded: alien invasion or not, our planet is not in good hands.
In between the yammering are the sequences that will inspire the original Alien and John Carpenter's 1982 remake, including a spooky corridor showdown that becomes genuinely dire when Dr Carrington tries to talk the monster down. (Goatee and significantly Russian-looking hat = doomed.) All three movies – the two Things and Alien – take inspiration from HP Lovecraft's equally disastrous trip to the ice At The Mountains of Madness (1931). But how funny to see Ridley Scott's Prometheus in it.