(In anticipation of the coolest day of the year, this month-long series will offer one recommended horror flick a day up through Oct. 31.)
THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951). Christian Nyby may be credited as director, but it's long been established that Howard Hawks (billed here as producer) was the one calling most of the shots on this horror/sci-fi hybrid. Certainly, the film fits right into his compendium of classics: Like Rio Bravo, The Big Sleep and oh-so-many-others, it features crackling dialogue, deliciously subversive humor, confident and competent heroes, and a healthy air of sexual playfulness between its romantic leads. Featuring James Arness (before Gunsmoke) as the deadly e.t. who makes life difficult for a group of soldiers and scientists huddled together at a North Pole research facility, this has endured largely because of all the top talent Hawks corralled for the project: ace cinematographer Russell Harlan (the sequence in which the men use fire to fight the alien is a standout of lighting and composition), top composer Dimitri Tiomkin (employing the theremin to great effect in his score) and revered screenwriter Charles Lederer. Equally recommended is John Carpenter’s excellent 1982 version (simply called The Thing), featuring Rob Bottin’s imaginative makeup effects and Ennio Morricone’s beautifully minimalist score. Best, however, to skip last year’s same-name prequel.