It should come as no surprise that one of my favorite classes during my tenure at Kutztown University was “Science Fiction Literature,” taught by Dr. Richard Law. Weaned on bad television and film science-fiction, the class was half-populated by students hoping for an easy A and who were probably surprised that the stories and novels we were reading could be analyzed much in the same way that similar works were dissected in other literature classes.
Dr. Law would often try to punctuate whatever lesson was in the syllabus by screening a film. (These days were usually the better attended classes.) About midway through the semester, the class got to a discussion of John Campbell’s short story “Who Goes There?” and I was mildly surprised that Dr. Law wound up using John Carpenter’s adaptation The Thing (1982) as the supplemental film rather than the original 1951 film version, The Thing From Another World, directed by Christian Nyby. Not one for gratuitous gore, Dr. Law did admit that the film is pretty strong for the first act, but loses him once the monster shows up.
Having seen both versions of the story of a crew at an Antarctic research station under attack from an alien entity long before I enrolled in the class, I could see his point. The Nyby version, with shadow direction from producer Howard Hawks, is stronger in character development through out its entire runtime. But for capturing the attention of some college students who have found themselves actually having to work for that “easy A,” Carpenter’s version definitely wins on the visceral thrill level.
Thanks to folks at Hulu, you can now watch Carpenter’s version here online.