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Howard Hawks: The Measure of Man

Tuesday, April 3, 2012
7:00 p.m. The Thing from Another World
Christian Nyby (uncredited: Howard Hawks) (U.S., 1951)

Although the director credit for this oft-remade science fiction classic went to editor Christian Nyby, producer Hawks is widely acknowledged to have had a strong hand in the direction, and the film’s brisk, cross-talking style and themes of professionalism and responsibility are undeniably Hawksian. At an isolated Arctic research station, a strange craft is discovered under the ice, its pilot an “intelligent carrot” whose rapid reproduction threatens not just the base but the entire planet. Hawks focuses less on the creature itself than on the tiny community’s reactions to it, with new allegiances forming and rifts opening as wonder crosses over into terror. While a scientist greets the alien with admiration—“no pleasure, no pain . . . no emotions . . . our superior in every way”—an Air Force captain becomes an advocate for humanity. The closing catchphrase is “Watch the skies!” but Hawks’s gaze remains firmly earthbound.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Charles Lederer, Hawks, from the story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr. Photographed by Russell Harlan. With Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Douglas Spencer, Dewey Martin. (87 mins, B&W, 35mm)