Caught the premiere of TCM's newest film documentary, Watch The Skies last night. It was an entertaining hour, stuffed with scenes from some of the best (and some of the worst) of the 50's Sci-Fi boom, and had mostly interesting commentary from the likes Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and James Cameron. I actually enjoyed Spielberg's comments the most, especially on the subject of the film Invaders From Mars, which kinda echoed my own when I viewed it as a child on The Big Show. In fact, the only negative I can muster up is that it unfortunately turned into a promo for Spielberg's War of the Worlds flick in the last 10 minutes or so- part of a tradeoff, I suppose, for getting Spielberg in the first place. I was gratified to see The Space Children, an odd, low-budget, but moody and watchable sci-fi film represented- I saw it a year or two ago and kinda liked it, and it's nice to know others did as well. Even though it got the MST3K treatment.
Next up was an airing of the 1951 Howard Hawks version of The Thing (From Another World), one of those films that I've seen at least 850 times but always seem to be able to sit through for that 851st. It's such a crisp, well-acted film, with excellent, often humorous dialogue that I can't resist it despite its somewhat dismaying anti-science/pro-"average guy" bias. One of the characters I love the most is Scotty, the newspaper reporter who happens to be along for the ride- he's more or less the comic relief, but also gets in several sobering remarks- he gets the famous "Keep watching the skies" line at the end. One reason why I think I respond so well to his character is that the actor, Douglas Spencer, has a passing resemblance to my Dad. Can't help but keep coming back to the breezy, snappy script, with exchanges such as these:
[after a quick encounter with the Thing]
Hendry: Did you get your picture?
Ned "Scotty" Scott: No, you were in the way and the door wasn't open long enough.
Hendry: You want us to open it again?
Ned "Scotty" Scott: NO!
Dr. Chapman: Find anything, Captain?
Hendry: Not a sign. We poked into every snowbank within miles.
Bob, Crew Chief: Barnes flushed a polar bear.
Cpl. Barnes: Sure did.
Dr. Chapman: Scare you?
Cpl. Barnes: Not after I saw it was only a bear.
[referring to McPherson's gun]
Ned "Scotty" Scott: You sure you know how to use that thing?
Lt. Ken McPherson: I saw Gary Cooper in "Sergeant York."
And that scene in which they open the door to the greenhouse, and THERE'S THE ALIEN! Still makes you jump, regardless of how many times you've seen it.
I love the Carpenter remake, for a lot of different reasons...but the 1951 Thing is a solid action film in its own right, and I have a feeling I'll be sitting through it again for 851 more viewings, God willing.
The rest of the evening was given to another showing of the documentary, then Forbidden Planet, another excellent sci-fi flick that I've seen probably 750 times. It was late, though, and I wasn't up for 751.