Here is the lastest freebie
The Thing From Another World (1951)
John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)
This is one of my favorite movies of all time, the original Howard Hawks version of John Campell's story of personal invasion. Who goes there?
Remade by John Carpenter in his 1982 version which enjoyed indifferent success and recently in another movie version that I have not yet but refer you to the SFReader review.
Why is the Hawks version my favorite and why does it pull ahead of so many other SF movies? Simply put, the story concentrates on the people. All of the characters enjoy considerable underlying verity, one gets the impression that they had existed before we tuned into their story and would carry on after. Unlike so many movies where the characters seem to exist only to be slaughtered (female ones while in their Victoria Secret underwear) these were fully fleshed out adults with existing relationships.
The plot: a US base at the top of the world detects the crash of an object from space. The air force dispatches a C-47 cargo plane with some airmen to the base to help the science team investigate. They discover a flying saucer buried in the ice from the crash the day before. The attempt to free the 20,000 ton saucer with thermite triggers an explosion, wrecking the saucer. All is not lost, the "corpse" of an alien pilot is found nearby. This time axes are used to retrieve the body and they return to the science lab.
But the alien is not dead, revived when he is accidentally thawed from his block of ice, he attacks the science team. The humanoid alien, reminiscent of the Baldies from Andre Norton's Time Agent and Witch World series though much more physically formidable, is attacked by a frightened guard and breaks out. Though the first shots are fired by humans (to little effect) this visitor is not the reasonable Klatuu of The Day the Earth Stood Still, he does not come in peace. He is a plant life form, inimically hostile to all alien life. His kind lives on animal blood and he sees us as mere bags of liquid food.
The soldiers and scientists battle the thing in a series of running battles that pit wit and brawn against each other. The humans are divided. Some in the science team insist on trying to negotiate with the monster, nobly motivated but impractical, they are killed by the monster or overruled by their own. The battle will be to the death.
The Thing plays its master stroke, it cuts off the heat. The humans huddle in the generator shed, a concentrated arget, near helpless as the Thing is indifferent to bullets and barely harmed even by fire. However as Noah saved mankind with an Ark of Wood, the scientists duplicate the feat with an arc of electricity. In the last stand of the humans, the enemy is lured into a trap and electrocuted. Humanity emerges victorious but wary; the film ends with the invocation, "Watch the skies."
This seems a conventional humanoid monster movie but the focus is the interaction by the humans. The playful and grown up sexy relationship between Kenneth Tobey's, Captain Hendry and Margaret Sheridan's, Nikki Nicholson is a highlight of the film. Hendry's relationship with his three man crew is rife with the good-natured kidding of a group of men who have served long together (implication is WWII Pacific) with respect and affection. Hendry, while in charge is more than happy to defer to good ideas from his Sergeant the mark of a true leader.
Douglas Spencer's reporter character, Ned "Scotty" Scott, is the best mix of the Ernie Pyle style of reporter. He is one of the guys, though devoted to the freedom of the press, and clashes with Hendry over Air Force secrecy. He is in the thick of the fighting with the Air Force, a stand up guy.
The scientist, Doctor Carrington, does dip into the area of cliché, he is the egghead, impractically insisting on peaceful coexistence where no chance exists. His naïve attempts result in the death of several colleagues and the near loss of the base. Yet he is saved from cliché by everyone's intense respect for his intelligence and his purity of motive. At the end he is referred to as having been wounded in the defense of the station, by Scott. To which the Air Force Lieutenant behind him says, "Good for you, Scotty." It's perceived that Carrington was willing to sacrifice his own life to save a source of knowledge and head off the conflict. These soldiers and scientist fresh from a World War and stuck in a Cold War, held off with their weapons to give peace a last chance when Carrington runs up to the monster to try and reason with it. But when the thing strikes Carrington down, rejecting the last chance at peace, they respond with cold-eyed ferocity and destroy their enemy.
With its overlapping and naturalistic dialogue, its intensely well-acted secondary and tertiary characters, the ensemble casts handles the piece well, elevating it above the pedestrian monster script that Campbell's story was made into. What distinguishes this movie is the attitude of its post WWII cast. They believe in science, they believe in the chain of command and cooperative effort. They support peace but have seen the price of appeasement.
This contrasts with the moody John Carpenter version which is far truer to the original short story. In this version you can count on no one. The monster invades the body of any living creature taking it over from the inside, including in the case of humans, their memories, skills and evident personality. The friend of many years could be a face-sucking enemy.
I am always puzzled by this characteristic which seems more of fantasy then science fiction. How could an alien absorb my memory, my knowledge and act in such a way as to persuade people that the alien is me. I can't even pass for French and the alien can pass for us? Well most SF pieces get at least one pass on the issue of the impossible, usually it's FTL. Here it is the way the critter "absorbs" us.
Kurt Russell plays the main character and I guess what says it all about this movie is, while its visuals easily exceed the far more effective original, and it is well acted and far more frightening, I do not remember the name or backstory of a single character. The supply of scientists and workers at this base, are a largely faceless and colorless bunch that you do not get to know, or really care about, before they start getting devoured. The monster is effectively monstrous but to me the movie is mostly a gorefest in the horror style. People die in unpleasant ways as again the science team battles the enemy. In the style of our modern times, the monster is insidious, the enemy is not clear cut, nor is there any way to talk to it. The original film monster recognized the attempts at communication; he merely dismissed them as beneath his attention. However he was an intelligent being with a plan. It is not clear what the monster from Carpenter's film is: alien crew, cargo, guard dog or hostile parasite that slaughtered the crew of the giant ship. It too, is implacably hostile.
The movie tracks in a similar fashion though there are no soldiers on the base, just Kurt Russell's disaffected helicopter pilot MacReady, the base seems improbably armed with flamethrowers and other weaponry. Here the movie ends with Russell and one other man staring at each other. Neither is sure the other is human and they settle down with a bottle of scotch to freeze to death. Humanity wins but the battle is phyrric.
I try not to compare these two movies too closely. They were done in very different times and reflect different national gestalts: the consistency of the well-welded society of the early 50's when the US dominance was an established fact and the belief in collective action was strong--to the anti-heroic and moody 70's/80s reflecting the national atmosphere of disillusionment with government and any collective action. You were on your own. The movies try to different things but I give my nod to the original.