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The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
June 9, 2012 - 4:00 pm

Directed by Jack Arnold

At the outset of this sci-fi classic, ordinary businessman Scott Carey (Grant Williams) and his wife, Louise (Randy Stuart), are enjoying a sunny holiday on a yacht when a mysterious mist suddenly envelops their boat, leaving Scott covered in a strange substance. Months later, he notices that his clothes don’t quite fit anymore. An expert at a nearby research institute delivers Scott the truth behind this inexplicable phenomenon: Exposure to radioactive pesticides have caused his body to shrink. Dwindling at an alarming rate, Scott feels increasingly inadequate and menaced by his own home. When just several inches tall, he retreats into a dollhouse, away from his caring wife. After a mishap strands him in the basement, Scott begins a primitive struggle to survive in a domestic space turned strange and sinister landscape. As he continues to shrink, Scott turns to contemplation of his own, and man’s, place in the universe. He finds consolation in the stirring, quasi-religious epiphany that, though he is dissolving into infinity, his existence still has meaning.

Directed by sci-fi and horror master Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came From Outer Space), The Incredible Shrinking Man bears all the traits of the best B monster movies of its era. Making the most of its modest budget with clever use of oversized props and special effects photography, it features a number of startling scenes, as when a once-benign housecat and a spider are rendered grotesquely large and alien. What sets the film apart from other sensationalist horror flicks, however, is Richard Matheson’s intelligent script (adapted from his novel "The Shrinking Man"), and its thought-provoking themes. The tale can be read as an unsettling allegory of the anxieties that lurked beneath the glossy 1950s suburban ideal, alluding to the paranoia of nuclear threats and the reshaping of gender politics in post-World War II America. Director Arnold succeeds in conveying these weighty matters with a light and entertaining touch. Grant Williams and Randy Stuart are also convincing as the average suburban couple who are torn apart by Scott’s nightmarish affliction and the challenges that arise from it.

—Jennifer Rhee

Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc. Producer: Albert Zugsmith. Screenwriter: Richard Matheson. Cinematographer: Ellis W. Carter. Editor: Al Joseph. Cast: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, April Kent, Paul Langton, Raymond Bailey. 

35mm, b/w. 81 min.