The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) – A Review
Scott Carey (Grant Williams) has a bit of a problem. Exposure to a cloud of radioactive dust, along with everyday insecticide, has started a chain reaction in his body. He begins to shrink little by little each day. And doctors don’t know how to reverse the effect.
Scott’s wife Louise (Randy Stuart) is trying to support him in anyway she can, and Scott certainly needs that. He’s growing impatient, angry and feeling completely helpless.
Tension further mounts when his story comes out in the media and he becomes a fascination to the public. With no other way of earning an income Scott agrees to write his story in hopes of selling it.
But he’s shrunk to such a small height that everyday common surroundings have become obstacles and a danger – even his own cat. After a suspenseful run in with his pet, Scott finds himself trapped in the basement and Louise believing he’s dead.
Now he finds himself trying to survive on his own and attempting to escape the basement. Can he muster up the strength and determination to survive the perils that lay in the basement or will it become his final resting place?
Here is another great classic sci-fi gem directed by Jack Arnold.
There’s an extended setup with Scott trying to figure out what is happening to him. A lot of doctor visits, tests, x-rays, bloodwork. It kind of reminded me of the whole buildup in The Exorcist. Trying to establish a reality to the story so when the fantastic starts to happen we’re already sold on Scott’s condition and accept it.
One thing I really like is how angry Scott gets. He’s constantly snapping at Randy and seems to be taking out his powerlessness on her. It seems like a pretty reasonable response, but something the film might not have done in fear of making Scott lose our sympathy, but it does the opposite. It’s nice they didn’t shy away from that.
Then when Scott encounters Clarice (April Kent), a beautiful sideshow midget, she gets to offer him some quiet solace temporarily. We feel for the guy. I always thought it was great luck that Scott gets to meet a three-foot gorgeous lady. Standing six feet or three feet, Kent is a babe. I looked her up and didn’t find much more acting work from her. I guess, she didn’t continue an acting career.
Once the basement adventure begins it’s a suspenseful excursion as Scott tries to navigate the dangers of the basement. Leaking pipes, mouse traps, spiders, perilous falls. It’s all good stuff. It’s basically a survival tale.
Arnold sells the mini Scott very well. Lots of low camera angles of Scott’s surroundings, giant props meshing convincingly with effective special effects, a beautiful score, Williams’ performance, his narration and one heck of a scary spider all come together to make it all believable.
Considering the movie was made over fifty years ago the effects hold up very well. Sure there are some ghost-like matte shots where we can clearly see Williams is a composite within the picture, and he’s sort of transparent. But it’s good enough.
And the big sets and giant props of nails, matches, pencils, scissors and spools of thread are just awesome looking. They looked cool back in 1957 and continue to look cool today. There’s just something about giant props that are timelessly entertaining. Plus, they help really sell the whole premise.
The ending is a pretty hefty resolution to this shrinking adventure. It’s kind of daring too. I’m sure it has left a few people questioning what would ultimately become of Scott after the film fades out. At eighty minutes the movie keeps its story moving and is always compelling.
I’m somewhat surprised we haven’t seen a remake of this after all these years. Sure, The Incredible Shrinking Woman was something of a comedic take on the premise, along with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but nothing as harrowing and captivating as this original.
I would think with the success of Ant-Man cluing audiences in on how cool the whole shrinking idea could be we’d see another take on The Incredible Shrinking Man. It’s got to be only a matter of time.
Here’s the trailer trying to convince audiences this movie is “INCREDIBLE!”
(Orson Welles lending a hand with the narration)