Director: Jack Arnold
Writer: Richard Matheson
Cast: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, April Kent, Paul Langton, Raymond Bailey, William Schallert, Frank Scannell, Helene Marshall, Diana Darrin, and Billy Curtis
Composer: Joseph Gershenson
Release Date: 2/22/1957
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
After exposure to insecticide and a radioactive mist, businessman Scott Carey (Grant Williams) develops a condition that causes him to shrink. Growing smaller every day, Scott befriends a midget named Clarice (April Kent), moves into a dollhouse, and becomes trapped in a cellar when assaulted by his pet cat. More challenges arise when Scott—presumed dead by his brother Charlie (Paul Langton) and wife Louise (Randy Stuart)—must locate a supply of food, defend himself from an aggressive spider, and navigate the inhospitable basement of his home.
Providing a philosophical twist on the source narrative by Richard Matheson (also the screenwriter of this film), The Incredible Shrinking Man earns its reputation as one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. Worth applauding in particular is the predicament of Scott Carey, whose determination may inspire the majority of viewers.
Despite operating on an extraordinary premise, this production maintains an air of credibility due to its captivating visual effects. Specifically deserving of praise is that The Incredible Shrinking Man, similar to Tarantula, employs a variety of living creatures to support the illusion of (seemingly) giant, predatory animals towering over human characters—much in contrast to the average 1950s sci-fi/horror film, which often relies on moving prop monsters, cheap rubber suits, and other primitive techniques in order to generate the same outcome.
This offering should also be commended for introducing a likable, sympathetic protagonist with whom the average person can easily relate. Notably, the gentleness and humility of Scott Carey, as mainly evidenced by his interactions with Louise, encourage the audience to root for his triumph over insurmountable odds—an important factor in the final act, wherein Scott must repeatedly risk his life while acquiring enough nourishment to remain alive.
Even after shrinking to the size of a typical spider, Scott struggles to overcome the restraints of gravity when climbing surfaces, dangling above ground, and fleeing from the “giant” spider—issues that, though addressed to some degree in Matheson’s novel, are never explored in this film.
A study on the unwavering courage of the human spirit, The Incredible Shrinking Man indicates that the will to survive—particularly when coupled with trust in a higher power—can allow any person, no matter how weak or small, to persevere through the most devastating trials imaginable. Note also that in spite of his initial despair, Scott eventually embraces a new, enlightening perspective after escaping from a vicious cat, battling a spider larger than himself, and sustaining on food scraps for weeks on end—a commentary on the rewarding nature of life itself, unpleasant or traumatic experiences notwithstanding.
The Incredible Shrinking Man is a poignant, inspirational science fiction film. Matheson enthusiasts will therefore enjoy this feature, which details the importance, if not necessity, of remaining steadfast in the face of tremendous hardship.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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