The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

The Incredible Shrinking Manincredible_shrinking_man_poster_03
Directed by Jack Arnold
Written by Richard Matheson
1957/USA
Universal International Pictures
First viewing/Netflix rental
#335 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Scott Carey: A strange calm possessed me. I thought more clearly than I had ever thought before – as if my mind were bathed in a brilliant light. I recognized that part of my illness was rooted in hunger, and I remembered the food on the shelf, the cake thredded with spider web. I no longer felt hatred for the spider. Like myself it struggled blindly for the means to live.

In a year filled with giant creatures, a poetic horror story features a tiny man.

Scott and Louise Carey are enjoying a blissful vacation on a sail boat.  They are both catching some rays when Scott gets thirsty.  He makes Louise go fetch him one from the galley.  As punishment, while she is gone a strange mist envelopes the boat.

On returning home, Scott gradually starts noticing that his clothes seem too big.  At first, the couple think he is just losing a little weight.  But when the problem worsens, Scott goes to the doctor.  He’s not worried but after several visits it is clear that Scott is losing height as well as weight.  The doctor sends him to a research institute that finally discovers the cause of the problem (which I’m still kind of fuzzy on – it involves insecticide and radiation) but cannot cure it.

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Scott continues to shrink.  Eventually he loses his job as a salesman and the couple is forced to sell his story to the media.  He starts to write a book.  The smaller Richard gets, the more domineering he becomes.  Finally, Scott becomes so small that cats and spiders become his enemies.

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Somehow, I had missed this film all these years.  It was worth waiting for.  There are the inventive special effects and an interesting story with subtexts about the media, sexual politics, and psychology.  But I especially loved the ending, when the infinitesimal becomes infinite.  Recommended.

Fan trailer

4 thoughts on “The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

  1. “Poetic” is the right word for it. For such a weird little B-movie, this one is surprisingly effective and psychologically dense. I originally considered it a guilty pleasure. Now I’m not guilty about liking it at all.

    I love that it spends enough time dealing with his shrinking at the start and the existential crisis he goes through and then burns right past it and intensifies that crisis far more for the third act. Hell of an idea, and beautifully realized.

    • Yes, it just builds and builds and then ends up somewhere totally unexpected and profound. Nothing to feel guilty about.

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