Tonight's Movie: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) at the Palm Springs Classic Science Fiction Film Festival
Palm Springs Classic Science Fiction Film Festival.
As is the case with so many other sci-fi films of the era, the movie reflects the anxieties of the new nuclear age, as Scott is covered by some sort of radioactive mist while on a boat trip.
Weeks later, Scott's clothes start getting loose, and then he gets smaller and smaller...doctors halt the shrinking, but only briefly, and soon Scott is living in a doll's house. Eventually he's the size of a tiny bug, trapped in his basement, where he forages for crumbs, battles a tarantula, and tries not to be washed away by a leaky hot water heater.
The movie's effects are quite good, utilizing giant props to show Scott's ever-reducing size. The film is gripping but absolutely unrelenting -- there are no rays of sunshine in Scott's life once the changes start taking place. Scott's wife (Randy Stuart) is supportive, but he pushes her away as he turns toy-sized; the family's pet cat is a fearsome monster for a miniature man; Scott loses his job, while people stalk his house for a glimpse of the freak; and finally he is all alone, struggling for survival.
I appreciated what the movie accomplished with the unique effects and the experimentation, but I was utterly exhausted by the end and admit I spent the last 10 or 15 minutes simply wishing for it to be over. I did think the last scene was very lovely, as Blake Lucas has mentioned here, although perhaps it was a bit out of the blue for spirituality or faith to enter the picture at the very last moment.
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN is, in essence, 81 minutes spent watching a man's life circling the drain...just about literally. The unique story and creative staging wasn't enough to sustain the film for me long term; other than the uplifting final seconds, it's a pretty sad experience.
This film is greatly loved by several of this blog's very appreciated commenters, who have given me some of my best movie tips, so I regret not giving it an unreserved thumbs up, but I think it's a matter of personal taste more than an issue of the quality of the film's execution. For me, I missed things like the joy of the teamwork in films like THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) or THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) or the suspense and romance of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956).
If those who love the film would like to share what makes it special for them in the comments, by all means please do!
Richard Matheson wrote the screenplay, based on his book THE SHRINKING MAN. He got the idea for the story from a scene where Ray Milland puts on the wrong hat in the comedy LET'S DO IT AGAIN (1953). Matheson was also the author of BID TIME RETURN, which turned into the beloved SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1978).
This is one of a couple films William Schallert turned up in last weekend; here he plays Scott's doctor. The cast also includes Paul Langton, Raymond Bailey, April Kent, Diana Darrin, and Billy Curtis.
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN was directed by Jack Arnold and filmed by Ellis Carter.
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN is out on DVD. It can be streamed via Amazon. It's also out on VHS.
I'm hoping to try Grant Williams and William Schallert in another 1957 sci-fi film, THE MONOLITH MONSTERS, soon. (Thanks to John Knight!) Kristina just reviewed it at Speakeasy and it looks like it's probably more my speed, with community teamwork and a touch of romance while dealing with "monster issues." Lola Albright costars.
Coming soon: Reviews of two movies I loved, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) and THEM! (1954). I thought they were both really great!