Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) at the Palm Springs Classic Science Fiction Film Festival

Grant Williams plays Scott Carey, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957). This was the third of the five "new to me" titles seen at last weekend's 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!


Blogger Jerry E said...

Hi Laura! I am looking forward very much to your reviews of 'THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD' and 'THEM!' as I also think they are terrific movies. I am sorry you felt maybe a little let down by this movie though as I would rate it the finest of the genre. I remember the first time I saw it thinking "surely it'll come right in the end" but of course it cannot really and it would be ruined somehow if it did.
The concept is so simple yet amazingly clever and his life or death battles involving a common house spider, a pet cat and a dripping tap make it all the more believable, if that is really the right word! A terrific film for me (but you are right - it is darn exhausting!!) LOL.

12:35 AM  
Blogger john k said...

Like THE FLY this film is a great Fifties "Anxiety" movie as Grant Williams literally
"shrinks" out of middle American society.
At first Williams is naturally angry, about what is happening to him,but the smaller
he gets the more empowered he becomes.
I am enjoying this unexpected Sci Fi Bonanza at Lauraland and I do hope that it's an on-
going trend.As these films go THE FLY is a far tougher watch; it is again championed by the
esteemed Blake Lucas.
Laura,you will have a far less stressful time watching THE MONOLITH MONSTERS,though the
film does include some mild "kids in peril" elements.
As these wonderful Universal Fifties Sci-Films go I also highly endorse Jack Arnold's
very fine TARANTULA! I say that knowing that you have managed to sit through and enjoyed
Funnily enough I note that Kino-Lorber will release on Blu Ray THE MAGNETIC MONSTER
one of the very few Fifties Sci Fi flicks that I have never seen.
That one should have "Laura appeal" as it headlines Richard Carlson along with King

8:27 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

Thanks so much for the link and I hope you like Monolith. I can see why this one might stress you out, I love the FX and everyday things being such obstacles, it is clever. Attack of the Puppet People used that more in the next year but this is the best take. I second John's recommend on Tarantula!

1:17 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

I'll third it!!

3:41 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you all so much for your feedback! I really appreciate each of your impressions of the movie. Kristina, just the title ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE scares me! LOLLLLL.

Since I spent a lot of time studying the Cold War in college, the nuclear anxiety angle in these '50s sci-fi movies is really interesting to me.

Believe it or not I recorded TARANTULA from TCM a while I've pulled it out and put it in a little stack with THE MONOLITH MONSTERS and also THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD, starring my hero, Tim Holt. Seeing TARANTULA would tie in nicely with having seen John Agar in SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON earlier this month. I had no problem with THEM!, the bugs were pretty creepy but I was fascinated by the effects...and I loved seeing James Arness battling them! :)

John, I saw THE MAGNETIC MONSTER a while back and enjoyed know how much I enjoy Carlson! It's interesting to see King Donovan turning up in these time and again. I always associate him with SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.

Looks like I'll be watching a couple "child in peril" movies soon, as I'm always going to be reviewing the new Warner Archive release BOBBY WARE IS MISSING.

Thanks again to you all!

Best wishes,

8:32 PM  

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