Now this is a true classic bit of science fiction and a movie I am sure just about everyone has at least heard of. This is one of those movies that, when you hear of a list of classic sci-fi movies, it always tends to be towards the top of the list. For me, this movie was one of those movies that I remember seeing bits and pieces of while watching the multitude of sci-fi films on the weekends when I was a kid. I never saw the entire movie until I was able to rent it from Blockbuster, but I have never regretted watching it. So let’s get right into today’s movie, The Incredible Shrinking Man.
The plot: Scott Carey and his wife Louise are vacationing on a boat off the California coast when the boat passes through a strange cloud, covering Scott’s body with a glittering mist. Six months later, Scott notices that his pants and shirt appear to be too big and blames the dry cleaners. Scott goes to see a doctor and the doctor assures him that he is in perfect health. However, Scott still believes that he is shrinking and proves it to Louise when she no longer needs to stand on tiptoes to kiss him. A second trip back to the doctor confirms that Scott is somehow shrinking and he is referred to the California Medical Research Institute for more tests. The results of the tests show that the mist he was exposed to was radioactive and when it mixed with an insecticide that he was sprayed with, it somehow reversed his body’s growth process. Eventually, his brother Charlie is forced to fire Scott as he is too small to continue working but tells Scott that he should consider selling his story to the press to help make ends meet. As Scott continues shrinking, he is hounded by reporters outside his house and he ends up taking out his frustrations by verbally lashing out at Louise. Finally, when Scott has shrunk down to 36 1/2 inches, the doctors appear to have found a serum that will stop his shrinking. However, they say that trying to get him back to his original size would take more work so for now, Scott must make do living as a 3 foot man. Scott feels trapped in his house and decides to go out. He winds up at a coffee shop and meets, Clarice, a circus midget who helps put things into perspective for Scott. However, two weeks later, Scott notices that he is now shorter than Clarice and, realizing that the serum has worn off, he races home. Soon Scott is so small that he now resides in a dollhouse, and continuously contemplates killing himself to end his “wretched existence”. One day, when Louise goes out to the store, she accidentally lets their cat inside and it begins scratching at the doll house. Scott manages to get away from the cat but not before getting scratched several times. Scott manages to make it to the basement but as he is attempting to shut the door, Louise returns and a gust of wind causes the basement door to open, knocking Scott into a box. Louise notices the dollhouse and when she sees the torn, bloody clothes on the floor, she assumes that the cat has eaten Scott. Meanwhile, Scott is trying to make his way through the basement or, failing that, finding a way to survive. He tries to get some cheese from a mouse trap but when he sets off the trap, it sends the piece of cheese flying down a drain but he soon discovers a piece of bread on a shelf and manages to grab some of it. However, Scott’s actions have caught the attention of a tarantula, which chases after Scott but is unable to capture him when he hides in a box of matches. When the water heater breaks, Charlie and Louise go to check on it but are unable to hear Scott’s cries for help and, after turning off the water and gas, leave the house for good. Realizing that he must survive on his own, Scott heads back up to the shelf for some more of the bread and manages to kill the spider. The next day, Scott is small enough to crawl through the wire screen of the basement window and he accepts the fact that he will continue to shrink but he is ok with it because he knows he will still exist in some form or another.
The Incredible Shrinking Man was very well received by the critics, earning an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not only was the film selected for entry into the National Film Registry, but it was also the first winner of the Hugo Award For Dramatic Presentation, the World Science Fiction Society’s version of the Oscar. The movie was a box office success for the time, earning $1.4 million off of a $750,000 budget.
This is a great example of classic sci-fi. The acting in it was great, especially Grant Williams, whose portrayal of Scott Carey went through a myriad of emotions and he was terrific in showcasing every one of them. The plot was pretty good and the story and writing were really good and it was nice to see a movie from the 50’s that is not about giant creatures…well except for the fact that everything is giant to Scott’s perspective.. The special effects were good, especially how they were able to do a spilt screen to show a shrinking Scott next to a normal sized person. There were a few times where Scott would be a little transparent but for the most part, they did a good job of making the effects look seamless. All told, this is a great classic sci-fi film that everyone should watch at least once.
Rating: 4 out 5