Film produced by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union -- featuring several well-known Broadway actors -- recreates Triangle Fire of 1911 and compares working conditions of the 1910's with the 1950's.
Scott Carey and his wife Louise are sunning themselves on their cabin cruiser, the small craft adrift on a calm sea. While his wife is below deck, a low mist passes over him. Scott, lying in the sun, is sprinkled with glittery particles that quickly evaporate. Later he is accidentally sprayed with an insecticide while driving and, in the next few days, he finds that he has begun to shrink. First just a few inches, so that his clothes no longer fit, then a little more. Soon he is only three feet tall, and a national curiosity. At six inches tall he can only live in a doll's house and even that becomes impossible when his cat breaks in. Scott flees to the cellar, his wife thinks he has been eaten by the cat and the door to the cellar is closed, trapping him in the littered room where, menaced by a giant spider, he struggles to survive. Written by
Richard Matheson had originally written a screenplay for the sequel called The Fantastic Shrinking Girl in which Louise Carey begins to shrink herself. Universal had planned to produce it but the project was eventually scrapped. See more »
Even though the spider in this film is clearly a tarantula, the spider is shown sitting in a standard type spider web. Tarantulas do not build webs like that. They live in burrows or holes. See more »
[closing soliloquy narration]
I was continuing to shrink, to become... what? The infinitesimal? What was I? Still a human being? Or was I the man of the future? If there were other bursts of radiation, other clouds drifting across seas and continents, would other beings follow me into this vast new world? So close - the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet - like ...
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When a businessman Scott Carey (Grant Williams) is infected by a mysterious cloud of mist on a boating vacation, little does he know how his life and whole way of existing are about to change. After six months of normal life he notices he has lost a little weight and height, and that this strange loss of size is continuous. He keeps growing smaller and smaller every day, to the amazement of doctors and to the chagrin of his wife (Randy Stuart). Soon everyday things become grave dangers to him and he has to completely let go of his old way of comprehending his place in life.
The over-sized props and the creative trick photography that is used to create the illusion of shrinking must have looked absolutely stunning in the 1950s when the film first came out, because they still look impressive when I'm typing this in 2010. Carey's struggles with unexpected sources of terror like a cat, a mousetrap or a spider haven't lost any of their charm over the decades: they are still edge-of-your-seat suspense, and I'm not saying this as any kind of affirmative action in favour of old movies – I genuinely haven't been this thrilled by a movie in a long time! Besides the visual effects, the riveting music is also perfectly in tune with the thrilling style of the film.
Even though the film can easily be enjoyed as a great sci-fi suspense film, there's also a deeper, more personal level to it. Carey truly develops as a character over the course of the film. He is aware of his frustration and changing moods and scolds himself for being rude to his wife and not being able to take the new challenges bravely head-on. The sense of loneliness, created excellently with beautiful black & white cinematography and camera angles, has been said to mirror the fearful atmosphere of the Cold War and the nuclear era. This is a valid interpretation, but it's also possible to see Carey's journey as a symbol of Man's existential despair and feelings of inadequacy in life that is seemingly normal and mundane. The grandiose finale provides a majestic ending for the tale of new-found self-esteem; all my worries about a predictably tacked-on happy ending were proved unnecessary.
I wrote this review immediately after seeing the film for the first time. These words came out completely without effort and that is, to me, a sign of an honestly compelling cinematic experience. The Incredible Shrinking Man is a delight to watch, not the least bit goofy or dated like some other old sci-fi films. I recommend it for every fan of the genre, admirers of imaginative special effects and anyone interested in existential character studies.
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