The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
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Richard Matheson's remarkable novel was adapted by himself,thus the movie is an accurate rendition.Differences are kept to the minimum,and are probably due to censorship:one character,the pedophile,who wants to take the hero to his home has been removed and the relationship with Clarice remains platonic.Besides,Matheson focuses here on the second part of his novel,which takes place in the basement.
The special effects are absolutely stunning for the time ,but what's the most extraordinary is that they take a back seat to the hero's frames of mind:the voice-over is never redundant and Matheson's brilliant lines,a thousand miles above the B-movie level,perfectly convey his hero's plight."Arachnophobia"(1990),with a much more comfortable budget pales into insignificance when you've seen Grant Williams'fight with the spider.The doll house,the scenes with the midgets,the metaphysical final are as awesome today as they were half a century ago.Do not miss the cast and credits at the beginning either. During its second half,except for the voice-over,the movie is almost silent and Jack Arnold sustains the interest with only one character.
With its inexorable progression -the hero slowly becoming on his own-,its first-class screenplay and a fine direction by Jack Arnold,who could ask for a remake? This movie and the three I mention above are genuine classics,they have in common fears hidden in collective unconscious.
The only sour note (besides the special effects, which may seem primitive by today's digital standards, but which I, as an 8-year-old in 1957, seeing this for the first time, thought were astounding) is the scene with the Little People. The metaphor of "you are as big as you feel" is laid on pretty thick, and that particular set of special effects (especially that big coffee cup Clarice drinks out of) didn't fool me, even as an 8-year-old. Incidentally, up until recently, TV showings of this movie usually cut that scene out, although the names of the actors who played the Little People were left in the end of movie credits.
However, the point is well taken, and Scott realizes that as his physical size decreases, his mental and spiritual powers are increasing. The final scenes are a testament to Transcendentalism. For example, Scott says in the narration that he no longer hates the spider who has been threatening him during his imprisonment in the cellar. He understands that it has as much right to survive as he has. In Transcendental terms, he is saying that existence is neither good nor evil, it simply "is." (Do people in California really have tarantulas in their cellars?) The wonderful last scene, where Scott (the absolutely gorgeous Grant Williams), bruised, battered, exhausted, looks up at the heavens and is no longer afraid, is one of the most empowering scenes in all cinema. This man has been so beaten down by fate that he is literally disappearing, and yet he affirms existence, and resolutely continues to move forward to whatever that next plane of existence may be. This ending is a far cry from the usual finales of sci/fi films of the 50s, where destruction is generally the resolution of the crisis. Here, there is no destruction, only transcendence. I never get tired of this film.
This is an existential science fiction movie. Man alone against the universe is always a powerful topic, and writer Richard Matheson, who adapted his own novel for the screen, does an admirable job. Grant Williams' character isn't fighting aliens or demons, but rather the extraordinary circumstance of his mysterious shrinking, and the unforeseen consequences of his ever-dwindling size.
I love the fight with the spider, but my favorite part of the movie is the final monologue. It adds another half a star to an already extraordinary film.
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.
There are some amusing moments in the film, such as when we discover Scott in a dollhouse, but much of the story is handled seriously -- the topics of being different, surviving in an unsympathetic world, crass commercialism, and loneliness are well portrayed.
The theme of the film is what is really amazing. Despite the rather schlocky title, we are given a view of humanity's place in the universe. The final sequence is an imaginative portrait of the balance between the macrocosm and the microcosm.
The film is more than it first appears. Definitely see this one.
True, the plot isn't terribly original (how about THE DEVIL-DOLL , which I watched again right after, and DR. CYCLOPS , for starters, not to mention the 'little people' of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN ?) but none of the others quite touched upon the psychology of its admittedly fantastic situation, let alone treat it with such intelligence, sensitivity and, ultimately, persuasion. Legendary author Richard Matheson is to be congratulated for his truly excellent script, as should be Arnold for putting his ideas on the screen with such vividness and imagination. Special mention must go too to Grant Williams for his fine performance; Jack Arnold seemed to think it was worthy of an Oscar and I can't say I disagree!
It was interesting to see that the title character's peculiar affliction effected him gradually and not all at once; the fact that this was caused by exposure to radiation must have struck a note of panic amid contemporary anxiety-ridden audiences (this was the Cold War era, after all) and, in any case, it was inevitable that such 'monstrous' radiation effects (as seen mutating various forms of animal life on the screens of 1950s America) would not spare man himself in the long run. An episode featuring sideshow midgets, with whom The Shrinking Man seems to identify for a little while, is quite moving - as is his jealous possessiveness of his wife who he suspects wants to abandon him.
Despite the low budget, the film's special effects are terrific and the second half of the story basically resolves itself into a struggle for survival for our unfortunate hero as he has to battle various elements (the family cat, a spider, water, the re-dimension of objects around him, his own weakness due to hunger) which a normal person would more or less take for granted.
I thoroughly enjoyed THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN - though I must say that Matheson's bleak yet strangely affecting ending blew me away, giving the film an intellectual resonance lacking in most films of its type and period.
Seeing this again about 10 years ago still was interesting, but of course it didn't have the scary tone it once did, but one can't expect that. Seeing films as an adult is quite different from seeing them as a young child. Also, one can't expect the special-effects to be anywhere approaching today's caliber, but it's not bad in this old film and certainly top-notch for its day. Almost everyone agrees, this was tons better than most of the schlocky '50s sci-fi films.
Not only is it done pretty well but it's a good story and with a good ending. That ending is different, too, in that the man (Grant Williams, by the way, playing "Scott Carey") is not cured, but he doesn't die, either. He just accepts his condition with an interesting speech at the end.
It's dated and doesn't have the impact, of course, it did when it came out, but it's anything but a stupid movie and worth seeing.
Formatted in B/W and the use of some very clever trick photography watch out for the battle scene with a spider (just brilliant). It's entirely a William's film and with him basically trying to survive the miniature world he has unfortunately been thrown into.
Matters are made worst when his wife thinks the family cat has devoured him. She leaves the house with her brother-in-law thinking her husband is dead and that's when Carey finds himself alone to face an unknown future. A nice touch to the film was Carey narrating his thoughts to the viewer which gives it a somewhat haunting feeling. The film after you've seen it will not be easily forgotten. 8.5/10
Universal classic of the 50s with numerous unforgettable scenes including a rousing showdown with a giant cat and a common house spider. Good performance by Grant Williams in that a strange fog causes him to dwindle becoming into unfortunate man who forces him to view the world in a diverse light than ever before. Intelligent and brooding screenplay by Richard Matheson with many memorable dialogs and including philosophical and pantheist speeches ; furthermore based on his own novel . Joseph Gershenson's impressive score with thrilling strains. Fine special effects highlight and good Art Direction by Alexander Golitzen .
This well-edited motion picture is compellingly directed by Jack Arnold in his best foray into the Sci-Fi genre. He reigns supreme as one of the greatest filmmakers of 50s science , achieving an important cult popularity with classics as "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," and its follow-up titled "Revenge of the Creature" that was a nice sequel . "Tarantula" was likewise a lot of amusement . This "The Incredible Shrinking Man" attained his greatest enduring cult popularity , it's a thought-provoking and impressive classic that's lost none of its power throughout the years . Arnold's final two genre entries were the interesting "Monster on the Campus" and the outlandish "The Space Children¨ . It's followed by an inferior Sci-Fi comedy titled ¨Incredible shrinking woman (1981)that results to be a semi-spoof , being directed by Joel Schumacher in his first movie , with Lily Tomlin , Charles Grodin and Nead Beatty. Rating : Better than average . Well catching for amazing acting, philosophical and existential argument and really peculiar transformation .
Arnold's expert use of huge sets and props provides excitement, but it is the philosophical script that supplies its rare power: complacent modern man, forced back on his primitive wits simply to survive, finally discovers hope, peace and meaning in the realization that everything in the cosmos, however small or insignificant, has its own place and worth
Some six months later Scott starts to feel that something is wrong when his clothes don't fit him and his both weight and hight starts to diminish. It's when Scott is checked out by his doctor that it becomes evident that he's shrinking and the only explanation he has about his condition is the strange luminous cloud that engulfed him some six months ago! As Scott shrinks things that he took for granted start to terrorizer him like his and Louise pet cat who looks at Scott, now living in a doll-house provided to him by Louise, as his next meal.
After surviving a vicious attack by the kiddie Scott ends up in the basement of his house where he faces even worse dangers as he still keeps shrinking to the point when he becomes almost invisible to his wife and bother who assume that the family cat killed and devoured him! Now truly on his own facing dangers that he never thought possible Scott is more then determined to survive his fate and at the same time becomes enlightened in the odd situation that he now finds himself in him soon, by shrinking into the size of an atom, becoming as insignificant as the number zero itself. Scott also learns to both fear and respect those, like a house spider, whom he has to compete with for food by being forced, in order to survive, to fight to the death with them!
Terrifying mind blowing and at the same time extremely touching movie that shows that there's nothing in God's Universe that doesn't have a place in it. As Scott shrunk into what he at first thought insignificance his mind and conception of existence grew, in what he experienced, to gigantic proportions. Alone and on his own in a world of giants Scott in the end realized his place in it and in the vast universe as well. Scott says it best in the movies final sequence: I now knew the answer to the riddle of infinite. That existence begins and ends is mans conception not that of nature. As I felt my body dwindling away into nothingness my fears melted away with it. And in their place became acceptance. That if all this majesty of creation means something then I mean something too. In the eyes of God there is no zero; I Still Exist!
The special effects are still pleasing and the tarantula remains one of Cinema's truly terrifying embodiments of mindless evil.
This was to be Grant William's finest film. He died in 1985 at the age of only 54.
Robert Scott Carey, after encountering a mysterious mist whilst holidaying on a boat, starts shrinking. Whilst doctors struggle to find a cure, Carey's ordinary household becomes monstrous and intimidating. Before long his pet cat seems a giant beast of prey, the gap between two cardboard boxes is a yawning abyss and a house spider is more like the ultimate tarantula. This film combines monster movie terror and tension with genuinely dark philosophical musings about being stranded and alone in another world, and boasts an ending which really is a tear-jerker.
After passing through a strange radioactive mist while out boating with his wife, Scott Carey starts slowly shrinking. After seeing doctors who cannot do anything to cure him, he gets smaller and smaller until his wife gives up on him when she doesn't see him for several days. He is in the cellar of his home after being locked in there by accident. For a while, he uses a doll's house as a home and that is where he is attacked by the family cat. The best part of the movie is where he fights a "giant" spider in the cellar.
Scott Carey is played well by Grant Williams and the rest of the cast includes Randy Stuart as his wife and Paul Langton.
I'm surprised that this movie hasn't been released on DVD and it is deleted on VHS in the States. At least I haven't recorded over my TV copy.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
This spare, cheap, black-and-white film, starring unknowns, has the ruthless, unswerving narrative drive of an arrow into a bullseye. No subplots, no diversions: nothing but the examination of what it is like to lose *everything*, to be stripped not only of the material consolations of conformity but the emotional insulation of marriage and friendship.
"Shrinking"-- the MacGuffin of a nuclear cloud means nothing-- is a visual metaphor for exile and disillusionment. The hero becomes an outcast by becoming progressively more freakish until he is invisible, or at any rate irretrievable. Yet every stage of deprivation has its consolations. Once he falls through the floor, he escapes the attentions of the pruriently curious and the need to pay his way by performing for them; and although at first the grille in the cellar is like the barred window of a prison, shrinking further means he can squeeze through and leave the fearsome cat trapped behind.
All this is very American in its qualified optimism, and very characteristic of Richard Matheson's imagination as one of the great popular mythmakers of mid-century. Not for him the easy slither into plastic angst. Scott Carey's reversion to the primitive-- long hair, needle-sword, ragged robes-- mocks his former status but also looks forward to the hippie protagonists who would soon reject social norms and carve out their own psychic territory. Carey's resourcefulness and refusal to be daunted are the qualities of a pioneer.
One incident sums up Matheson's brilliant integration of narrative detail and philosophical meaning. After being diagnosed, Carey and his wife swear they will stay true to each other, come what may. He leans forward to start the car and the wedding ring rolls off his finger. It sounds like a lumberingly "symbolic" moment, something out of Iris Murdoch... only it isn't. His finger has shrunk, and shrinking is what the movie is all about. Accept the premise, and all that flows out of it fits it.
"The Incredible Shrinking Man" is an adventure story and a fable about how little it takes to stay alive, seamlessly sewn together. It is one of the works that put Matheson (and Rod Serling) up with Wells, Verne and Conan Doyle. Literary professors now give the Europeans serious attention. When will the American dream-weavers get their due?
The interesting thing about this film is right from the get go it takes itself seriously at a time when Science Fiction was struggling to be taken seriously. The shrinking, though leading to obvious set pieces, is almost secondary to the emotional and social consequences of such a transformation, certainly in the 1950′s, as his wife, played excellently by Randy Stuart, begins to tower over him and as a result he, now standing at about three feet tall, begins to exert an enormous amount of power and domination as his size leads to an ever-growing insecurity complex.
This is a kin to a man being wheelchair bound and feeling inadequate for example. But these themes are very well portrayed in a Sci Fi film of its time, but proof that there are a few films pushing and even breaking the mold of the day. But when all is said and done, this is a film with the title The Incredible Shrinking Man which actually takes a mature, philosophical and metaphysical route rather than just cheap thrills and spills.
But as for the action, you couldn't really ask for more, as once he ends up a few inches tall and trapped in his own basement, he must battle mouse traps, flowing water, great chasms and the infamous spider, all in a struggle to claim a small piece of stale cake left there by his wife
But considering its age and special effect limitations of the day, this looks spectacular, thrilling, exciting, gripping and scary and with real motivations and a believable ethos, Carey is striving for dominance in his new macro world. Overall, I really liked this, which took an abnormal situation, grounded it with real character studies and a plausible analysis of the situations at hand, make this a valuable entry into Science Fiction cannon.
The film begins as Scott Carey and his wife Louise (Randy Stuart) are relaxing on a boat. Carey is exposed to a mysterious cloud, after which he gradually begins to shrink. Soon, he's the size of a little kid, and eventually he's so small that he's living in a doll house, as the media surround the family house. After a life-or-death struggle with the family cat, Carey winds up in the basement, and Louise and Carey's brother (Paul Langton) decide that Carey is dead, and leave the home. The final part of the movie has Carey struggling for survival in the basement, dealing first with a flood from a broken water heater, then fighting a brutal battle with a hungry spider. The final scene shows Carey wandering into the yard at night, where he disappears among the blades of grass.
Several 1950s sci-fi stalwarts appear in the film, including Raymond Bailey and William Schallert as doctors, and the dependable Paul Langton as Carey's brother. April Kent is very pretty and appealing as a tiny circus performer to whom Carey is attracted, but unfortunately she is only on screen for a brief time. Randy Stuart shows great patience while dealing with a petulant Carey and his horrible condition. Williams nearly carries the film by himself, showing a once-in-a-career acting range while maintaining believability at all times; through the rest of his career, he never again showed this kind of talent. This over-sized sets, such as the giant furniture, telephone, and pencil, give the movie an almost surreal feeling. This intelligent film with outstanding special effects should be a must-see for all 1950s movie fans.
Anyhow, I wasn't able to appreciate this as a kid, but in retrospect I thought of it as being quite profound, so I was excited to revisit it. Thankfully it turns out to have aged quite well. Unlike the modern genre film (or at least the modern mainstream genre film), which relies almost exclusively on spectacle, this combined the top notch special effects of its day with some top notch writing, courtesy of Richard Matheson. Though not all of the effects hold up (some of the compositing is pretty bad), this is still an incredibly strong film thanks to the thoughtful script, some very good performances, and some suspenseful direction from Jack Arnold.
What sets this apart from most films of its ilk is the focus on human drama. Whereas a lot of films might be built around set-pieces (which this film certainly has its share of), this has a healthy focus on the deterioration of Carey's marriage and his crumbling ego. Grant William's performance as Scott Carey is especially affecting, as he effortlessly segues from sympathetic victim to bitter tyrant and finally a zen-like acceptance.
While I already mentioned the dubious compositing, most of the special effects hold up pretty well, thanks to some clever use of forced perspective and giant sets and props. The creativity that went into the various sequences of Carey fighting for survival in the basement is admirable. His fight with the spider is still absolutely horrifying. As for his battle with the cat, it's pretty suspenseful but definitely a bit humorous. The only decision I still find to be somewhat detrimental is the casting of an average sized woman as the diminutive Clarice. That we're supposed to buy that this woman is an actual little person (especially with Billy Curtis in the same scene!) is ludicrous and somewhat offensive. Would it have been so hard to cast a female dwarf?
Besides that it's still a great movie. I do think the ending might have been a little more profound without the final voice-over, but it's still a very haunting sequence. For years after my first viewing the visual of the tiny Carey climbing through the window screen stayed with me! And the way everything that can go wrong does with Carey makes this an incredibly nail-biting, even depressing experience, but also ensures that the audience remains sympathetic towards him. For now, I have to applaud Matheson and the filmmakers for using such an unconventional ending. Matheson for envisioning it, and the filmmakers for choosing to stick with it. Thanks to their decision, this remains a film that will continue to challenge viewers for years to come.
The special effects are amazing - especially for the time era! It really looked like he was that small! The story a bit "out there" but a blast to watch... makes a super good popcorn flick.
I feel so lucky to see this movie again - it's been years and it's even better than I remembered it to be. I very much like this movie.