The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

“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 the closing of a gigantic circle. I looked up, as if somehow I would grasp the heavens. The universe, worlds beyond number, God’s silver tapestry spread across the night. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite. I had thought in terms of man’s own limited dimension. I had presumed upon nature. That existence begins and ends in man’s conception, not nature’s. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away. And in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!”

‘The Incredible Shrinking Man’, directed in 1957 by Jack Arnold, is an American science fiction movie starring Grant Williams as Robert Carey, a man who, after accidentally coming into contact with a radioactive cloud, begins to grow smaller. The film takes place over a number of months – Carey and his wife Louise, played by Randy Stuart, relax on a boat off the California coast when the cloud hit. Months later, Carey notices that his clothes don’t fit anymore, and after a while he goes to the doctor. He tells Carey that somehow his entire body is proportionally shrinking following which Carey is shown becoming increasing angry as he continues to decrease. A set-to with his pet cat ends with him falling into his cellar where he finds himself presumed dead in a miniscule world fighting spiders with sword-like needles, climbing cliff-faces of boxes and dealing with a tsunami when the boiler bursts. It’s a well-paced, sharply plotted movie. The script was written by Richard Matheson, author of ‘I Am Legend’ and other high concept fantasy adventures, and his skill in placing Carey in increasingly dire situations, whilst ratcheting up the jeopardy is clear. It’s also a film that sells itself on its special effects, both optical in the way the slowly reducing Carey is shown with other characters, but also physically with the exceptional model and set design. These feel meticulously crafted and the film succeeds partially because the sense of scale works so well. Finally, the film knows how to unravel the plot at the right pace. It begins as a domestic mystery and, as Carey shrinks it ends as an almost primeval action adventure.

Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s short, punchy and extremely well-constructed.

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