I can’t tell you how many times I saw “The Incredible Shrinking Man” on television as a kid, but it was a lot. This film is emblazoned on my childhood.
Oddly, it gets very little respect. It wasn’t a huge hit, and took a few re-releases to make a profit. It had no real stars. The lead, Grant Williams, went straight from this film to a decades-long television career playing bit parts in episodes of “The Munsters”, “Bonanza”, and “Perry Mason.”
The director, Jack Arnold, was famous for 50’s science fiction movies, but among his hits “It Came From Outer Space”, “Creature From The Black Lagoon” and “Tarantula”, this film opened the door to films likely to be picked up by Mystery Science Theater 3000 and a long list of tv work.
So why is this film so good? Why is it worth another take?
First of all, and this is about as psychologically analytical as I get, but it hearkens back to something we’ve all experienced – being little in a big world.
Scott Carey is on a boat and encounters a strange mist. Slowly, he notices he’s shrinking bit by bit.
The entire movie is his journey to survival in his own home when things like pins and spiders are lethal weapons and a matchbox is the size of a room.
The special effects, where most of the money went in this film, are awesome and hold up today. The editing is top notch, and the story moves at a pretty rapid pace.
It’s pretty linear, and the ending is not what you’d expect. In the age of the atomic energy movement, I guess this is a Godzilla-type film, except the impacts aren’t a monster, but something more individual and more subtle.
Through it all, you still identify and sympathize with the main character, and that’s what I think is the magic of this film. This could very easily been a film where the audience roots against the shrinking man and cheers the cat or the spider. It never happens. Right to the final scene, you are with Carey, and you need to be, because without that, the film could become silly very quickly.
If you saw it as a kid, it’s worth another take.
No better scene in this film than the fight with a spider. Worth watching the entire movie twice just to see it again.